Margot Kidder has died at the age of 69. She’ll always be remembered as Lois Lane in the Superman movies – and for raising awareness of mental health issues.
Kidder’s battle with bipolar disorder saw her disappear for four days in 1996, in what she later described as “the most public freak-out in history”.
The Canadian-born actress shot to fame starring opposite Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie Superman. Not long afterwards, she had another hit with The Amityville Horror.
Kidder had first shown signs of mental health problems in her teens, with a suicide attempt at 14. In 1988, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. But she didn’t accept the diagnosis. She later told The Telegraph that at the peak of her fame, her friends “covered up” her psychoses, and she self-medicated with cocaine and alcohol.
In 1990, while filming a Nancy Drew TV series in Vancouver, Kidder was in a car accident that injured her spinal cord. She ended up with such huge medical bills that she went bankrupt, lost her home and had to sell off her jewellery to make a bit of cash.
Kidder spent years working on her autobiography, which she was planning to call Calamities. But in 1996, a computer virus wiped out all her work. It was at this point that she went from “really distressed to absolute delusion”, she later explained to People.
Kidder flew to Los Angeles in the hope that a computer expert could retrieve what she’d lost, but it was no good. At the airport, about to fly home, she became convinced that her first husband, novelist Thomas McGuane, and the CIA, were plotting against her, because her autobiography had the power to change the world.
“My ex-husband has hired people to kill me,” she told a TV crew from Tennessee in the early hours of the morning.
She threw away her purse, convinced it had a bomb in it, and ran away from the airport, heading downtown.
On the streets, cold and hungry, a homeless man called Charlie saw her and took her into his cardboard shack.
“I was terrified beyond belief,” she later told People. “He stayed with me and held me.”
Another homeless man attempted to rape her, and hit her in the face, knocking some caps off her teeth.