Margot Kidder rose to fame playing Lois Lane in the Christopher Reeve Superman films. But sadly she became just as renowned for her troubled private life as she did for her pivotal role in the superhero film genre. Here’s a look at how the Canadian-born actress met a tragic end.
Born in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in 1948, Margot Kidder embarked on an acting career after graduating from Toronto’s Havergal College. She landed her first notable part in the 1969 comedy Gaily, Gaily and went on to secure roles in the TV series McQueen, in which she played a fledgling reporter, and Mod Squad. In 1972 she was cast as barmaid Ruth another TV series, the NBC western Nichols.
Kidder then relocated to Los Angeles where she bagged a co-starring gig in Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx alongside Gene Wilder. She then attracted significant attention for her performance as conjoined twins in Sisters, the 1972 film directed by her then-lover Brian De Palma. In 1974 Kidder landed one of her career-defining roles when she played Barbara Coard in the 1974 horror Black Christmas.
After portraying a prostitute in the Terrence Malick-penned The Gravy Train, Kidder achieved awards glory for her performance in A Quiet Day in Belfast. Next she starred opposite Robert Redford and Peter Fonda in The Great Waldo Pepper and 92 in the Shade, respectively. And then in 1978 she landed a role that would change her life forever.
Indeed, after impressing director Richard Donner during extensive screen testing, Kidder bagged the part of Lois Lane in Superman and ended up winning a Saturn Award for her efforts. She went on to appear alongside Christopher Reeve in three further instalments of the superhero franchise. At around the same time Kidder also enjoyed huge commercial success with a leading role in 1979’s The Amityville Horror.
After gaining Oscar buzz for her performance in 1981’s Heartaches, Kidder played Eliza Doolittle in a reimagining of Pygmalion, which she also produced. She also appeared in Trenchcoat, The Glitter Dome and Little Treasure, narrated the animation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and starred in CBS TV movie Body of Evidence. Away from the camera, though, Kidder was plagued by health problems throughout the following decade.
In 1990 Kidder was left semi-paralyzed following a car accident, a tragic episode that kept her out of Hollywood action for several years. Then in 1996 she suffered a very public breakdown caused by her bipolar disorder. After going AWOL for four days, the actress was eventually discovered in a stranger’s backyard with her teeth caps knocked out. Kidder claimed she’d lost them when a man attempted to rape her.
Kidder later described the whole ordeal as “the biggest nervous breakdown in history.” The actress had been working on her autobiography at the time. But when a computer virus wiped out three years’ worth of writing, Kidder entered into a manic state.
Speaking to People magazine shortly after the incident, Kidder admitted she’d struggled with mental health issues for years. She said, “The reality of my life has been grand and wonderful, punctuated by these odd blips and burps of madness.” Kidder also revealed that she’d once tried to end her life when she was just 14.
After a spell in psychiatric care, Kidder returned to acting in 2000 in the religious movie Apocalypse III: Tribulation. She later guested on Amazon and Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, appeared in 2002’s Crime and Punishment and toured with The Vagina Monologues. In the mid-00s she landed recurring roles on The L Word, Brothers and Sisters and, taking things full circle, Superman origins drama Smallville.
In 2007 Kidder claimed that she hadn’t suffered a manic episode since the 1996 incident that made front-page news. She credited orthomolecular psychiatry, an alternative form of treatment which eschews conventional medicine, for helping to get her condition under control. As she explained to The Guardian, “I guess I came to terms with my demons.”
In 2015 Kidder picked up a Daytime Emmy Award for her role in R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour. She went on to appear in movies No Deposit, The Red Maple Leaf and The Neighborhood. Sadly, the latter would prove to be Kidder’s final credit as in 2018 she died at her Montana home. She was 69.
Kidder’s manager Camilla Fluxman Pines initially claimed that the star had passed away peacefully in her sleep. However, three months later, a Park County coroner ruled that the star had in fact taken her own life. In an official statement, Richard Wood revealed that Kidder had died “as a result of a self-inflicted drug and alcohol overdose.”
As a result, Kidder’s family issued a statement in which they implored anyone “suffering from mental illnesses, addiction and/or suicidal thoughts to seek appropriate counselling and treatment.” The actress’ only child, Maggie McGuane, also revealed that the verdict had actually come as a relief. She said, “It’s important to be open and honest so there’s not a cloud of shame in dealing with this.”
McGuane also admitted that she always knew her mother had committed suicide. “It’s a very unique sort of grief and pain,” she said. “Knowing how many families in this state go through this, I wish that I could reach out to each one of them.”
Maggie was born in 1976 to Kidder and the actress’ first husband, author Thomas McGuane. Kidder would later walk down the aisle with actor John Heard and French director Philippe de Broca, but all three marriages ended swiftly. She divorced both McGuane and de Broca after a year, while her union with Heard lasted just six days.
Legendary comedian Richard Pryor, director Steven Spielberg and one-time prime minister of Canada Pierre Trudeau were just three of the other household names that Kidder dated over the years. She also enjoyed a close platonic relationship with Superman co-star Christopher Reeve, who died in 2004. During her later years, though, Kidder admitted that she actually preferred the company of her dogs to men.
Joan Kesich, who discovered Kidder’s lifeless body, paid a glowing tribute to her longtime friend. “In her last months, she was herself – same kind of love, same kind of energy,” Kesich said. “The challenges that she had were very public. I want what I know about her to be out there because it was glorious. She was really a blazing energy.”
Superman director Richard Donner was just as effusive about the actress. “There was only one true Lois Lane,” he told cable channel SyFy. “There was only one true Margot Kidder. Extraordinarily creative, artistic and humorous. An overused statement, but totally true: she touched everyone she met and everyone she worked with. A troubled life, which she overcame through grace.”
Kidder was one of several celebrities who took their own life in 2018. Others included chef Anthony Bourdain, fashion designer Kate Spade and superstar DJ Avicii. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate in America has risen almost 30% since the turn of the century, with approximately 45,000 people choosing to end their lives each year.