Margot Kidder, the actress most beloved and remembered for playing Lois Lane in Superman: The Movie (1978), has passed away in her Montana home. She was 69.
The news came from the Franzen-Davis funeral home in Livingston, Montana and was first reported by TMZ (but has since been confirmed by Deadline). It is unclear at the moment how she died, but how she lived was as an outspoken and larger than life figure who found a unique perch in 1970s and ‘80s pop culture.
Kidder, born in Yellowknife, Canada, was one of five children and only 20-years-old when she first appeared in a film, 1968’s The Best Damn Fiddler from Calabogie to Kaladar. She rose to prominence in the American filmmaking scene when she was cast as the eponymous Siamese twins in Brian De Palma’s Sisters (1973), which presaged a career in ‘70s horror and genre films. For fans of Yuletide terror, she memorably played the “bad girl” Barb in Black Christmas (1974). The Canadian horror movie is counted as one of the very first slasher films that influenced John Carpenter’s Halloween and was directed by Bob Clark (who went on to helm A Christmas Story). It also led to a leading role in one of the horror smashes of American cinema that during the decade, The Amityville Horror (1979). In that film, which was released after her work on Superman, Kidder played Kathy Lutz, a woman who in real-life was supposedly (and dubiously) haunted by demonic forces.
While the movie received mixed reviews, Kidder was constantly praised, including by the New York Times’ notoriously tough Janet Maslin who called Kidder “the life of the party” in that film and all her others.
Maslin was also likely referring to the role Kidder is most famous for: Lois Lane. While not the first actress to play the intrepid Daily Planet reporter, Kidder is arguably the most iconic actor to embody the character. Her Lois was spunky, feisty, and all the other adjectives associated with female leads in that era, but she additionally was more defiantly her own person than many of the love interests who appeared in male-led superhero movies in the ensuing decades. Cocky, self-assured, and proud of her chain-smoking habit (and inability to spellcheck), she breathed some screwball humor into the film as well as an air of authentic newsroom brassiness. She also appears alongside Christopher Reeve in one of the most famous scenes in cinema history.
Kidder again reprised the role of Lois Lane for a bigger part in 1980’s Superman II, however her outspoken support of director Richard Donner—who directed the first movie and part of the second film in 1977 and ’78 before being fired by producers Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind—cost her.
In a 2013 interview with WAToday, Kidder reiterated that she was a huge advocate for Donner, and her vocal disdain for his dismissal led to her appearing for less than five minutes in 1983’s Superman III.
“It was very hard watching him [Donner] go,” Kidder said. “Some of us made more of a fuss than others—me in particular—so you could tell the joy [of working together] in all our faces, in the first one in particular and half of the second one.” She’d go on to call the Salkinds “crooks.”
Kidder would go on to have a larger role in Christopher Reeve and Cannon Films’ Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987). Her career, however, slowed in the 1980s and included a variety of television movies, including a performance of Pygmalion with Peter O’Toole on Showtime in 1983. Her career further came to a halt after she suffered a nervous breakdown in 1996. As a woman who spent a lifetime grappling with Bipolar disorder, and after a computer with three years of drafts of her autobiography crashed, she had an episode… which caused the industry to shut its doors.
In recent years though Kidder has been able to steadily work in independent film and television, including in roles on Smallville, The L Word, and in Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (2009).
Kidder became an American citizen in 2005 as well as an outspoken activist against the Iraq War. During her life, she was married three times, including to the late actor John Heard in 1979… for six days. She is survived by a daughter who was born in 1976 during her first marriage to Thomas McGuane, as well as two grandchildren. And as long as people watch superhero movies, she’ll continue to fly across the silver screen.