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Remembering Christopher Reeve - Larry King - CNN Transcripts - Aired Oct-16-2004 21:00 ET

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    Remembering Christopher Reeve - Larry King - CNN Transcripts - Aired Oct-16-2004 21:00 ET

    Remembering Christopher Reeve

    Aired October 16, 2004 - 21:00 ET


    CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: So when I say to people who are paralyzed or something from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and leukemia, et cetera, this is really the dawning of a new age of real hope.


    LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Christopher Reeve, the courageous and untimely death of a superhero. His optimism and activism inspired millions. Remembering Christopher Reeve next on LARRY KING LIVE.

    Welcome to a special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Tonight, we honor Chris Reeve, who died last weekend at age 52. Nine years ago the actor known worldwide as Superman fell from his horse and was paralyzed. But Christopher always wanted to walk again and became an internationally known activist for the disabled.

    He was a frequent guest on LARRY KING LIVE, we had some great conversations. Two days before his 50th birthday, he and his lovely wife Dana came on to talk about his new book, "Nothing Is Impossible." He wasn't walking yet, but his progress sure impressed us.


    KING: What's going on? I mean, you're moving parts -- what's going on?

    C. REEVE: Well, it's about time. Only took me five years. What's been happening is that I have been doing a lot of exercise starting in rehab and going on day after day after day. And it turns out that exercise is able somehow to reawaken dormant pathways and get movement.

    KING: But how do you explain it in this regard, Chris? I'm trying to picture it as a total layman, if the spine is cut off, how can the finger -- and the brain can't signal the finger, how can the finger move?

    C. REEVE: OK. Where you're wrong is in the cut off part, because actually my spinal chord wasn't cut at all. It just has a hemorrhage in the middle of it at one point. And so there are a lot of nerve tracks that have been spared and lot that are reawakening because of exercise.

    KING: And how much more can happen? C. REEVE: Unlimited. We really don't know. And -- but we're sure going to find out. I'm going keep exercising because I think the cure is going to come from patients doing exercise to maintain health and prepare for science.

    KING: So exercise is going to be a significant part of the cure?

    C. REEVE: Yes. And actually now, there are activity-dependent recovery programs that are being developed all around the country just for that purpose.

    KING: Dana, were you with Chris -- what was the first thing, Dana, that Chris moved? was it a finger or toe?

    DANA REEVE, WIFE OF CHRISTOPHER REEVE: It was his finger. And, yes, we were there. We were having a conversation in our home. And every time he said something where one might gesture, use a hand gesture, his finger was popping up. And we both started to notice it. And then he said, I think I can make that happen on my own. And he did. He sort of literally commanded his finger to move and it did. And then it got to the point where he could just think it.

    KING: So it was happening as a reflex action and then he made it happen.

    D. REEVE: Well -- right, exactly.

    KING: OK. There you see the tape. Let's see some actuality. Chris, we're going to try something here. There, we've got the hand. We've got our camera on your left hand with the wedding band. Let's put it back. Move the finger.


    C. REEVE: ... in other words, to show that it's voluntary, you give me the instruction. You say go.

    KING: OK. Christopher Reeve, I'm your director here tonight. Move your finger.

    C. REEVE: Say go.

    KING: Go.

    D. REEVE: There you go.

    KING: Whoa.

    C. REEVE: Say stop.

    KING: Stop.

    C. REEVE: Say go.

    KING: Go.

    D. REEVE: Who's directing who here?

    KING: Stop. He's directing me. All right, now, explain what's happening, Chris. As I say, go, what are you doing?

    C. REEVE: OK. What's happening is that just as normal, I hear you and my brain deciphers what you've said because I speak English, and then it goes down the spinal cord all the way to the seventh cervical vertebra, which is way below my injury. Then the message goes out to the peripheral nerves and all the way down to the finger and I get instantaneous reaction.

    KING: Now I am told...

    C. REEVE: And that's why -- sorry.

    KING: I'm sorry, go ahead.

    C. REEVE: And that's why we got so excited. See, that movement was so random, so unexpected. We figured anything else is possible.

    KING: I'm told you can move the right wrist, fingers on the left hand. Now feel a light touch or a pinprick over the body. Can move arms and legs in a pool. Can breathe on your own for about an hour at a time.

    C. REEVE: Hour-and-a-half. Somebody reported that I could wiggle my hips. Why would I want to do that? I did that when I was five.

    KING: What does it feel like, Chris, when you're off the machine?

    C. REEVE: It's great because I used to just gulp for air like a fish out of water. But now I'm able to sit very serenely and use my diaphragm. And listen to classical music and I just let the body happen. It's really been quite remarkable. It's really been exciting.

    KING: Dana, what do you make of this?

    D. REEVE: Well, it -- somehow it doesn't surprise me that much. And I know that may sound odd because the predictions were dire. But there is nothing yet that anyone has ever said to Chris that he hasn't defied. When they say he can't do something, he makes it a point to actually go ahead and do it. And that's been across the board. He's someone who has defied predictions from the first day. So I'm thrilled. I'm so excited for him. And I think he's a great inspiration and motivator for so many people.

    C. REEVE: But the main message, Larry, is it's really not just for me.

    D. REEVE: Yes.

    C. REEVE: I'm privileged. I have a staff. I have the equipment. But the one thing that I really hope comes out of this is that there's a paradigm shift in the way we look at what insurance should be doing to give people equipment so that they can accomplish the same thing that I have been able to accomplish. And that's really, really key. Otherwise it's just one individual.

    KING: And how do you react, Chris, to those who say the reason you can do this is you have the wherewithal to spend the funds, to have the physicians, the equipment, your chair, the kind of people around you that the average person doesn't have?

    C. REEVE: Frankly, everything that I can do can be done by a family at home. Well, even if you have a pool in your house, you could do the aqua therapy. But riding on a bike and using electrical stimulation of the muscles, the breathing off the hose, you can do that with your own family. And also you can do it at rehab centers as an outpatient.

    The main thing that will make a difference is that insurance companies need to pick up this therapy and pay for it, because they will profit off of it. People like me will stay out of the hospital and people with lower level injuries will get up and get out of their chairs.

    D. REEVE: We also, though, there's a bill, the Christopher Reeve bill is about to drop, we hope, in...

    C. REEVE: It passed unanimously in both houses.

    D. REEVE: Yes, and one of the things it will establish, a center of excellence in all 50 states. So if you can't afford or if insurance is still a snafu for your family, you can go somewhere where it has the exact same equipment that Chris has been using. He is not really Superman, and there is no real (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's that he has tremendous motivation and hard work, and people pushing him. And if we can get those factors for others.

    KING: Let me get a break and we'll take calls for Christopher Reeve and his wife, Dana. The new book, "Nothing Is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life" with an amazing guy and an extraordinary lady. We'll be right back.



    C. REEVE: If we keep giving our scientists the funding they need to do the research, very soon I will take my family by the hand and I will stand here in front of this star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.




    KING: Dana, I know it's discussed in the book, but when Christopher was on this show, one of the first times he was on, maybe the first time, he said one of the things he thought about doing when this first happened was killing himself.

    D. REEVE: Early on.

    KING: Did he relay that thought to you at that time, Dana?

    D. REEVE: Early, early on, yes. Really right after he had regained consciousness in the hospital in Virginia. He talked about it. We discussed it, actually, as an option. And it was something that he -- I think everyone does this. You have these late night conversations with your loved ones or your friends and you say if such and such ever happens to me, I don't want to live. And that had been a discussion.

    C. REEVE: But briefly.

    D. REEVE: What's that? Briefly. Well, it had been a brief one, but before the accident, just the idea of what you imagine you can withstand, and then the reality -- they're two different things.

    KING: And he told me he stayed alive because of you. But you say in the book that you said, let's give it two years and if after two years you still want to kill yourself, I'll help you?

    D. REEVE: Well, that was more of -- you call it a salesman tactic.

    C. REEVE: Yeah, that's what a car salesman does.

    D. REEVE: If you don't like it, you can return it.

    C. REEVE: You try it, you don't like it, bring it back. It will be fine, we'll give you a refund.

    D. REEVE: I figured that after...

    C. REEVE: You know, two years, two years of living with this (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and our dog and our house and our love and is like, no way.

    KING: Christopher, what are your days like, though? There's less pausing when you speak now. I notice there's not a heavy breath. There's no longer those heavy intakes about every 10 or 15 seconds. Is life much better, or is it still a lot of terrible aspects?

    C. REEVE: No. There are very few terrible aspects. And yeah. I have -- when we first talked, I could only, you know, sit up in the chair for about six hours at a time, because of the skin infections. Now it's 16 hours. And I don't have to be turned in bed every night. A lot of breakthroughs.

    But you know one thing? I was seeing the tease, seeing the steps, you know, walking across the pool. I remember that I had said that I hoped to walk by my 50th birthday. Well, my 50th birthday is going to be on Wednesday. And technically speaking, now that I see that, I did it. It took 11 people to hold me up, but I think I actually made the deal. Will you give me credit for that?

    KING: You made a promise on this program and you kept it. C. REEVE: Thank you very much. Thank you.

    D. REEVE: There you go.

    KING: Speaking of keeping, what keeps you going, Dana?

    D. REEVE: Well, Chris keeps me going. Our son Will keeps me going. There's not a lot -- life keeps me going. I'm basically a happy person. I don't need a lot of prompting to keep going.

    KING: How did your son come up with the idea of doing a documentary, or was it your idea? C. REEVE: No, no. It was actually Matthew's idea. He's an art and art history and art theory student at Brown. And once the finger moved in September of 2000, and Dr. John McDonald (ph) at Washington University wanted to do a study, Matthew came to me and said, can I do a documentary? And I thought, yes, this is a way to help him start with the career he's interested in. Also, I wouldn't want a stranger following me around. That was really important.

    KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's changed in your life, Chris, and it comes as a surprise to me, because I remember including in my book, when I wrote a book some years back, "Powerful Prayers," asking you, and you said you were kind of an agnostic, you were certainly not a religious person. You didn't look to God. You didn't say please, God, help me get better. Has that changed?

    C. REEVE: Well, believe it or not, in my book, "Nothing is Impossible," I have divided it into two chapters: the search for spirituality, one chapter is on faith. The other chapter is on religion. In a way they're kind of different for me. Because as a kid, religion seemed to be a bit scary, that somebody sort of -- you were kind of guilty while going into church. And it sort of sometimes made you feel bad. But over time, you know, I have actually become a Unitarian. And we embrace that because it's all inclusive and it's about the goodness in people. That God, you know, loves us and that he assumes that we are good. And also it just assumes that we have a moral compass inside us. And we kind of know what's right. And I write in the book, actually, I take my belief from something Abraham Lincoln said. He said in 1860, he said, when I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad and that's my religion. And I think we all know that. We can understand that.

    KING: Christopher is with his wife Dana. And we're going to include your phone calls.

    Metairie, Louisiana, Hello.

    CALLER: Hi.

    KING: Hi.

    CALLER: I have been paralyzed for a few months now. And I just want to know, like, I heard all the remarkable things about how he's recovering. And I just think that's so amazing. I just want to know how all that's happening. I want to know if it's possible that I could actually have that done to me or many people are getting it done. I don't know.

    KING: Are you paralyzed waist down, sir?

    CALLER: From the T-3. That's around the chest.

    KING: OK. Chris, I guess you know what that is.


    C. REEVE: Yes. You have a really good shot because there is something called treadmill walking therapy which is now being done at many centers around the country. And people have -- who have your level of injury, you've got upper body. You can use your arms I assume. And what you do is get to one of these centers and you go on a treadmill for about an hour a day for about 60 days and after that time you'll be able to walk on your own. It's been done already in about 500 people in this country.

    KING: Wow. You explain...

    C. REEVE: Let me tell you how to do this. If go to, and that will get you to our resource center and we can help you.

    KING: That's Paralysis -- repeat that.

    C. REEVE:


    Hayward, California, hello.

    CALLER: Good evening, first of all, I want to let you know that you've been a big inspiration to me and my family. I have been battling breast cancer, bone cancer and now leukemia all within the last year. And I just want to know how you both stay so motivated and keep your faith and stay strong and stay together.

    C. REEVE: I think...

    KING: Dana, you want to start with that?

    C. REEVE: That's all right, you go ahead.

    KING: Dana, you start.

    D. REEVE: I think -- I mean, what you're battling is you have one thing after another. And my heart goes out to you. We support one another and one of the things that both of us have found, that when we're feeling sorry for ourselves, the first thing we try to do is reach out to help someone else. And it's amazing how you can start feeling better because of that. That's one of the things. What were you going to say, honey?

    C. REEVE: Not much more I could add to that, really. That's such a great answer. D. REEVE: And a support system. It's key to have a support system. We have people who work for us who are incredible. Family members who are incredible. And I hope that you have the same because that sounds like you're going through a lot.

    KING: Christopher, aren't there days when you get down?

    C. REEVE: Sure, absolutely.

    KING: And what do you do?

    REEVE: Take action. And I think whether you're on your feet or not, whether you're healthy or not, it doesn't matter. The thing to do whenever you're feeling depressed is you cannot go down that spiral into negativity about yourself. And the way out of it is to do something active. For example, I'll do extra physical exercise, or make sure I really pay extra attention to Dana or the kids.

    D. REEVE: Or reach out to friends.

    C. REEVE: Or reach out to friends, or do some work. But it's about being action -- in action. And also, getting the attention off yourself. That's number one.

    D. REEVE: Yeah.

    KING: By the way, Chris, are you going to act and direct again?

    C. REEVE: I'll be directing. Hopefully in the spring. And -- but no plans for -- sorry. No plans for acting right now, but directing coming up.

    KING: I bet you could do a role, couldn't you?

    C. REEVE: Well, what's amazing is that I acted for 35 years and never won an award. And then I did a movie, "Rear Window," after I was injured, and I got the Screen Actors Guild award for best actor. Go figure. Who knows?

    KING: We'll be back with more of Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. More phone calls, too. Don't go away.


    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She might leave her husband but she's not going to leave her jewelry.

    C. REEVE: Well, that's my point. Something must have happened to her.

    UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jason, she probably spent the day at a bar or at her sister's or her mother's trying to get up the courage to come home. But she's going to come home. She'll be remorseful. They'll be all lovey-dovey for a few days and then they'll go at it again. Relationships like that are far too complicated to understand from the outside. Next time do us all a favor and don't call 911.

    C. REEVE: I'm not sure there's going to be a next time. I think he killed her last night.



    KING: What are your thoughts on the passing of Chris Reeve?

    MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: I'm just really saddened by it and surprised and still processing it. He was a real role model to me. Someone I admire tremendously. He was an articulate advocate and champion for people in his community and in the wider community of those of us who are in need of the positive outcomes of medical research.

    He was just a great man. He was -- he is going to be missed.


    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve, his wife Dana. The book is "Nothing Is Impossible." Back to the calls. San Martin, California, hello.

    CALLER: Hi.

    KING: Hi.

    CALLER: I have two questions, actually.

    KING: Go.

    CALLER: OK. The first question is, how voluntary is your movement? I'm in a wheelchair, and I find that I can actually move my leg if I pull real hard. And my second question is, do you have pain, and how do you deal with it?

    C. REEVE: Fortunately the movements that we're talking about are all voluntary, and most of them I do against resistance to build up strength. So if I'm lying in bed with my knee bent and my foot in somebody's shoulder, I have them offer a lot of resistance so I have to push hard to strengthen the muscle. And the second part of the question is, luckily, I don't suffer any pain whatsoever. Often, that happens in spinal cord patients, who develop cysts or cavities, but that hasn't happened to me.

    KING: I know that amputees claim that they can sometimes feel their arm and feel their finger.

    D. REEVE: Phantom pain.

    KING: Phantom pain. Do you get that, Chris?

    C. REEVE: No, because I have normal sensation or -- sorry. Nearly normal sensation over about 70 percent of my body. So there's no phantom sensation.

    KING: Lake Elsinore, California for the Reeves, hello.

    Caller: Hi.

    KING: Hi.

    CALLER: My nephew broke his neck a couple of weeks ago, the number one vertebrae. And he's still in critical care. What can we do to help him out mentally, to try to uplift his spirits? Because he has bad days and good days. And we're kind of stuck. And also, therapy- wise, when he gets his neck set, hopefully this Thursday, where do we go from there?

    C. REEVE: Well, it's going to be absolutely critical to find a progressive rehab center, where they're going to do more than the bare minimum. And also, to protect him from any further injury. But he needs to start exercising as soon as possible, you know, once he's stabilized from the surgery. And again, do not accept any absolutes from doctors. In other words, you have no idea what might happen.

    So what I'm saying is it's the same injury I did. My first vertebrae was so decimated that my head was not connected to my body. And five years later, seven years later, I'm moving.

    D. REEVE: But also, again, will get you to the resource center if you need a list of rehab hospitals or practical steps you need to take from the point where he's passed the acute phase into the rehab phase.

    KING: Everyone should make a note, the caller as well, of that Internet site, I'm sorry. Go ahead, Chris.

    C. REEVE: Larry, if I may. If people would like to get to the foundation to help us...

    KING: Oh, sure.

    C. REEVE: ... to raise money, if I could just say that there's a couple ways to do it.

    D. REEVE: To help the foundation, not us.

    C. REEVE: And by the way, I take no money from the foundation.

    D. REEVE: Right.

    C. REEVE: They don't even pay for gas for the car to come to meetings.

    KING: How can people help?

    C. REEVE: By donating to just And you can also make a donation through Sorry,


    To Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, hello.

    CALLER: Hello. Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Reeve. It is a pleasure to be speaking with you. I wanted to ask, what is your most inspirational message that you can give to families who are going through similar circumstances?

    KING: Are you, ma'am? Caller, are you going through a circumstance?

    CALLER: No, I'm not.

    KING: Oh, you just want what the message would be?

    CALLER: Well, I just feel that they are inspirational to all of us who are watching them, and I'm wondering what is the most inspirational message that they can give to families who are going through similar circumstances.

    KING: Got it.

    D. REEVE: There is hope, I think.

    C. REEVE: Yes.

    D. REEVE: Three simple words.


    D. REEVE: Well, no, I think that that is -- if you're going to encapsulate it, there is hope. And that through every dark corridor, there is some door that's going to lead to light. And it takes a lot of work and it takes a lot of support. That's easy after-isms to say, not so much to live. But there really is hope.

    C. REEVE: And the other thing is that hope -- hope, I say this in my book in an essay called "The Lighthouse," is that hope is different from optimism or wishful thinking. And hope has to be built on the same solid foundation as a lighthouse. But thankfully, where we are now with science and where we are with physical therapy, it's tremendous what's happening, the breakthroughs all around the world. So when I say to people who are paralyzed or suffering from Parkinson's and Alzheimer's and leukemia, et cetera, this is really the dawning of a new age of real hope.

    KING: Herbster, Wisconsin for the Reeves, hello.

    CALLER: Yes. I wanted to ask, if they approve stem cell research, how long do you think it will be until they begin the surgeries?

    C. REEVE: Well, stem cells are the research with embryonic stem cells and stem cells derived from nucleus transplantation. It's still in its infancy because of political controversy in the federal government, which now fortunately has been broken through and adopted by California. But I think they're going to be able to start getting this into humans within the next three years or so.

    KING: Last call. Kanata, Canada, hello.

    CALLER: Hello, Chris and Dana. I just wanted to say what an inspiration you both are. The love you share is unbelievable. My question is, you have children and I have a daughter who's extremely in love with horses. And the love of riding is a passion that I have never seen. If you could offer any advice as far as safety. As a mother, it's a big fear. I don't have the love of horses but she truly does.

    KING: That's a great question. We've got about 45 seconds, Chris, what advice would you give to the horsemen and horseladies?

    C. REEVE: OK. Wear a helmet. Don't exceed your abilities. But as a parent, don't make your child afraid. Because if she does it with fear then she might be injured. But my daughter Alexandra, who I taught to ride, she gave it up for a while. And I said, no, continue, you love it. And now she's playing polo for Yale. So you have got to let people go ahead and do their thing and do it safely.

    KING: Thank you both so much. You're an inspiration to everybody. And I always love seeing you.

    D. REEVE: Thanks, Larry.

    REEVE: Larry, thank you so much.


    KING: When we come back, Christopher Reeve, the political activist, don't go away.


    C. REEVE: Thank you. Thank you very, very much.

    Well, I just have to start with a challenge to the president. Sir, I've seen your train go by and I think I can beat it.




    SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris Reeve was a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again. And I want him to walk again.

    On Saturday, after the debate, I picked up my cell phone and I had a wonderful, long message from Chris who called me to thank me for talking about the possibilities of a cure and the excitement in his voice -- this is just before he went in the hospital, the excitement in his voice. I had no idea he was going in because he didn't tell me that. The excitement in his voice was just really palpable. And he was so thrilled about where the discussion of stem cell research had come to.


    KING: Welcome back to our salute to Chris Reeve, a tireless advocate for stem cell research. It is now, of course, a major political issue and came up during the presidential debate that wrapped up here in Tempe this week.

    Four years ago, Reeve was a guest as we covered the Democratic Convention in Los Angeles.


    KING: How are you feeling first?

    C. REEVE: Very well. A little tired. I've been talking all day, but I'm fine.

    KING: Still optimistic?

    REEVE: More so than ever. In fact, a recent breakthrough's happened. And a scientist that we fund, Dr. Ira Black, has made a major breakthrough, which I put right up there with the invention of the wheel, and that is that he's been able to take cells, stem cells from bone marrow of an adult and with gene therapy turn them into nerves.

    KING: Meaning?

    REEVE: And put them into the injured spinal cord and get recovery. It's phenomenal, and I'm proud to say that our foundation financed the work.

    KING: So that furthers your belief you will walk?

    REEVE: Absolutely, yes.

    KING: And many others will walk?

    REEVE: Yes, yes. And there are different kinds of spinal cord injury, but it's not only about that. It's about Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease, stroke, MS. This approach with stem cells, both human embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells, means hope...

    KING: Were you at the Republican...

    REEVE: ... for the whole American family.

    KING: Were you at the Republican convention?

    REEVE: No.

    KING: Because they're not listening to you, because you're a Democrat? Why?

    REEVE: Well, basically because it was more difficult to get to Philadelphia.

    KING: Because you would have been as welcomed there as you are here.

    REEVE: No. I think I have a very good relationship with Republicans. In fact, there's been good leadership on the issue from Senator Hatfield when he was there, from Arlen Specter right now. Working together with Senator Harkin, they've doing great work, and Congressman Porter in Appropriations. So it really is a bipartisan effort. However, I believe that the Democrats really got a step up, and the reason tonight I came out to L.A. was to work on the plank and the platform.

    KING: Which says?

    REEVE: Which says that we have a commitment, firm commitment, to double the budget for biomedical research and to bring the disabled into the mainstream of society. And it was -- I just heard this afternoon it was adopted unanimously.

    KING: Do you expect that would be something that would get bipartisan approval in the Senate and the House?

    REEVE: Well, there is some resistance, you know, because it's expensive to make alterations, you know, to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. But we have to do it. You know, it's as important as education. There are just certain obligations that we really must fulfill.

    KING: How many Americans are disabled by definition?

    REEVE: Right now, either seriously ill or disabled are 54 million Americans. That's one-fifth of the population, and we have to do everything we possibly can to alleviate that situation.

    KING: There's going to be -- they're going to honor you tomorrow, the Creative Coalition and "George" magazine, similar to an event held for Michael J. Fox. You've had a lot of these, right? Do they ever get old hat to you?

    REEVE: Not at all, not at all. But I really feel that the people who have been doing the work at our foundation, the -- my hats are off to the scientists, because you don't really hear about them, and particularly Dr. Black, you know, has been working for years in New Jersey at the school of medicine on this theory that he could do this with the cells. And now...

    KING: And of course....

    REEVE: Now -- you know, he's never called attention to himself, and now he's made an incredible breakthrough.

    KING: Of course, had there not been you, this wouldn't have happened.

    One of the tragedies is we need someone famous to have something happen to them to get spurred on.

    REEVE: Well, I think, you know, there have been a lot of people who have done similar work, Michael J. Fox, "Magic" Johnson, I think Mary Tyler Moore with diabetes. But really, the case that has to be made is we're talking about the whole country. And when I can get out there in front of thousands of people and say, listen, there is real hope on the horizon for people who have all these diseases, you know, then I'm not just speaking out of self-interest and I feel glad about that.

    KING: When you were hale and hearty, did you ever think about the disabled?

    REEVE: No. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't. I really -- you know, I'm quite guilty of walking down the street and not even taking notice.

    KING: So how then do we get the message across since Christopher Reeve didn't notice?

    REEVE: Well, simply by more people having the courage to appear in public, more people saying, wait a minute, I can work, you know, I can do things. And now that there are new therapies coming along, more and more people will be brought in from the margins of society and you'll get more used to seeing disabled people working now and then getting better.

    KING: You're going to direct another film?

    REEVE: Yes. But right now, compared to the fact that Dr. Ira Black just about, as I said, invented the wheel, my directing career doesn't seem very important to me.

    KING: I look forward to meeting him and always great seeing you.

    REEVE: Thank you so much, Larry.


    KING: Chris Reeve was always researching the latest scientific developments that might eventually help the disabled. When we come back, his exploratory trip to the Middle East.


    KING: What are your thoughts on the passing of Chris Reeve?

    LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY: I'm so sad about that, it's like a heartbreaker. He was such a huge inspiration to people. And his will was so strong and his determination was so strong. And he raised millions of dollars for paralysis research, spinal cord injury research. And I think that's really, really important.




    REEVE: Fifty-four million Americans are disabled. Our government is supposed to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people. Beyond that we have a moral responsibility to help others. Time is absolutely critical. If the government forces scientists to attempt to make adult stem cells behave like embryonic stem cells, they might waste five years or more and fail, in the meantime, hundreds of thousands will have died.


    KING: Welcome back. A lot of people here in Tempe, Arizona, where the last presidential debate was held, were debating stem cell research among themselves. It didn't come up in the last debate. But there's no debating which side Christopher Reeve stood on. He spent part of what would be his final LARRY KING LIVE appearance talking about stem cells and other research being done in Israel.


    KING: How about a quick update on how you're doing?

    REEVE: I'm doing very well, and it's a real pleasure to be here in Israel. I'm in the middle of a four-and-a-half-day trip to find out about the science that's going on over here and the rehabilitation, and it's been truly amazing.

    KING: All right. Before we talk about that and what they do there, what was the trip over like?

    REEVE: The trip over was very nice. I -- this is the second time I've made a long trip. The first was earlier in the year. I went to Australia, which is even further. And it's really been a wonderful experience. The Israeli people have just gone all out to make everything comfortable and to make a trip possible.

    KING: Now you flew commercially. Is that difficult for you? How do they handle the chair? How does the plane deal with it?

    REEVE: Well, actually, I sit in a regular seat like everybody else, and, fortunately, I'm in good health now and have been for some time so that my skin is strong enough, and I can stay in a seat for 10 hours and recline and enjoy the regular food and be pretty much a regular passenger. It's really quite something.

    KING: Is there any effect if there's turbulence on the plane?

    REEVE: No, not at all. I can take turbulence just like anybody else. I've always loved flying. I was a pilot for 20 years.

    KING: That's right. I forgot.

    How about security arrangements? Do they have special things, or do they sort of let you through with all your equipment and stuff?

    REEVE: Well, everything was very carefully checked to make sure that it was compatible with the airplane systems -- the ventilator, for example, very important to make sure that it didn't interfere with the navigational equipment -- and they ran extensive tests to make sure everything was working.

    And it's all been going just fine.

    KING: OK. What are they doing in Israel that's exceptional?

    REEVE: Well, the whole attitude towards medical research is exceptional. I think it's the characteristic of the Israeli people that they are curious, and they are people who desire knowledge. And the scientists here are revered. They are not famous, but they are honored, because they are curious and courageous. They don't take the conventional path. They learn and do whatever they can to relieve human suffering, and as you know, in this country, they live every day with urgency. Every day, you never know what can happen here, and so there have been so many people who have been injured and suffered spinal cord injuries and other kinds of injury because of the terrorism, and I found that both in the medical research and the rehabilitation of people who have been injured, they are really trying their hardest to go as quickly as possible, and I think we lack a little bit that sense of urgency in the United States. It's not present all the time.

    But I saw something very, very extraordinary I'd like to describe to you. I met a young man who was an Arab Israeli, and he had been injured for two years, but he underwent surgery within two weeks of his injury, and his injury was just a little worse than mine. He was injured from high up in his chest, then paralyzed all the way down. And two years later -- I met him today -- he is able to walk with the use of parallel bars, and this is because of the surgery that has been done here in Israel. And it's the most remarkable case of a human recovery that I've ever seen. It moved me tremendously.

    KING: What, Chris, are they doing that doctors elsewhere are not doing?

    REEVE: Well, they have a very progressive atmosphere here. They have socialized medicine, so that doctors and patients do not have the problem of profit or of, you know, trying to make money or trying to get insurance companies to pay for treatments. That is one big advantage. And they also work very well together. They share their knowledge. This is a country of 6 million people, about the size of Long Island, and everyone works together, and doing it tremendously. There is very -- no ego here. There is great sharing, and the people of the country benefit from that.

    KING: We'll take a break and come right back with more of Christopher Reeve on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.



    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve in Tel Aviv, Israel.

    By the way, this trip was facilitated by Israel's Consul General Yuval Rotem, and Rotem said, quote, "Israel's very excited to welcome Christopher Reeve, a true superhero who inspires us all in his fight and struggle to achieve his motto Nothing Is Impossible."

    Do you still have that motto? Do you still think you will walk again?

    REEVE: I certainly have the motto that nothing is impossible. I think the question of whether I will walk is going to depend on politics. It's going to depend on collaborations between scientists around the world. It will depend on economics, a lot of factors that I knew very little about when I was injured eight years ago.

    And I think my purpose when I was 42 in saying that I would walk by the time I was 50 was to be provocative, to be a voice saying why can't we do this, don't tell me the reasons why not. Well, now I understand some of the difficulties not only in terms of the science but the other forces I was just mentioning. But I do think that these can be overcome. I just can't put a specific date on it.

    KING: Do you plan to continue to work? I saw you last Sunday on "The Practice." You were terrific in a script that you had written with a nice twist at the end. Do you plan to continue to both act and direct?

    REEVE: Yes, absolutely. I've been an actor for a very long time, and, also, I've loved directing now that I've started doing that in "The Gloaming" for HBO back in '96.

    Right now, I'm very involved in the world of politics. In fact, you know, I don't want to feel guilty for turning away and saying, OK, I'm going to go off and direct something now for seven months.

    For example, right now, I'm shepherding a piece of legislation. It's the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act that was introduced in both the Senate and the House in May. And we now have about 45 co-sponsors in the House. We've got 15 co-sponsors in the Senate.

    And it's a bill that would create centers of research and centers of rehabilitation research and also centers that would improve the quality of life for people with disabilities, accessibility, transportation, all of that. So I'm working -- working to help to get that bill passed, hopefully, this year.

    KING: Do you think 9/11 curtailed advances in your area?

    REEVE: No, I don't think 9/11 is responsible for the political climate about medical research today. I don't think those two things go together.

    I think that politics in the United States is very difficult, and I've talked to many representatives, you know, who feel one way and yet know that it would be politically difficult for them to vote that way, and as long as that's a fact, in my opinion, until we have real campaign finance reform, there's always going to be compromises that will be disappointing.

    And I think that the more -- the more that we can keep special interests out of the picture and let politicians who do the greatest good for their constituents and for not only the local people they serve but for the country as a whole, then we're going to regain the preeminence that we deserve.

    KING: What keeps you going?

    REEVE: Sorry. Didn't -- didn't mean to sound like a sermon there.

    KING: No, that's all right. It's right on the mark.

    What keeps you going?

    REEVE: What keeps me going is -- well, the possibilities of the future, change, the fact that I'm getting better, that technology is improving, that we do have the really brilliant, dedicated people who want to help, and that, also, I have the opportunity to learn so much.

    I mean take a trip like this. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to come here, and just today I, as I said before, saw a young man who was cured of his spinal cord injury with a surgical procedure, something that would have been impossible when I was injured in 1995, and here it was, he was operated on in 2001, and he's walking, and -- I mean I've seen it. I've seen it, and there's more to come. It's going to be difficult, but that's what keeps me going, is knowing that it can be done.


    KING: Christopher Reeve's optimism and his activism will both be missed. Back with a word about tomorrow night's show in a moment.


    KING: Tomorrow night our tribute to Christopher Reeve continues with his first LARRY KING LIVE interview after the accident that left him a quadriplegic.

    Stay tuned now as the news continues on the most trusted name in news, CNN.


    I'm adding the follow-up transcript below.


    Remembering Christopher Reeve Part II

    Aired October 17, 2004 - 21:00 ET


    CHRISTOPHER REEVE, ACTOR: I think I am in a position to do more than just sit home and stare out the window, that I can actually be of help. And that wasn't the road I would have picked, but a lot of times things, you know, get picked for you. So the point is, either I give in or I say, all right, let's make the best of this, and there's a lot I can do.


    LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the late Christopher Reeve, a look back at the Hollywood's superhero's most courageous battle. The beloved actor in his own words, from his darkest thoughts in the days following his devastating accident...


    REEVE: And when I first realized what my situation was, I thought, maybe I'm too much trouble. Maybe this would just be too hard on everybody. Maybe I should just check out.


    KING: To the hopes he had for himself and others like him.


    REEVE: It takes somebody visible to lead the charge, and it's not a job I would have wanted, but I'm doing it.


    KING: Christopher Reeve, a profile in courage, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

    Good evening. When Christopher Reeve was paralyzed in a horse- riding accident in 1995, many thought it might be the end of the road for the 42-year-old actor. But just a few months later, he had gathered the strength to come on our show and talk about it.


    KING: You don't remember the accident at all?

    REEVE: It's funny how the psyche and the body shut down when you're in real crisis. Mine shut downs at odd moments anyway.

    KING: What do you remember about that day?

    REEVE: I remember warming up. I remember getting my horse ready to warm up for the cross country. See this is a three day event. There are three phases. I had already done dressage and then we do cross country and then later the next day will be show jumping. Its all three phases. So and this was down in Culpepper, Virginia, a beautiful place.


    REEVE: Love it down there. But anyway...

    KING: ...your passport.

    REEVE: I remember getting my horse ready for cross country and you put on all your stuff including a serious crash helmet, including a chest protector and mind you this is something I've been doing for years. In fact, I was third in the New England championships last year. Not to brag; but this is not something you do for a whim on a Sunday afternoon. I was prepared and ready and I had a wonderful horse. I still love him. His name's Eastern Express.

    KING: Do you see him?

    REEVE: He's gone to one of the best trainers in New England, Jim Stamidts (ph), and unfortunately, he's for sale because I won't be riding anytime right away, but he's under the best of care.

    Anyway, I hopped on, and the next thing I remember is about four or five days after the accident coming to in the hospital.

    KING: This is a key to -- help me with this. When you open your eyes, you're in a hospital. What's your first thought?

    REEVE: It can't be me.

    KING: Do you think you fell off a horse?

    REEVE: No recollection. Guys, I'm very lucky, is the first thing I remember is my wife, Dana coming to my side, and then I opened my eyes and there Dana was. And ...

    KING: No feelings?

    REEVE: My situation -- no, are you kidding? I was snowed. I was on every drug they've ever concocted, plus a few more.

    KING: Did she tell you what happened?

    REEVE: They had to keep me in traction. See, the main thing about the spine, you want to prevent swelling. And then swelling (UNINTELLIGIBLE), swelling makes it worse, and if you move -- if you move at all, you're in big, big trouble. That's why getting somebody off the field like that is pretty critical. And I'm very lucky to -- you would have lost me there. But fortunately, as I went over the horse, the reason that I injured myself, is that my hands got caught in the horse's bridle and it came off with me.

    So he suddenly refused to jump, unfortunately, and I went down with my hands tangled. So all I -- normally this would have been a sprained wrist and me being mad, and that's it. This was very, very odd and very unusual.

    But anyway, I woke up in a hospital about Wednesday, and I injured myself on a Saturday.

    KING: No anger toward the horse?

    REEVE: No anger toward the horse, no. I was surprised. I mean, he'd never done that before. He was my new horse, and he'd been -- he and I been doing cross-country since he was 12. Very experienced horse. And there's conflicting reports as to what happened. Some people say that a rabbit suddenly ran out from the underbrush, and that spooked him for a second. And we were going fairly fast too. This is cross-country; you're not hanging about. You're galloping the jumps, not cantering (ph) them, so we were cruising right along, and he just suddenly put on the brakes. And this is what I'm told. And I did -- you know, I did a field goal through his ears, but I took the bridle with me.

    KING: When your wife told you what happened and the condition you were in, were they directly honest with you? Did they tell you what had happened to the spine?

    REEVE: Well, oh, yes. And the thing was they didn't -- were working out at that time what to do. Because there's a lot of different disagreements about what you do to someone. The first thing they had to do is they had to stabilize my spine, so I was there in traction with screws in my head and a big heavy sort of ball kind of holding me down. So I couldn't move and I couldn't eat anything. They washed my mouth out occasionally with a little orange and raspberry swabs.

    I thought I was done for, and the thing is the doctors, I had one of the greatest surgeons in the world, Dr. John James, and I'm very lucky that I ended up there instead of like East Elbow someplace, you know. And he performed really a miraculous operation that allows me to be recovering the way I am today. But they weren't sure. They said we can't guarantee anything. It's 50/50, we'll see.

    KING: Did you ever think of not wanting to live?

    REEVE: I thought for about 10 minutes when I first was in the intensive care, and when I first realized what my situation was I thought maybe I'm too much trouble. Maybe this would just be too hard on everybody, maybe I should just check out. And my wife, my beautiful extraordinary wife Dana, put the end to end with one sentence. She said but you're still you and I love you. End of story.

    And then my three children came in -- Matthew, Alexandra and Will, and our family was together -- and I thought no way I'm going to miss this. This is my family.

    KING: So now you don't feel like you put...

    REEVE: Never. I've never even thought about it since May...

    KING: 26th?

    REEVE: Whatever -- well no, June 1, whatever or whenever that Wednesday was.

    KING: Because once you decided your family loves you, you love them, this is a partnership; there was no more going back.

    REEVE: Right. No, and you know what you learn -- there's a lot of people been in chairs longer than me that can tell you better. But you learn that the stuff of your life -- I mean, I was a sailor, I was a skier, I was a rider, I did a lot of stuff. A lot of accidents, I'm a very sports oriented, et cetera. I travelled everywhere. And you realize that is not the definition or the essence of your existence.

    What is the essence are those relationships, those people in that room, that right there. And while my relations were always good, I mean now they have transcended. My son and I and my wife and I, you know, so that's why I can honestly say I'm a lucky man.

    KING: Can you explain what paralysis is like?

    REEVE: Well, paralyzes is obviously...

    KING: Like your hands, you can't move.

    REEVE: No, I can't move below my shoulders. I mean (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...

    KING: Does your brain want to move them?

    REEVE: Yes, absolutely. But at some point you have to wait until they make the connection. What you have to imagine is like a telephone repair man and he's out there -- all the cables are broken, and there's no color coding and he doesn't have a diagram, and at some point he's got to cut it, try to put them all back together. And once he gets the cables back together again, things will start moving.

    KING: Now his old reflexes in which the brain went to the finger and moved the finger and that's less than a year ago. They're there, aren't they?

    REEVE: Everything works. We're just waiting for the phone man.

    KING: Well-put. But that could drive you nuts. Couldn't it?

    REEVE: Yes, it could drive you nuts. But why let it drive you nuts? What you have to do ...

    KING: So what do you do? REEVE: Well, you just don't go nuts. Because, you know, what can I do? I think the only way to go through life, in any situation, whoever you are, whatever your situation is, you look at your assets and say, what have I got that I can use? Well, fortunately, thanks to my helmet I don't have any brain damage. My brain is whatever it was. And there's a lot that I can do, and so what I do is I've had to learn.

    The hardest thing is, I was such an active person, I was really up and at them, doing a lot of things. I've had to accept being still, and what's kind of interesting is that at night, in my dreams, I go everywhere. I go, I'm whole, and I'm still whole now, at least in my head, but I was all in one piece.

    And I go on wonderful trips and journeys. And with my wife and family we do things. It's wonderful.

    My hardest moment is about 7:30 a.m. when oops -- go frozen. However, I'm living at a time when this can be fixed. I would have hated -- I mean, I feel sorry for Kent Waldrop who is one a wonderful guy I've met. A football player back in 1975, he was injured and think how long he's been...

    KING: Nick Bernaconi (ph).

    REEVE: Nick Bernaconi (ph). I mean Marc Bernaconi, a wonderful guy.

    KING: I was the emcee at the first dinner for Nick...

    REEVE: ... all of them have been an inspiration to me and I'm very lucky as I'm sitting here is that at a time when we are closer to the cure we've ever been if the funding would just come through.


    KING: Back with more from Christopher Reeve in a couple of minutes, including his take on what it feels like to be paralyzed.



    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve.

    I don't know why but people thought that regarding you, money would not be a problem. That either you were wealthy or...

    REEVE: Have you seen my career lately?

    KING: No, but you were a horse person in Culpepper, Virginia. Chris Reeve is OK.

    REEVE: Well, I'll tell you what, I've made some really bad investments in the 80s.

    KING: Is this breaking you?

    REEVE: It would if I couldn't find work, absolutely. Yes.

    KING: You are going to find work?

    REEVE: I am going to find work. But the thing is we have to completely redo my house. Otherwise, I'm stuck in two rooms. And that's not that much of a future.

    KING: What kind of work?

    REEVE: We got to get an elevator. Do you know how expensive an elevator is? Have you ever tried to put an elevator in? I don't recommend it. It's about $70,000 bucks, and we have a lot of -- a lot to do.

    KING: What kind of work do you want to do?

    REEVE: Well, I'm going to direct. I'm actually going to write a book. I'm going to give speeches around the country. I'm not going to sit home and watch the grass grow.

    KING: All those things...

    REEVE: Are already in motion now. In fact, we've started on the book. I'm very lucky in that I have great co-author, Roger Rosenblack (ph)...

    KING: The best. He's one of the great essayists in America.

    REEVE: And I said to him, why would you, a writer of your distinction, why would you want to help me write my story in the first person? And he said to me, it would be an honor. So go figure. But we're having a wonderful time. He comes over with the tape recorder. Right now we work once a week, and he just listens and stuff comes out of me.

    KING: Is this an autobiography?

    REEVE: Well, it's the story of my life so far. Yes.

    KING: What about the Robin Williams story and his health?

    REEVE: Robin Williams is the definition of generosity. He and Marsha.

    KING: Are you old friends?

    REEVE: For 22 years. We go back to Juilliard together, and the man again just defines generosity, said whatever I can do to help. But there is this crazy cockamamie story that went around that we had signed some pact.

    KING: Pact?

    REEVE: Yes, like what on a napkin in the cafeteria in Juilliard or something.

    KING: Saying what?

    REEVE: That if either of us gets in trouble that we'll take care of each other in the future.


    No, and listen, I'm going to help myself. I'm going to take care of myself the best I can, because the one thing you want when you're injured -- you ask anybody who's injured, you ask anybody who's got a problem. You want control and you want your self-respect. You don't want to take charity.

    KING: So how do you feel when it's given to you?

    REEVE: Well, I feel very grateful if it's charity that I can accept. Where I feel that in some way I can pay the person back or whatever...

    KING: So you owe Robin Williams some kind of debt?

    REEVE: But just an emotional debt and a huge debt of friendship. As of yet, I don't owe him a nickel and I'd like to keep it that way.

    KING: How about other people and people's reactions to you? Were you a little surprised by the worldwide attention this got?

    REEVE: Stunned, because basically I was hanging out in Bedford, New York, where we lived, training my horse six days a week to be ready for these competitions, and you forget that there's a big world outside, because my wife and I really enjoyed the fact that we have a new little guy, Will, our little fellow, and we didn't want to bring him up in the city after 20 years. We enjoy the city, but we also like our privacy in the country. So in a way, I'd go off to work but I kind of forget that anybody is watching. I sort of forget.

    KING: So you thought you were a what, a forgotten actor?

    REEVE: No, not a forgotten actor. But not the kind of public figure who has a problem going down the street like a Mel Gibson or something.

    KING: So you were shocked?

    REEVE: So, well, when I got 300,000 letters from people all over the world, the outpouring of love and sympathy and concern and caring, I was blown away, and I must say that's what got me through those days.

    What I use to do down in the University of Virginia when I was in intensive care, they let me get up one hour a day to get used to being upright in a wheelchair, and that's pretty heavy duty, because your blood pressure falls apart and you really feel weird, et cetera. But they would wheel me down to the sun room and I would sit there with a blanket like a little old man, and my family would read me these letters from around the world, and that kept me going.

    The love of my family and the support of people around the world is just, you know...

    KING: This Chris Reeve -- the Chris Reeve I know of is not an emotional person, or if he is he certainly holds it in. Agreed?

    REEVE: I guess so, yes.

    KING: You hide. I mean, one cannot picture Chris Reeve weeping.

    REEVE: I don't, I don't. No not on an interview show.

    KING: No, but in -- when you were sitting in that sun room. I mean that's got to -- how about the president? Did the president contact you? REEVE: Oh, yes and a very funny story happened, as a matter of fact. He finally wrote me a letter, because he was trying to call and he was going to call my wife at a certain time, and just at the time my sister calls from Albuquerque, and my wife says, oh great to hear from you but you got to get off the phone -- the president's calling.

    And she said, yes, sure, so how are you doing? She says, no, get off, the president's calling. And finally, she just wouldn't get off and the president missed the call.


    KING: That's one of the things that made Reeve such a great guy -- made him such a great guy. He could touch you very deeply one minute and tell you a funny story the next. Back with more in a couple of minutes.


    ROBIN WILLIAMS, FRIEND: We were in the hospital, I thought, he'll be right. He's so powerful and so tough that, you know, the stuff he's fought through -- he'd beat the odds. I didn't that, you know, when you have an accident like this, you're pretty much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) live way longer. I went, what is it like, it sounds like a rabbit when you go, you know, he's only got two years. But he basically, you know, so powerful. I would never think of him being gone. Yes, he will be missed, but his spirit carries on.



    KING: Welcome back. Another of my favorite interviews with Christopher Reeve took place in 1997. He'd just finished his directorial debut, working with Glenn Close and Bridget Fonda for HBO's "In the Gloaming."


    KING: Did you want to direct before the accident? REEVE: Yes, it was very funny. About 20 years ago I was doing Superman One...

    KING: Twenty years ago, now.

    REEVE: Twenty years ago, right now, I was hanging on wires flying around and...

    KING: Where did they shoot that?

    REEVE: In Pine Wood Studios in England, and I had a lot of spare time. So, what I would do -- you know, because there's a long time between special effects, I'd go around -- I'd go to the editing department, the camera department, sound effects, and I'd say, what are you doing? Why are we doing it? And I would bug the director, Dick Donner, why are we on this lens, et cetera.

    KING: You wanted to direct?

    REEVE: At the time I was so involved in stuff, so I called Dick Donner when I got this job, and I said, guess what? I'm directing. He says, so what else is new? Because I've been a closet director for a long time.

    KING: Does it seem like 20 years?

    REEVE: It sure does, yeah, a lot of water under bridge in 20 years, but...

    KING: It seems like yesterday. I remember going to see that movie cheering with the audience.

    REEVE: Yeah, you know, the premier in Washington was in December of '78, and I remember, there was a reception at the Japanese embassy, just before and Henry Kissinger got up to speak, and he said -- you know, for the openings, he said, I want to thank Warner Brothers for making the story of my life.

    KING: You got annoyed with that after a while, didn't you? With being Superman? You didn't want to do the fourth one or something?

    REEVE: No, well, the fourth one I felt...

    KING: Wasn't a good script?

    REEVE: Well, we had different producers and they were doing a mass -- a lot of -- you know, they had like 25, 30 movies in production, or...

    KING: Should you not have done the fourth?

    REEVE: Not under those circumstances. If it had been a really good script, you know, all it is is the material, the cast, the budget, you get all the ingredients right, then there's no reason not to.

    KING: But, you didn't mind the...

    REEVE: If it had been great, you know, I would have been very happy.

    KING: You didn't mind being tabbed then?

    REEVE: No, because actually, believe it or not, Superman brought me opportunities. People think oh, well he played Superman. He lost opportunities. As a matter of fact, you know, I got movies like "Death Trap" and I got -- Merchant-Ivory, as a matter of fact, my first sort of art film was "The Bostonians" in 1983. And Jim Ivory said that he cast me because of the work I had done in "Superman," not in spite of it.

    KING: "Death Trap" was wonderful, too.

    REEVE: Oh, that was wild.

    KING: And, "Ominous," the last movie you did, you were in a chair?

    REEVE: Believe it or not.

    KING: You played a bad guy.

    REEVE: ...1994, it had been just after the earthquake, and I went out. I was playing a guy who is a paraplegic in a wheelchair, so I went out to a rehab center in Van Nuys, and there were a lot of people there who had -- you know, had bookcases fall on them and they'd been spinal cord injured during the earthquake. And I asked questions and I watched them. I remember driving away, every day after I would practice rehab saying, boy, thank God that's not me.

    But the point is, any of this stuff can happen to any of us at any time.

    KING: Is it difficult when you see films of yourself walking?

    REEVE: No. Because I'm glad that I'm -- I have to say I'm very glad this happened to me at 42 and not at 22, or at 12, or 15. That is what really breaks my heart, when I see kids who haven't had a life. I have had wonderful opportunities. I got a lot of good mileage behind me, and I've also got a lot of good mileage ahead of me too.

    But, I'm really glad that you know, it -- to be 15 and to realize what a long road you're going to have ahead of you, that breaks my heart. I have had a lot of luck.

    KING: Why do you never get down? Or do you and you don't get down, ever when you are doing media?

    REEVE: Well...

    KING: You never get down!

    REEVE: Well, I -- I'm lucky. I'm very lucky, first of all, because I think that I'm in a position to do more than just sit home, stare out the window, that I can actually be of help. Now, that wasn't a road I would have picked, but a lot of times things you know get picked for you, so the point is, either I give in or I say, all right, let's make the best of this, and there is a lot I can do.

    KING: The last time you were with us, you had to be moved around. Every break, we had to move you and adjust you -- nothing. What happened?

    REEVE: Because at that time, my skin was in a very weak condition, and I couldn't stay in one position for more than a few minutes. And now, I can sit in one position for an hour, hour and a half, without a problem -- so getting stronger.

    KING: You've become a hero to the disabled, haven't you?

    REEVE: Well, the disabled are concerned. Some of them are concerned that I am spending so much of my time working on research...

    KING: Concerned that they'd rather have it spent on...

    REEVE: Yeah, on better wheelchairs or better sidewalks.

    KING: Something to be said for that too.

    REEVE: Yeah, but I am trying to do both. And my foundation, we're dedicated to doing both. A portion of the money we raise goes to individuals and makes grants to people into institutions to improve accessibility and the quality of the life for the disabled. So we are very involved in that. But I take the longer view, because I think research will get us out of this.

    KING: Have you thought about, studied, asked, about why we stare at the disabled, or shy?

    REEVE: It's uncomfortable for some people. And I think one of the things that I can do is make it more comfortable. I think that the more you can just look past the chair and see the person, the better it is. And we're learning to do that, because the more we see disabled people, the more they come into the mainstream of society. The more we see them in the workplace, you get used to it.

    KING: Because there's a mint of jobs they can hold.

    REEVE: Sure.

    KING: They can be news anchors. Why can't you be a news anchor?

    REEVE: All kinds of things. There's all kinds of thing that people can do, we're just not used to it. And in the past, the disabled didn't have so many opportunities. But now, the technology is such that really, a disabled person can do incredible things. And new technologies have really changed things.

    KING: So you're saying there is definitely prejudice against the disabled, no doubt about it. REEVE: I think it's an old habit we haven't gotten over yet. I think we will, though, and we need to get that message out, that the disabled can do much more than they think, if we ever give them the chance.


    KING: When we come back, my 1998 interview with Chris Reeve, just after he'd finished his book, titled "Still Me." Stay tuned.


    REEVE: The spinal cord and the brain are the last frontiers of inner space. And they will be conquered.




    SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Chris was a beautiful, hopeful person, full of zest for life, full of caring for other people. He was a great, engaged, creative spirit. And he was an inspiration to all of us. Without leaving his wheelchair, he was able to make great strides toward a cure for conditions like his. And his tireless efforts are always going to be remembered, and they're always going to be honored, and in part because of his work, one day people will walk again.



    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve. The book is "Still Me." All right, everyone who's read about you, these past two, three days -- week, knows of your statements that you're going to walk. What do you base that on?

    REEVE: On what the scientists are doing and the pace of the research. I'll give you an example. About a year ago, they did work on rats with an antibody called l-1, and the rats kind of scrabbled around. Their legs were moving, but they weren't really bearing weight, and about nine months later, after further refinements on this antibody, the rats are walking. On a scale of 0-14 where zero is nothing and 14 is complete movement -- they move at a level of 12.5.

    The average observer wouldn't even know there's something wrong with them.

    Now, what they're doing, particularly led by Dr. Martin Schwab (ph) at the University of Zurich, is figuring out how he can immunize the antibody so that it doesn't cause toxicity in the body or so it doesn't get rejected by the immune system, and then it's possible, if all goes well, that they'll be ready for a human trial within a year.

    KING: And you think they will because...

    REEVE: Because what?

    KING: In other words what keeps you affirmative?

    REEVE: All you've got to do is -- well, to immunize an antibody, that's not a hard thing to do. They've done it in the rats, it's just what is it that'll make it safe in humans? And that, that won't take that long, and then the biggest problem -- you know what the biggest problem is? It's that human trials are very, very expensive. They'll cost about $25 to $30 million to do it on the first batch of patients. So, right now Dr. Schwab is negotiating with drug companies, you know, because when the drug companies see profit coming, then they get involved, then there will be profit here because the antibody will be something that will be, you know, it's a drug that will be administered, and also it will have implications for Alzheimer's and for M.S. and stroke and all the diseases of the brain and central nervous system.

    KING: There's no bigger story than the cure for some -- I mean, the cancer story breaks the other day and it looks hopeful and it's going to take a year before we know and the world -- the world is all encompassed in it. Do you think that will happen? Let's say this antibody works and they make an announcement "we're on our way, experiments in humans have shown a successful enough way to continue"?

    REEVE: Well, I think they'll do it quietly at first, then we'll have the success, then it will be broadcast, but I think the experiments will be done quietly. And certainly I will, you know, when the time comes, sneak off to Zurich or whenever to go be worked on.

    KING: Do you think about walking?

    REEVE: Oh, absolutely. You know, as a matter of fact, in my dreams -- I have never been disabled in my dreams, so my subconscious insists that I am whole, and I follow my subconscious. But let me say one other thing, that, you know, the Defense Department, the budget, you know, in preparation to fight the enemy and be ready, you know, there are no real enemies. There's Saddam Hussein, OK, but he helps keep the Pentagon in business. But the real enemy, the enemy now is within our bodies, all of these diseases, Parkinson's and on -- that's the future, that's where we've got to fight. And we need to take money from the Defense Department budget and put it into research.

    KING: It would seem idiotic, since that enemy obviously exists and is killing people, as we're speaking people are dying...

    REEVE: That's right.

    KING: You would go to war with that if it were an enemy, if cancer, let's say, were in that army you'd be in a world war.

    REEVE: That's right. Right now, the Pentagon's budget for medical research is $39 billion. And of course, they need to do work on nerve -- I mean, germ warfare, et cetera, but you would -- if you were to break off, say, let us have 20 of that and give it to the National Institutes of Health, you'd see results so quick, it's unbelievable.

    KING: What has to happen, Chris, for you to walk?

    REEVE: Money.

    KING: I know that, but what has to happen -- what do they have to -- your spine is separated...

    REEVE: Oh, I'm sorry.

    KING: I am going to get to the money part, but what has to happen?

    REEVE: Right, well, there is a gap of only 20 millimeters in my spinal column at the second cervical vertebra. So nerves would have to regenerate across that gap, and what they have found that's so encouraging is that nerves, as they regenerate, they don't just go wandering around aimlessly. They seek the appropriate connection on the other side of the gap. It's almost as if the body wants to be whole, wants to be put together again, and so, like, for example, if somebody were to chop off your arm at the elbow, they could reattach it and all the peripheral nerves would reconnect because the body wants to do what. But...

    KING: Then the difficulty here, then, is what?

    REEVE: Is there are two proteins in the spinal column that prevent regeneration. The reason those proteins are there is that as the fetus develops, it keeps the brain from overdeveloping, and if the brain overdevelops it would develop tumors. So it shuts down the development of the brain at the right time, but it also prohibits regeneration of nerves, and that is what -- they have now discovered the antibody to those proteins, and that's why I sit here as optimistic as I am.

    KING: So when this comes about it will come about through your -- will you need any physical thing to do, or will it be a medication?

    REEVE: Yeah, it'll probably be injections at the site, or maybe some kind of a pump that administers the dosage on a kind of regular basis. It might be an implant that, you know, keeps the drug coming at the rate that's needed.

    KING: You've gotten much, much better.

    REEVE: Yeah.

    KING: I mean, you look better. You look -- look very healthy, in fact.

    REEVE: Thanks.

    KING: Do you have any feelings at all? I remember you told us once about a twitch in the ankle? REEVE: Well, the main thing since I saw you last is that I didn't have feeling down my spine, and that's really a cause of worry. I mean, that's serious damage. But about a year and a half after the accident, I developed feeling all the way down to the very base of my spine, and that means that I'm incomplete and makes my chances for recovery that much better, plus the fact that the ventral side of the spinal cord, which controls motor function, is completely intact. So Dr. Schwab, in fact, wrote me and said that I'm a prime candidate for regeneration and recovery.

    KING: One of the great difficulties you face is you don't have pain, right?

    REEVE: No.

    KING: If I put a -- if I put a knife in your hand, you wouldn't feel it, or would you?

    REEVE: Well, not in my hand. But I tell you, I had two blood clots right behind my left knee and I...

    KING: You felt...

    REEVE: ... had sensation down there. I said, "why couldn't it have been the other leg"?


    KING: Would you have a heart attack, God forbid, and not know it?

    REEVE: No, I'd know it.

    KING: You would know it?

    REEVE: Oh, definitely I would know it.

    KING: We'll be back with more of Christopher Reeve, the phone number 1-800-711-HOPE. That's the Reeve Foundation, and the book is "Still Me" from Random House. Don't go away.


    KING: We're back with Christopher Reeve. Now, people who have been tuning in and listening hear a little breathing sound every so often. Would you describe the chair you're in and what they're hearing?

    REEVE: What they're hearing is the breathing machine called a ventilator. What it really is, is portable life support.

    KING: It's behind you, right? There we see it.

    REEVE: Behind me; it's got hoses; it comes up to my neck.

    KING: And it does what? It breathes for you? REEVE: It breathes for me, yeah, literally pumps the air in and out. And otherwise I would not be here.

    KING: OK, but I have heard others where the sound is louder than yours.

    REEVE: Uh-huh.

    KING: And where they have to stop -- in other words, the breaks are more frequent, where you'll hear -- Sergeant McDougal is an example. Every 15 seconds you'll hear -- then he has to continue. You don't seem to stop.

    REEVE: He needs a newer model ventilator.

    KING: This is the latest.

    REEVE: Yeah, the latest.

    KING: Does it feel weird to be dependent, as an independent person on something?

    REEVE: Oh, yeah, oh, yeah. That's why I do breathing exercises every day. I am now able to move my diaphragm, which is a big improvement. It means I have descended a couple of levels so that I can take this hose off and sit there and open my rib cage and my diaphragm and breathe from that.

    KING: For how long?

    REEVE: About a half hour, then it gets to be really hard work.

    KING: Do you still have to be turned over during the night?

    REEVE: No, I can stay in the same position all night.

    KING: What changed that?

    REEVE: That was just -- I got a special mattress that prevents skin breakdown, and it's a real relief because -- when I was in rehab, it was every two hours, and when I got home it was every four hours. Now I can just sleep through the night.

    KING: Simple things. In the movie "Going Home," Jon Voight played a person paralyzed from the shoulder down who had sexual relationships. Can you have sex with your wife?

    REEVE: No, not in the ordinary way. But...

    KING: But there's still...

    REEVE: ... there's creativity.

    KING: A fulfillment. Is that something -- it's hard to ask this -- that you miss, but since you don't have the feeling, it's not missing? REEVE: No. You miss it terribly, but there are marriages where, you know, the couple are making love all the time, but they're not really as intimate as they should be, you know -- it's a ritual, or you know, somehow not that fulfilling. But, oddly enough, Dana and I are just as intimate as we ever were, and that's what really counts.

    KING: And that's something you must have thought about in the hospital?

    REEVE: Yeah, sure.

    KING: Will it be, right?

    REEVE: Yeah.

    KING: Does it surprise you that the intimacy is as strong as it always was?

    REEVE: I am very grateful for it. But Dana is an extraordinary person.

    KING: Obviously.

    REEVE: No, I shouldn't have been surprised, because that's who she is.

    KING: All right. Things we don't know about paralysis, before we get into what they're doing about it. When you swallow a piece of food, do you feel it go down?

    REEVE: Just normally, yeah, totally normal.

    KING: All that hunger is the same?

    REEVE: Yeah, but for seven months I couldn't eat. I could not stand the smell of food. And then one day in rehab I decided to be brave and order Chinese.

    KING: Chinese.


    REEVE: Chinese.

    KING: Do you have feelings when you have to go to the bathroom?

    REEVE: Let me tell you something, Dana went out and got Chinese, came in, and I thought I'll try it. You know, I hadn't been eating anything. And the smell was so horrible that...


    KING: And that is true to this day.

    REEVE: ... I had to go eat it in the bathroom.

    KING: When do you have to go to the bathroom?

    REEVE: That's -- I have a catheter, which comes directly out of the bladder and goes into a bag.

    KING: You don't feel the reflex, though?

    REEVE: No.

    KING: We'll be back with Christopher Reeve. We'll talk about what's happening with paralysis, make things hopeful, too. Don't go away.


    KING: A lot of questions are coming in about faith, and the last time you were with us, I asked this if you prayed and you said you thought that would be hypocritical; you didn't pray before this, why pray now? Has -- have you gotten any feelings of faith or God through all of this? Lot of people are asking that.

    REEVE: Well, believe it or not, I think that, you know, God is not an entity that you find when you go to church and pray to God Almighty, you know, and I always remembered that going to church as a kid, you know, and they talk about the vengeance of his terrible swift sword and his armies, I said, "well that's kind of a scary guy." But I think that -- while I don't believe in God, per se, I believe in spirituality. And I believe that spirituality actually is automatically within ourselves, but we have to learn how to access it, and what that is, is realizing there is a higher power; there is...

    KING: So it's not atheism?

    REEVE: ... more than just us, there is an inner strength, there is something, you know, that comes from -- I don't know where exactly it comes from, but it's -- it really is the best that humans can be and perhaps what it is -- perhaps really what it is is love.

    KING: Do you believe in life's lessons, those who might say, this happened to you for a reason?

    REEVE: No, I don't. I think it was totally random, but I think the job is afterwards to find a reason, so it didn't happen for a reason, but then I've had to learn how to create one.

    KING: This is something, before it happened to you, you probably had no interest in, right?

    REEVE: No.

    KING: If there were a show on, you may watch, but you may not have watched. Someone fighting for a cure for spinal injury, right?

    REEVE: I have to admit, you know, particularly, I've often told this story, you know, that I was playing a paraplegic in a movie.

    KING: That was your last TV movie. They just showed it the other night.

    REEVE: Yeah. Yeah,, and I went out to the rehab center in Van Nuys, California, to train, to learn how to...

    KING: To learn how to handle a chair.

    REEVE: How to simulate getting in and out of a chair, out of a car, and stuff like that, and every time I left that rehab center, I said, "thank God that's not me." I was very smug about it, and relieved to leave the hospital, and I regret that so much because I was so setting myself apart from those people who were suffering without realizing that in a second that could be me.

    KING: Even though you were playing the villain, who, in fact, was not ever paralyzed?

    REEVE: Well, technically, what had happened to him is a bruise. You can injure your spinal chord and bruise it and be up in a couple of weeks.

    KING: Can you watch that when it's shown now, and you're wheeling yourself around, and killing two people, and getting away with it?

    REEVE: That's one I prefer not to watch, no.

    KING: What?

    REEVE: No, because I'm very ashamed of how I behaved when I left the rehab center. I'm ashamed about my smugness, my complacency, you know, and it brings back a bad memory, so I don't watch that one.

    KING: And do you think the other people in the center -- center -- sensed it?

    REEVE: No, because when I was there, I was very quiet, respectful, interested, but inside I'm thinking, "Oh man, I'm glad this is not me."

    KING: What about someone in your position looking in, saying, yeah, that's Christopher Reeve, he gets on television; he has his private planes; everybody caters to him. What about me, I'm here on Third Street in downtown Utica?

    REEVE: My job is to try to effect a cure for the guy on Third Street in downtown Utica.

    As Rock Hudson's death spurred a growth in AIDS research -- Elizabeth Taylor's involvement, what Betty Ford did for abuse, substance abuse, it takes somebody visible to lead the charge. And it's not a job I would have wanted, but I'm doing it, not only for me, but on behalf of that guy on Third Street in Utica.

    KING: What percentage of those with spinal injuries are male? Is it higher in the male...

    REEVE: Much more so, because...

    KING: They're doing more athletic things?

    REEVE: Guys tend to dive into the shallow end of pools more often.

    KING: Because they're stupid, right?

    REEVE: Yeah.


    KING: In other words, are we going to see it grow, though, with more women more competitive in more competitive sports? Are we going to see this happen?

    REEVE: Yes.

    KING: There are women in ice hockey?

    REEVE: That's right, and you know, you can take a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) into the boards in hockey and break your neck. It's going to happen.

    KING: That's what that guy in Boston did, we put you in touch with him. The young man, his first play on ice.

    REEVE: Yes. Eleven seconds.

    KING: Eleven seconds.

    REEVE: Travis Roy.

    KING: Great star in high school, first game, 11 seconds, paralyzed him for life.

    REEVE: Right, but he's not sitting around watching the grass grow either. He's back at college, living a very active life, and very aggressive about raising money and so...

    KING: When you see people run or just walk out of here, are you jealous?

    REEVE: No, not anymore. It would take up too much of my time.

    KING: Were you once jealous?

    REEVE: Yes, I was. You know, I thought, wait a minute, ...

    KING: Why them?

    REEVE: Yeah, why them, and also I felt like, you know, this is wrong, you know, I -- there's got to be a mistake here. I'm not supposed to be seated here and then I realized how arrogant that was. I'm no better than anybody else. I wiped out in a freak accident. It could happen to anybody, and what really makes me sad is the family driving along in a car and they stop -- it's a rainy, windy day, and a tree falls over, lands in the car and kills two of the occupants -- the husband and the son, and you know, where is the justice in that? Where is the logic in that?

    A tree fell on their car. And the mother is, you know, in a wheelchair with a spinal chord injury. So, you know, the point is that yeah, there can be, you know, dumb things, diving in the shallow end, or whatever. But also the randomness of life, where you can be sitting at a stop sign, a tree falls on your car, you know, it's just -- that's pretty weird.

    KING: The day you walk, I guess you'll be coming out of some hospital or somewhere?

    REEVE: Well, it will take a lot of rehab, because I'll need to learn equilibrium all over again.

    KING: You'll have to learn balance? You have to learn how to walk?

    REEVE: Yeah, I'd have to learn to walk.

    KING: You would crawl? You would probably crawl for a while?

    REEVE: No, I would start on parallel bars, walking between them, being supported or I would use my arms. I would have my arms on the rails and I would go along, but I would imagine probably a year of rehab after they make the reconnection, and then the thing is where do I show up first?

    KING: Yes, that's what I'm asking. We could do this show standing up, Chris.

    REEVE: That would be great.

    KING: You wouldn't have to sit down.

    REEVE: That would be cool.

    KING: Does the hope every wane -- are there ever moments when you say, it ain't going to happen?

    REEVE: No.

    KING: No?

    REEVE: No, because I call these guys up and they're not lying to me. Scientists.

    KING: I mean, but even if they're not lying, is there ever a moment of doubt?

    REEVE: If you're in this condition and somebody said that if we have enough money, that we will be able to achieve regeneration over the next couple of years, wouldn't you be able to get through that? I bet you would.


    KING: He was one of the most optimistic men I've ever met. And though he always wanted to walk again, it wasn't meant to be. Last weekend, he died at age 52. Back with a final word in a moment.


    KING: Thanks for watching the show tonight. We're planning a tribute to Christopher Reeve after his funeral is held, featuring many of his celebrity friends and co-stars. We hope you'll tune in for that.

    For now, stay tuned for more news on CNN. Good night.