Christopher Reeve: 'I have never been disabled in my dreams'
(CNN) -- Author and actor Christopher Reeve, whose autobiography "Still Me" is shooting up the best-seller charts, spent an hour with Larry King on CNN's "Larry King Live." This is a transcript of their honest and compelling conversation.
LARRY KING: It's always a great pleasure to welcome Christopher Reeve to Larry
King Live. This is about his sixth appearance, two before the
accident, I guess, three after. This makes number six. Chris is an old
friend dating back to his appearance on Broadway in "The Fifth of July," pre-Superman days, so we hold some stead for each other, if that's the term.
His new book is called "Still Me." If you do not know about this book, you're not on the planet because he has been everywhere. I was going to say he saved the best for last. The title -- explain?
CHRISTOPHER REEVE: Double meaning to the word still; that I am still me, I continue to be me. And also, the fact that I don't move. So it's both.
KING: Your title?
REEVE: Yep, it was my title.
KING: Did the publisher like it right away? Because publishers immediately say, "How about 'Hope and Faith Into Tomorrow.'"
REEVE: No, they went with it right away. They've been so supportive.
KING: Are you at all surprised at the attention it has been getting?
REEVE: You know, it's easy for the public to forget. I got tremendous attention when I was first injured. And that's nearly three years ago now. And you would think that, well, they'd move onto something else, but the fact that they're responding to this book and they still care is really so -- I am very, very grateful for that.
KING: That's right. It is three years. Why do you think that's still -- I mean, can you take yourself out of it for a minute and analyze why this interest and feeling for you and in this condition remains?
REEVE: Slow news day. No.
KING: Still funny, Reeve.
REEVE: It's like I think that people cared about me as Superman, which was great. People even cared about me when I did a soap opera a long time ago. And so when something happens to a friend, you know, even a friend you know only on the screen that -- and you sense that there's progress and there's results -- I mean, I directed a movie, and I wrote this book. They stay interested.
KING: In other words, if you stayed home and didn't do anything, that would have waned?
KING: Gone, yeah. For example, James Drury, a very popular actor.
KING: Of years ago, you remember him, "The Virginian?"
REEVE: Yes, right.
KING: Broke his neck in a horse accident, but we haven't heard about him or from him or anything, so it sort of went away.
REEVE: Yeah, that's too bad.
KING: Why did you decide not to just smell the flowers?
REEVE: Oh, boy, it's just...
KING: That would have been easy.
REEVE: Well, there are really only two choices, either you just stare out the window and do nothing or you, you know, try to motivate and activate. That's the only way I could go. People have asked me, gee, how do you do it? Well, I don't think it's really such a big deal because the alternative is terrible. You know, I have been an actor for 27 years, and it's a tough profession.
It means a lot of self-discipline. You have got to go and do a
performance eight times a week even if you don't feel like it until you have to go in there Wednesday afternoon and give the audience their money's worth and then you may work on a production for months and it bombs, or you do a movie and it goes down the drain in a weekend, so you have got to rebound from that, so I have had a lifetime of rebounding and self-discipline. And I am very lucky because...
KING: You're a survivor.
REEVE: That helps me deal with this right now.
KING: The method of writing the book, since you can't write -- write, how is it done?
REEVE: That was really a challenge because I did it orally.
KING: Dictated it?
REEVE: Yep. I had a wonderful transcriber named June Fox sat next to me and I said don't -- you know, don't write it at all. Just let me -- it will be terrible. Just let me let the words go.
KING: You'd never written, had you?
REEVE: Oh, I'd written in college, you know, English papers, 20, 27 years ago.
KING: You weren't going to be a novelist or a reporter or a journalist?
REEVE: Though both my parents are writers.
KING: You played one in a very funny movie.
KING: Burt Reynolds.
REEVE: I would just let my thoughts flow and she'd take it all down even though it was you know, total garbage and then we would look at it, print it out the next morning and start to shape it. And gradually, it started to form, and amazingly enough, when we really got on a roll, we were doing six pages a day.
KING: And then was it edited much by your editors at the publisher?
REEVE: Well, believe it or not, I honed it before I turned it in. I wanted it to be virtually the finished product. And I turned it in on December 10th, and they only -- the only criticism they had was, they wanted one childhood story they thought was irrelevant to be taken out. And that was it.
KING: Was it emotionally difficult -- I know you have had to relive it by talking about it. We have been on the speakers -- we were on the same thing with Peter Lowell, it was you and me on tour.
KING: Was it at all emotionally difficult to tell this all?
REEVE: It was therapeutic and also emotionally difficult, particularly in sensitive matters about my family, but I felt I had to be honest. I had to be matter of fact, not be self-pitying, but be as truthful as possible, otherwise, if you're not truthful, it's a waste of time. That's one thing I have learned.
KING: So that part was difficult, to talk about your wife and kids?
REEVE: Well, no, more my childhood, you know, to talk about that in a way that was accurate but also fair, and the reason I told it that way is because being brought up between two families, I really found the theater as my family. And that's why I became an actor and I felt it was important for the audience to understand my development in that way. But to talk about, you know, the early years, some of that was hard to do.
KING: But a lot cathartic, too, right?
REEVE: Yes, a lot cathartic and I also -- I just remembered some wonderful stories, you know. There was a story I tell about the summer I spent at Harvard, and I was 16, and I was having an affair with an actress in the company who was 23 and...
KING: Old lady?
REEVE: No, I -- that was -- that was an odd summer.
KING: Everything is in this book. He just sold another 100,000 copies, read about the 23-year-old at Harvard.
Christopher Reeve, as you know, is an activist. He's active with the
American Paralysis Association, we'll get into all of that later, but back to May 27, 1995 -- by the way, when there's jumping on television do you watch?
REEVE: Yes, I do. I try to keep up with what everybody's doing, and I still root for them the way I always have.
KING: No bitterness?
REEVE: No. And you know, a wonderful thing happened is, we have something going called the Reeve Irvine Research Center out on the University of California at Irvine. And it was endowed by Joan Irvine Smith. And she's a very noted trainer, and the reason that she wanted to start this foundation was because I didn't blame my horse.
KING: Now, we know you didn't blame the horse publicly. You never blamed the horse. There had to be a moment when you woke up -- some blame of the horse or else you're taking it all on yourself. You made a mistake then. If it wasn't the horse, what happened?
REEVE: A combination. It always is. It's a partnership. And the lack of communication -- one of us got out of sync, you know? And there are various theories that -- possibly a rabbit ran out -- that there were shadows, but probably what happened is that, see, he took off, you know, he lifted his front legs, and so I went forward, which you're supposed to do at that time, and then he put his legs back down again, and I went over the top. Now, why he did that, I don't know exactly, but I may have thrown my weight forward a little too soon, and being as heavy as I am, that would be a problem for him.
KING: Where is he now, that horse?
REEVE: I think a young lady north of Boston is riding him and doing very well.
REEVE: A couple of my family members wanted to shoot him. I said no way, let this horse have a nice life.
KING: Yeah. Could you have worn something protective, anything, that would have prevented it even with the fall?
REEVE: Yeah, you know, they ask you to wear chest protectors.
KING: Now they wear them.
REEVE: No I always wear a chest protector and always wear a helmet but the one thing that's unprotected is the neck. So what really should be worn is a ...
KING: Neck brace?
REEVE: It should -- like a flotation collar, a thing around your neck that comes from the chest protector. It should go up higher.
KING: Would that affect the way you ride, though? Would it take away -- it wouldn't?
REEVE: Not at all, but it would protect you from a neck injury.
KING: We have discussed -- and I know you write poignantly about the hours after, the moment you thought you might give up and your wife coming into the room. Would you just explain that -- when I asked you the first time, did you think you wanted to die? And you did for 20 seconds.
REEVE: The minute I found out what had really happened...
KING: Who told you you're paralyzed for life?
REEVE: Dr. Jane, Dr. John Jane who had operated on me.
KING: Had you been out until then or...
REEVE: Yeah, I think it was about four or five days I had been out.
KING: So you don't remember going into surgery or anything.
REEVE: No. They had to wait that amount of time for the pneumonia to clear in my lungs. Usually in the past that's what people die of -- your lungs sort of fill up with fluid.
KING: So you open your eyes. You're in the hospital. Do you
remember you fell?
REEVE: I have no memory of that at all.
KING: None? So when you open your eyes, what do you think?
REEVE: Where am I? What am I doing here? And what's going on?
KING: And I can't move my hands.
REEVE: I can't move anything. And that I thought -- this is temporary. Obviously, I'll go home next week, and then it was explained to me, my situation, and ...
KING: How did they tell you something like that, what do they?
REEVE: Straight out. That's the only way to do it, look you right in the eye and tell you.
KING: As soon as he said you fell off the horse, did you then remember it?
REEVE: No, not at all.
KING: Do you remember going to the event?
REEVE: The last thing I remember is saying hello to a friend of mine that I saw at the fairgrounds as I was on my way to warm up.
KING: I see. So you remember being at the fairgrounds?
REEVE: Oh, absolutely. I was on my way out to the course.
KING: And what was your -- if you can remember, your immediate reaction to hearing that?
REEVE: It goes in stages. I first thought, well, obviously, you know, there's just swelling in my spinal cord and you know, I always survive every situation, so I'm sure the swelling will go down. I'll get up and go home. I mean, you -- the brain can't make the leap that quickly. At least mine can't.
REEVE: Yeah. So you go by stages. You say, well, you know, and then...
KING: What was the worst stage?
REEVE: Well, when I realized I was actually paralyzed from the shoulders down. And I thought, well, this is different. And -- then my family came in.
KING: You wanted to die?
REEVE: Yeah. My wife Dana came in. And that's where the title of the book comes from. She's the one that said, "You're still you, and I love you." If she'd hesitated or if she had been being noble or something like that, I wouldn't have been able to pull through.
KING: Would you say to people who have this and who want to die because they can't stand it to hang on?
KING: Or if you really want to die it's your right to die?
REEVE: No. I say hang on because I know what the researchers are doing. I am lucky because I have got like a hot line to all the scientists. I can call a guy up today and say, "What are you doing in the lab?"
KING: Is this everywhere, not just the United States?
REEVE: All over the world, Sweden, Zurich, Canada, La Jolla (California).
KING: 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.
KING: And where they have to stop -- in other words, the breaks are more frequent, where you'll hear Sgt. 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?
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 one 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 I got home it was every four hours. Now I can just sleep through the night.
KING: Simple things. In the movie "Coming Home," Jon Voight played a person paralyzed from the shoulders 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?
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.
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: 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?
KING: What is the Christopher Reeve Foundation?
REEVE: We -- raise money for research for a cure. I mean, our goal is a cure, nothing less. And we also give 30 percent of the proceeds that we net to quality of life issues for the disabled, so -- to groups that -- are helping the disabled, that are ...
KING: So people who contribute to you are contributing not only to research ...
KING: ... but to helping those already hit with this?
REEVE: Exactly, yeah.
KING: And the -- your association with the American Paralysis Association is what?
REEVE: I am chairman of the board, so the Christopher Reeve
Foundation actually funds the APA.
KING: I see.
REEVE: So I am wearing two hats at once there.
KING: So people who are making out checks make it out to the Christopher Reeve Foundation. And you can send it to Post Office Box 277, FDR Station, New York, 10150, or you can call
1-800-711-HOPE. And your money gets put into two areas. Initially, I thought it was just going to be research.
REEVE: Well, but we also feel that there are people who don't get what they need. For example, somebody might need a backup ventilator and their insurance company won't give it to them, so we give -- try to help them out.
KING: How does -- what's the insurance company's argument?
REEVE: Oh, man, I got to tell you, it's outrageous. For example, I was denied a backup ventilator.
REEVE: Because they say you don't need it. And if yours fails, they can simply put air into your lungs with a plastic bag. It's called an ambu bag. So there would be a nurse in the middle of the night squeezing air into my lungs, keeping me alive until the morning when the office would open at the nearest place an hour away and someone would drive and get me a ventilator. That's ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous.
Last year -- just -- I'm sorry -- last year, insurance companies netted $780 billion. Guess how much money they put into research? Zero. But if they would fund research, first of all, they would get cures and then they wouldn't have to pay out the benefits.
KING: It would be cost-effective for them?
REEVE: Yeah. They don't understand this, and that is ridiculous.
KING: When you meet with them and you have entrée anyway, nobody is going to refuse to see you.
KING: What do they say when you say to them ...
REEVE: Oh, profit margin is too small. These claims could wipe us out. We're operating really on a shoestring here. They have all of these ridiculous answers and it makes me sick, because my great-great-grandfather was the CEO of the Prudential essentially for 25 years.
REEVE: And his belief was we take care of you from cradle to grave. He would be disgusted -- he would be outraged if he saw what was going on today. But the thing that really bothers me most is that we have proposed -- well, not me but other senators -- Sen. Harkin, Sen. Specter, Rockefeller, Jeffords -- John Porter in the House have proposed that the insurance companies be required to give one penny -- one penny out of every health premium that they get -- receive, one penny to research. That would raise $26 billion.
And they won't do it. They think it's a tax, and it's unfair. One billion -- one penny, $26 billion dollars. With $26 billion you could wipe out all of these diseases.
KING: Why wouldn't this pass 100-to-nothing?
REEVE: Well, what happened is they had it sent to the Senate resolution, which is not binding and it passed 98-to-nothing. So, Sen. Harkin was very encouraged and put it to a vote and they lost 65-to-33. It's unbelievable.
KING: You would think one insurance company would just want to do it for promotional value at this point.
REEVE: Absolutely, plus the fact that statistically they come out ahead, way ahead, because there's not that many Americans who have a catastrophic need, so they're going to win, you know?
KING: How many Americans have what you have?
REEVE: Two hundred thousand, with 12,000 more every year.
KING: Due to various type of injuries, right?
KING: It's not a born thing?
REEVE: No, no, no. It's usually like diving into the shallow end of a swimming pool, or kids get injured on trampolines -- that kind of stuff.
KING: Or on a horse?
REEVE: Or on a horse, yeah.
KING: 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 working, 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 at the University of Zurich, is figuring out how he can
immunize the antibody so it doesn't cause toxicity in the body or
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 gotta do is -- well, to immunize an antibody, that's not a hard thing to do. 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, y'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 to experiments in humans, they 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, y'know, the Defense Department, the budget, you
know, in preparation to fight the enemy and be ready, y'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 so on -- that's the future,
that's what 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, you would go to war with that if it were an enemy, if cancer, 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 immuno-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?
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
that. 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 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 a 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.
KING: I mean, you look better. You look -- look very healthy in fact.
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 in complete 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
KING: One of the great difficulties you face is you don't have pain,
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 any 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: Definitely I would know it.
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 asking that.
REEVE: Well, believe it or not, I think that, y'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 army, 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, y'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 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?
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, y'know, particularly, I've often told this story, y'know, that I was playing a paraplegic in a movie.
KING: 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. 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 would say,
"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 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
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 weeks.
KING: Can you watch then 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 ...
REEVE: ... no, 'cause 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 do you do when you itch?
REEVE: I ask somebody to scratch.
KING: That's the worst, isn't it?
REEVE: Sometimes, because you have to describe where it is -- a little to the left, a little to the right.
KING: How about sneezing?
REEVE: I can sneeze. It's amazing, because it means my diaphragm works. It doesn't make any noise, but it's the same motion.
KING: You've gone to the hospital with pneumonia, collapsed lung, two blood clots, an infection which almost forced the partial amputation of a leg. What causes to you keep getting these kinds of things?
REEVE: What happens is the body breaks down when you sit there in the chair. The longer you sit there in a chair, the longer you have to fight. You have to fight osteoporosis, loss of bone density, you have to fight poor circulation; you've got to fight infections -- constantly.
For example, lung infections happen all the time. You know, you're
battling decay, really, because the body is not meant to be frozen like this, so that's what the exercises are for and that's why I eat a very healthy diet, et cetera, but that doesn't prevent those things from happening.
KING: How much medication?
REEVE: Oh, boy, I'm on probably some 25 to 30 different
KING: And you're on a diet as if you were a heart patient or low fat or ...
REEVE: No, high protein. It's all about protein, because protein promotes healing ...
KING: That means you eat a lot of ...
REEVE: A lot of fish. I have to eat red meat, which I had stopped eating, because I didn't want to eat red meat, but it's a major, major source of iron and I've had to resume eating it, but I just stuff the protein down.
KING: What is out? What can't you eat?
REEVE: Nothing is off limits, but I wouldn't -- stuff that makes me fat, because the problem is -- is that I can't, you know, do a whole lot of sit-ups to work it off and I don't want to turn into a, you know, Porky Pig here.
KING: Now, acting -- you got to direct "In the Gloaming," for HBO, beautifully done?
REEVE: Yes. Thank you.
KING: Are you going to do "Rear Window," the remake of the James Stuart...
KING: You told us that last time that it was in progress.
REEVE: Yeah. The first script we had to reject. The writer just missed the boat. Now we have another script. We expect it the 11th of May and if that comes in, as well as we hope it will, then we'll go ahead and do it and the point was Jimmy Stuart was sitting there, looking out the window.
KING: With the broken leg, right?
REEVE: Yes, we want to up the stakes and make it more modern and show what a person is disabled can do with his wits and with his sense of technology.
KING: But you still see the crime in the alley and the window of another window.
REEVE: Yes, and you have to put it together and, of course, and probably this guy will come after him, and I will have to use the technology, but there are things, you know, from your chair you can open doors and windows, turn on a TV, activate a computer, all kinds of things, which people don't really know about in this movie.
KING: This will make it a heck of a thriller?
REEVE: Well, you want to make a hero out of somebody that is disabled. You want to show the ability in lieu of the disability.
KING: I know that Princess Grace was the star of the first movie. Who is going to be the girl who comes to see you and helps you, and is in love with you?
REEVE: The most beautiful talented actress that we can possibly find.
KING: That's an important role and you're still interested in that Chris. There is the back cover. You ever look at that and say, whoa, that was me. I mean, this was a pretty good looking guy, who was at the height of youth and vitality and on his way to major -- this is pre-Superman?
REEVE: No. It's post. It was taken about 1997, actually.
KING: And the front cover is Christopher Reeve now. The idea to
shoot from behind was whose idea?
REEVE: That was my idea. I just thought that what I wanted to do was
-- you know, that I write sometimes about my frustration of that land
there. It's our farm in Williamstown, Massachusetts, and we used to ride horses and fish in streams and I was part of the land
participating in it and now it's scenery and now, I feel like a visitor
into a spectacular outdoor museum, and that's what that picture really
shows. I can sit there and look at it and appreciate it, but it's different
now and I just thought it was kind of a poignant picture.
KING: When you speak before Congress and all the things you do, do
you feel effectiveness? Do you feel clout?
REEVE: Well, Congress is so convoluted -- those guys live there in some
alternate universe, they really do because everything gets so watered
KING: One committee and the other ...
REEVE: ... you couldn't run a company that way. I go in there and say
three things: I say, OK, first of all, we'll take out $20 billion out of the
Defense Department budget, OK, thanks. Now, we'll take out money
from the tobacco settlement, thank you very much. And now we'll
double the budget for the National Institute of Health and we'll do it
next week. But those guys are all saying, "We'll phase it over in 10 years," and that's what the problem is.
KING: How about the president?
REEVE: He's been great, actually. We correspond and talk fairly
frequently and I'm trying to really push him to -- it may be
presumptuous of me, but I use the word "legacy" because really to get
past all this Paula Jones or whatever, is really a time of peace and
prosperity -- is really to leave something behind for the American
KING: That you push for?
REEVE: And I push for this, the breakthrough in research.
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 get 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 substance abuse, it takes somebody visible to lead the charge, and not a job I would have wanted, but I'm doing it, not just 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?
KING: Are we going to see it grow with more women in more
competitive sports? Are we going to see this happen?
KING: There are women in ice hockey?
REEVE: Yes, you can take a board 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. His first play on ice?
KING: Eleven seconds.
REEVE: Travis Roy.
KING: Great star in high school, first game in the ice, 11 seconds, paralyzed him for life?
REEVE: Yes, but he's not sitting at home 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, why ...
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 anyone else. I wiped out in a freak accident.
It could happen to anybody and what really makes me sad, 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 dumb things, diving in a shallow end, 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, I'll think about a 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 have to learn how 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 a year after rehab where 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 a show standing up?
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, because I call these guys up and they're not lying to me. Scientists are not lying to me.
KING: Is there 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: I sure would and I would be out there trying to get the money.
REEVE: That's right.
KING: Thanks, Chris.
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