By Judy Kurtz - 03/20/12 12:17 AM EDT
When first meeting Matthew Reeve, the 31-year-old offspring of the late actor Christopher Reeve and former girlfriend Gae Exton, you might be struck as soon as he opens his mouth.
Says Reeve, “I guess it catches people off guard or they’re just unaware. All of the ‘Superman’ films were shot in [England’s] Pinewood Studios, so my father lived over there for 10 years and I was born and raised there.”
Reeve, whose sister works in the office of Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), was in Washington last week meeting with Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.) and other lawmakers — pushing for more support for the paralysis resource center that bares the names of his late father and stepmother.
“It’s an invaluable service and tool that we provide that gives answers to people with disabilities and really with an eye toward the newly injured. There’re so many questions to be answered, both for the patient and for their family members, when someone becomes paralyzed,” explains Reeve.
Before the legendary star of the “Superman” films was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 fall from a horse, Reeve considered his dad virtually indestructible: “I really remember him as sort of a real-life action hero. Whether it was the flying, sailing, skiing or just playing — I’ll say soccer just this once, but I usually call it football — in the backyard.”
But it was after the devastating spill that the celeb really became a hero in his son’s eyes. Recalls Reeve, “Every day was a medical battle just personally, but he managed to just really champion the cause and fight and negotiate for research and for funding dollars. It was truly impressive to watch.”
Now, Reeve, an independent producer and director who created an award-winning doc on his dad, finds himself in a similar position to that of his father, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 52 after suffering heart failure. He says, “My father never really asked to become the face of disability or paralysis but … he chose to embrace it when he realized he could be a voice for millions of people that previously didn’t really have someone speaking on their behalf.”
When he’s not walking the halls of the Capitol talking to members of Congress, Reeve is hitting the books as he pursues a dual master’s degree in film and business from New York University.
He says he checks in “very frequently” with his half-brother, Will, a college sophomore. Although a nonsmoker, Will’s mom, Dana Reeve, died of lung cancer in 2006. Matthew describes Will as doing “very well.”
While Matthew says his focus right now is on finishing up school, he’d be happy to spend more time on Capitol Hill.
After declaring with a laugh that he has no intention of taking on the role that his dad made famous (albeit with a British accent), Reeve says of Washington, “I have no idea in what capacity, but I would not object to spending more time here in the future.”