By: Conor Bezane
Superman’s love interest was bipolar in real life. Margot Kidder — who played Daily Planet journalist Lois Lane in the Superman film series of the ’70s and ’80s — died in May at the age of 69.
But we now know, as of today, that Kidder’s death has been ruled a suicide. The Park County coroner in Montana said Kidder “died as a result of self-inflicted drug an alcohol overdose,” according to the Associated Press.
A funeral home announced her death back in May, and Kidder’s rep confirmed the news. At the time, no cause of death was reported.
She died at her residence in Livingston, Montana.
Kidder is part of a rash of recent celebrity suicides including Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade.
There were four Superman films in which Kidder costarred with Christopher Reeve, who played the titular character from 1978 through 1987. She also starred in a pair of scary movies — The Amityville Horror (1979) and Black Christmas (1974) — and shared the screen with Robert Redford in 1975’s The Great Waldo Pepper.
For a People cover story in 1996, Kidder reflected on her turbulent times. “The reality of my life has been grand and wonderful, punctuated by these odd blips and burps of madness,” she told the magazine.
The ’90s were a dormant period for her chosen profession and a time of unrest. In 1990, she was in a car crash that put a stop to her career, leaving her legs partially paralyzed and rendering her bankrupt due to $600,000 in medical bills, according to People.
Unstable, Kidder turned to alcohol. “If I felt myself starting to go manic, I’d get drunk,” she told the mag. “Better drunk than crazy.”
Kidder later joined Alcoholics Anonymous. She had been seeing psychiatrists since she was 21, but she refused to believe she was manic-depressive.
From Rolling Stone and Peoplecovergirl to down-on-her-luck prima donna, Kidder’s life was the stuff of a made-for-TV movie — one that as we speak is probably being shopped around Hollywood.
In 1996, Kidder experienced her most severe manic episode. It struck after she lost a computer containing her work-in-progress memoir. Kidder went missing, displaying textbook signs of mania. She wandered around LAX, encountering a TV newsman from Knoxville, Tennessee, named Ted Hall.
He was with a camera crew and she approached to ask if he was with the media, then proceeded to talk their ears off. She said, “I’m Margot Kidder. Just pretend I’m with you, if you could, until I get a taxi,” she told them, as reported in The Washington Post. “Take my jacket with you a few miles and then throw it away.” She thought her jacket had been bugged.
Kidder was extremely frazzled, communicating with Hall via handwritten notes on occasion to avoid anyone overhearing her. She asked for money and he gave her a $20 bill for a taxi.
Paranoid, Kidder got into that taxi, leaving a note for the news crew saying, “I am DEAD.”
Kidder believed her first husband was plotting to murder her, so she left home, cut her hair, and pulled out her front teeth to disguise her image. Police discovered her sleeping on a porch near where the original Superman was filmed.
She told People she was homeless for a time, sleeping in backyards and on front porches throughout LA and nearby Glenwood.
While best known for her role as Lois Lane, after Kidder put together the pieces of her life again, she returned to acting in the 2000s. She had a small role on the Showtime series The L Word and acted in Rob Zombie’s remake of Halloween II, two episodes of the ABC series Brothers and Sisters, and two installments of the Superman prequel TV series Smallville in 2004.
Kidder was a staunch liberal, speaking at campaign rallies for Jesse Jackson in 1988, opposing the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and fighting for a woman’s right to choose.
She was diagnosed bipolar in 1988, but couldn’t come to believe her diagnosis until the ’90s, when she met Dr. Kay Redfield Jamison, a medical professional and expert on bipolar who deals with the illness herself.
Kidder spoke openly about her bipolar disorder.
“I guess I came to terms with my demons,” Kidder told The Guardian. “Horrifying as it was to crack up in the public eye, it made me look at myself and fix it. People were exploitative; that’s human nature. I’ll tell you, being pretty crazy while being chased by the National Enquirer is not good. The British tabloids were the worst. But you take the cards you’re dealt, and I got better. I’m now ferociously healthy in body and mind.”
Kidder was reportedly on the mood stabilizer Depakote until the day she died.
Her story is evidence that fame does not disqualify you from having a tumultuous life. Hollywood is not all fabulous mansions, glitter, and glam — there’s often darkness behind the scenes. Under the spotlight of the tabloid press, Kidder felt ashamed and agitated. She retaliated by continuing her career, appearing in TV roles, albeit small ones. In her case, she was able to glue the broken glass of her life back together, a major challenge that all of us who are bipolar face.