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Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve: Closer Than Brothers

By Andrew Burgon / phoenix@projectfellowship.com
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April 22, 2013

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Video Courtesy of ABC News

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve Had an Enduring Friendship That Lasted 31 Years

Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve shared a remarkable friendship. A dazzling one that burned bright and long for three decades through thick and thin. From shared meals during the Julliard School days to steadfast support after a tragic accident Williams and Reeve were there for one another. The two titans of moviedom would eventually join forces to help people with paralysis.

They first met in 1973 as roommates at the prestigious Julliard School in New York City. They both had been accepted into the advanced program and in several classes they were the only students. It was during this time they became best friends to the point where they promised each other that whoever became successful would take care of the less fortunate one.

Williams shared one of his favorite memories of Reeve during those days on a Q & A session on reddit, “Him being such a great friend to me at Julliard, literally feeding me because I don’t think I literally had money for food or my student loan hadn’t come in yet, and he would share his food with me.”

In the late 1970’s both of them were thrust into the trajectory of stardom. Williams in Mork and Mindy and Reeve in Superman.

In 1995 tragedy struck Christopher Reeve in a terrible horse-riding accident. He was at the Commonwealth Park showjumping event near Charlottesville, Virginia. His thoroughbred horse Eastern Express bawked at jumping the third fence and threw Chris to the ground breaking his neck in the worst possible place.

The accident landed Reeve at the University of Virginia Medical Center. The Man of Steel layed on his back broken, frozen and “unable to avoid thinking the darkest of thoughts.” There Dr. John Jane attempted to reattach his skull to his spine. A procedure With a survival rate of just 50/50. It was an amazing success.

Reeve confessed to Barbara Walters in an interview that at the time he “wanted to die.” His despair though was suddenly lifted by an unexpected visitor. Williams showed up pretending to be an eccentric Russian proctologist intent on doing a thorough rectal exam on him. Reeve recounts what happened in his autobiography ‘Still Me.’

“My first reaction was that either I was on way too many drugs or I was in fact brain damaged.” Reeve couldn’t help but laugh though and deep inside he felt that somehow he was going to be okay. Reeve’s injury would inevitably leave him in a quadriplegic state though.

Williams is said to have made a grand gesture in vowing to cover any hospital costs that Reeve’s family couldn’t cover. He admitted in 1996 that he had helped out to some degree financially.

The winters in Connecticut can become quite harsh and one night Dana, Chris’ Wife, was outside trying to hand-crank the generator to get it to work. According to a 1999 interview with The Mirror, Williams said that when he heard about it he bought them a generator and around the same time a van.

Williams became a pillar of support for the entire family and became actively involved in Reeve’s foundation, The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. It’s dedicated to curing spinal cord injury through research. He joined the Board of Directors and took upon himself the role of advocater.

In 1998 he was honored at a gala by the Reeve Foundation with the Human Spirit Award for his dedication and unwavering support. His tremendous support was again recognized in 2007.

Christopher Reeve passed away in 2004 after a cardiac arrest. A year later, Williams dedicated his Cecil B. DeMille Award to Reeve at the Golden Globes.

“I just want to thank a very, very special person. I dedicate this award to the memory of a friend of mine. Chris Reeve, I miss you.” To this he added, “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest, sweet prince.”

Reeve’s wife described the pair as being “closer than brothers.”

Even after death, Williams was there for his friend when tragedy struck the Reeve family yet again. Though Dana Reeve was a non-smoker she was diagnosed with lung cancer just nine months after the death of her husband. After a courageous battle she died in March 2006, aged 44 years. Their orphaned son Will, who was 13 at the time, went to live with the family of a school friend. Robin, however, was mindful of the child and his supportive presence was felt.

Reeve’s family, upon learning of William’s passing, posted a poignant and heartfelt statement on christopherreeve.org. Among the sentiments were that they will cherish him for the quiet and unwavering support and steadfast friendship he showed them through the hardest of times.

A decade ago, Robin Williams said upon Christopher Reeve‘s passing, “The world has lost a tremendous activist and artist, and an inspiration worldwide. I have lost a great friend.” It is rather poignant these exact words could rightly be said about Williams himself.

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Robin Williams Christopher Reeve Gallery

Christopher Reeve image
By White House Photo Office [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Do you have anything to add concerning Robin Williams and Christopher Reeve’s friendship?

 
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Books

Still Me by Reeve, Christopher Published by Random House 1st (first) edition (1998) Hardcover

Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life

The Fisher King

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