Superman actress Margot Kidder dead at age 69

Superman actress Margot Kidder, born in Yellowknife, N.W.T., has died at age 69, according to her family.

She was an advocate for mental health issues, speaking out about living with bipolar disorder

Superman actress Margot Kidder, born in Yellowknife, N.W.T., has died at age 69. (Canadian Press)

The sister of Canadian-born Superman actress Margot Kidder says she shared a courageous spirit with the tough-as-nails journalist she played on screen as Lois Lane.

Kidder, best known for her role opposite Christopher Reeve in the Superman films of the 1970s and 1980s, has died at age 69.

Annie Kidder said her sister was an activist all her life, and much like Lane, wasn't afraid to speak out for what she thought was right.

Annie Kidder said her sister bore similarities to the tough-as-nails journalist she played in the Superman series.

"She was kind of an indomitable person," Annie Kidder said in a phone interview on Monday.

"She was a fighter. She was determined, outspoken."

Actors Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie Superman. (TMS & DC Comics Inc.)

Born in Yellowknife, Margot Kidder was part of a mining family that moved around remote regions of the country when she was young, her sister said, but after seeing shows on Broadway in New York City, she became "determined that she was going to be a star."

She said fame turned out to be a "mixed blessing" for the budding actress, who was thrust into the spotlight after landing a role in one of the first superhero movies to make a splash at the box office.

"You've reached the goal, the thing that you said you wanted ... but also, it makes your life incredibly public," said Annie Kidder, who is based in Toronto.

She said her sister found her calling as a mental-health advocate, drawing from her own experience with bipolar disorder, which she spoke about openly at a time when it was highly stigmatized.

"She was courageous about everything," she said. "In struggling with her mental health, she was also determined that there shouldn't be a stigma around that. It was important to be open about those things. There was nothing to be ashamed of."

After an infamous breakdown on the streets of Los Angeles in 1996, Margot Kidder credited a homeless man with showing compassion for her and saving her life during her "big, public flipout."

"We are all ... a breath away from mental illness, homelessness, all of these things we tend to so look down on," she said in 2006.

"We are all one human family and we really have to take care of each other."

Political, environmental activism 

Margot Kidder continued to work in TV and film despite her struggles and won a daytime Emmy in 2015 for outstanding performance in a children's or pre-school series for R.L. Stine's The Haunting Hour. She also starred in films including Black Christmas and The Amityville Horror and TV series including CTV's Robson Arms.

Though the 1970s and '80s were her most successful period, she continued to take on roles in TV and film over the decades, as well as appearing in stage productions such as The Vagina Monologues and Love, Loss and What I Wore.

Kidder (left) is handcuffed by Washington police outside the White House in 2011. She was among the environmentalists who gathered to protest against TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. (Keith Lane/Canadian Press)

Kidder also became a political activist in recent years and was among a group of environmentalists to be arrested outside the White House in 2011 during a protest against TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline. She became an American citizen in 2005, she said, to avoid possible deportation for protesting the war in Iraq.

Kidder had settled in Montana to live in a "culture-free zone" away from the spotlight and close to her daughter and grandchildren.

"She was very, very happy living with her dogs in Montana and being part of a really strong community," said Annie Kidder. "That's how she wanted to live her life."

Linked to Pierre Trudeau

Kidder was married and divorced three times and was also famously linked to former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau. Kidder was credited with influencing Trudeau's decision to launch a global peace initiative during his final months in office, according to the 2009 biography Just Watch Me: The Life of Pierre Elliott Trudeau 1968-2000.

Kidder is seen signing autographs at Comic Con in San Diego in 2005. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

"She should be remembered as a proud Canadian [because] she was very proud of her country," Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison recalled on Monday.

Jewison cast Kidder for her first big film role — the 1969 comedy Gaily, Gaily — and remembers that even as a young performer building her career, she was an activist.

"She kind of had a rebellious spirit, which I always enjoyed being an old rebel myself," Jewison told CBC News in a phone interview.

While she'll always be remembered for the "glamorous" Superman role, the filmmaker said, "I remember her as a very dedicated and committed young political activist."

Richard Donner, who directed the 1978 film Superman, called Kidder's death "a very painful loss."

She was "extraordinarily creative, artistic and humorous," he said, calling her the "one true Lois Lane."

"An overused statement, but totally true: she touched everyone she met and everyone she worked with.

"A troubled life, which she overcame through grace. These are difficult words to write, so simply — you will be so very missed, my dear Margot."

'Onscreen she was magic'

Fans and colleagues began posting tributes to Kidder online in the hours after her death began making headlines.

"She was a joy to be around," wrote English actress Sarah Douglas, who co-starred alongside Kidder as supervillain Ursa in Superman and Superman II

"We continued to have fun together over the last 40 years."

American actress Teri Hatcher, who played Lane in the 1990s television series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Supermantweeted that it was a "privilege" to have shared the role with Kidder.

"She led the way brilliantly," Hatcher wrote.

Actor Mark Hamill said Kidder's legacy would "live on forever."

"On-screen she was magic. Off-screen she was one of the kindest, sweetest, most caring woman I've ever known," he wrote.

Actor and writer Kumail Nanjiani also tweeted about the actress's impact on the film industry.

"RIP Margot Kidder. One of my favourite movies of hers is the original Black Christmas. It introduced some elements that are now genre tropes and she's fantastic in it," he wrote.

With files from CBC News


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?