Former Suffolk man directs 'Superman'

CHRISTOPHER Reeve embodied the all-American hero when he took to the skies as Superman, before a freak accident left him paralysed from the neck down.Today Suffolk-born director, Stuart Watts, told how he got closer than most to the star's struggle to regain movement, during the filming of a documentary to be screened in February.

By Victoria Knowles

CHRISTOPHER Reeve embodied the all-American hero when he took to the skies as Superman, before a freak accident left him paralysed from the neck down.

Today Suffolk-born director, Stuart Watts, told how he got closer than most to the star's struggle to regain movement, during the filming of a documentary to be screened in February.

During a project which lasted more than two years Stuart was able to film the actor and witness his journey from despair to hope - after suffering a spinal impact injury similar to Ipswich's own former speedway star Lol Hare.


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"I work for a company called TWI and Matthew Reeve, Christopher's son, came to us and said that his father had begun to have feeling in his finger and that this was not supposed to happen five years after the accident. He wanted us to follow his father's progress and see what would happen," said the 36-year-old.

Christopher Reeve was injured while he was riding back in 1995, cruelly and ironically, this was only weeks after his film, Under Suspicion, was released in which he played a paralysed policeman.

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Mr Watts continued: "We committed to actually working with him and following his progress to see just how far he could come. The first documentary follows him through May 27 to New Years Eve.

"He is an amazingly determined and focused man and it was very humbling to work with him. He exercises four to five hours a day on a bike with electrodes attached to his leg. A doctor decided to follow this and see just what progress he really could make.

"His finger moved in September 2000 and he then began to get movement back in his arms and wrists and last June we saw him take his first assisted steps forward. He is very inspirational and while he is dealing with something most of us can never understand, he has a great sense of humour.

"It was a very engrossing project and took over two years of my life. I was very privileged to work with him and at times it was very moving.

There will be a second part of the documentary and we are still filming. We got to spend a lot of time with him and it was a wonderful experience," he added.

Stuart grew up in Kesgrave and went to Orwell High School in Felixstowe where he said he was inspired by his drama teacher.

"I had a very inspirational drama teacher, Phil Hadwen, and he got me involved in drama and theatre. I went to university to study theatre because I wanted to become a theatre director and then I ended up going in to documentaries.

"I get to come back to Suffolk quite a bit and I do miss it. My mother is still here and some friends and I must admit I do miss the countryside.

Stuart has worked on other well-known documentaries like Muhammed Ali Through the Eyes of the World and he is about to start work on Ghandi Through the Eyes of the World.

The documentary will be screened on BBC One on February 9 or 10.

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