Margot Kidder, Actress Who Found Movie Stardom in ‘Superman,’ Dies at 69
Posted May 14, 2018 5:45 p.m. EDT
Margot Kidder, who with a raspy voice and snappy delivery brought Lois Lane to life in the hit 1978 film “Superman” and three sequels, died Sunday at her home in Livingston, Montana. She was 69.
Her death was confirmed by Camilla Fluxman Pines, her manager, who did not specify a cause.
Kidder appeared in more than 130 films and television shows beginning in the late 1960s and by the mid-1970s, when she took a break from acting after her daughter was born, she was working steadily. But “Superman,” her return to moviemaking, rocketed her to a new level of fame.
The film, directed by Richard Donner, was one of the most expensive ever made to that point. But it left some critics lukewarm.
“For me it’s as if somebody had constructed a building as tall as the World Trade Center in the color and shape of a carrot,” Vincent Canby, though charmed by Kidder, wrote in his review in The New York Times. “Rabbits might admire it. They might even write learned critiques about it and find it both an inspiration and a reward, while the rest of us would see nothing but an alarmingly large, imitation carrot.”
Audiences, though, loved it; “Superman” became the second-highest-grossing movie of the year, trailing only “Grease.” It starred Christopher Reeve in the title role, and he and Kidder reunited for “Superman II” (1980), “Superman III” (1983) and “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace” (1987).
Her other films included “The Reincarnation of Peter Proud” (1975), “The Great Waldo Pepper” (1975), “The Amityville Horror” (1979), “Some Kind of Hero” (1982) and “Halloween II” (2009). She appeared in dozens of television series as well.
Kidder also became known for a breakdown she had in 1996, when she was given a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. She talked openly about her condition thereafter, bristling at the words “mental illness.”
“They are a stigma and recall times when it was thought those with a disorder were possessed by the devil,” she told The Edmonton Journal in 2008. “I hope someone can come up with new words.”
Margaret Ruth Kidder was born Oct. 17, 1948, in Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Her mother, Margaret, was a teacher, and her father, Kendall, was an explosives expert whose job entailed taking the family to whatever remote place ore had been discovered.
“I read books,” she told The Montana Standard in 2016, “and hung out with friends in the woods or at the hockey rink. We’d get Montreal on the shortwave radio once a week. That was about it for entertainment.”
Eventually her parents sent her to boarding school in Toronto, where she started acting in school plays. She later attended the University of British Columbia.
In the late 1960s, she landed her first TV roles, in Canadian series like “Wojeck,” “McQueen” and “Corwin.” Her first film was the Norman Jewison comedy “Gaily, Gaily” in 1969.
Among her 1975 films was “92 in the Shade,” written and directed by novelist Thomas McGuane, whom she married in 1976; they divorced the next year. Her marriages to actor John Heard in 1979 and director Philippe de Broca in 1983 also ended in divorce.
In the 1980s, she was also linked romantically to Pierre Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister from 1980 to 1984. Kidder, who had a long history of involvement with the anti-nuclear movement and other liberal causes (she was arrested at the White House in 2011 while protesting the Keystone XL Pipeline), was credited in John English’s biography of Trudeau, published in 2006, with influencing some of his political stands.
In 1990, Kidder suffered a spinal injury in a minor car accident and she ended up in debt as a result. Her breakdown in 1996, during which she wandered Los Angeles for three days before being found dazed in a stranger’s backyard, received considerable publicity.
She credited natural treatments with helping her and she continued her acting career. Her most recent credit was last year in an independent movie, “The Neighborhood.”
“If I were a cancer patient,” she said in 2008, “I would today be considered cured.”
Kidder’s survivors include her daughter, Maggie McGuane, and two grandchildren. Donner said he had first become aware of Kidder through the TV series “Nichols,” on which she was a regular in the early 1970s. In a 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he recalled the session that resulted in her getting the role of Lois Lane, the feisty reporter who works alongside Clark Kent and pines for Superman, unaware that they are the same person.
“When I met her in the casting office,” he said, “she tripped coming in, and I just fell in love with her. It was perfect.”