Born in Glasgow, Montana on January 21, 1926, Steve Reeves moved to California at the age of 10 with his mother Goldie, after his father Lester Dell Reeves died in a farming accident. Reeves developed an interest in bodybuilding while in high school and trained at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland. By the time he was 17 he had developed a Herculean build, long before the rise in general interest in bodybuilding. After graduating from high school, he entered the Army during the latter part of World War II, and served in the Pacific.
After his military service, Reeves decided to try his hand at acting, having been told endlessly that he had the rugged good looks of a Hollywood star. After some intensive actor training, he came to the attention of film director Cecil B. De Mille, who considered him for the part of Samson in Samson And Delilah
(1949). After a dispute over his physique in which De Mille and the studio wanted Reeves to lose 15 pounds of muscle, the part finally went to Victor Mature.
In 1954 he had a co-starring role in his first major motion picture, the musical Athena
playing Jane Powell's boyfriend. The same year Reeves had a small role as a cop in the Ed Wood film Jail Bait
. This is one of the few opportunities to hear Reeves' voice as most of his later films were dubbed. Reeves' appearance in Athena
prompted Italian director Pietro Francisci's daughter to suggest him for the role of Hercules in her father's upcoming movie. In 1957, Reeves went to Italy and played the title character in Francisci's Hercules
, which was released in Italy in February 1958 and in the U.S. in July 1959. The film's cinematographer Mario Bava claimed credit for suggesting that Reeves grow a beard for the role. Following the U.S. release, the film was an enormous hit and created a new sub-genre of the sword and sandal film (also known as the peplum film): the "Hercules" or "strong man" movie.
From 1959 through 1964, Reeves went on to appear in a string of sword and sandal movies, and although he is best known for his portrayal of the Greek hero Hercules, he played the character only twice - in the 1958 film Hercules
and the sequel Hercules Unchained
(released in the U.S. in 1960). He played a number of other characters on screen, including Sir Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Glaucus of Pompeii; Goliath (also called Emiliano); Tatar hero Hadji Murad; Romulus, the legendary founder of Rome (opposite Gordon Scott as his twin brother Remus); the famous Olympian and war-time messenger of the Battle of Marathon, Pheidippides (The Giant of Marathon); pirate and self-proclaimed governor of Jamaica Captain Henry Morgan; and Karim, the Thief of Baghdad. Twice he played Aeneas of Troy and twice he played Emilio Salgari's Malaysian hero, Sandokan.
Paramount considered Reeves for the title role of their film version of the Broadway musical Li'l Abner
in 1958, but the part eventually went to Peter Palmer. After the box office success of Hercules
, Reeves turned down a number of parts that subsequently made the careers of other actors. He was asked to star as James Bond in Dr. No
(1962), which he turned down. He also declined the role that finally went to Clint Eastwood in A Fistful Of Dollars
During the filming of The Last Days Of Pompeii
, Reeves dislocated his shoulder when his chariot crashed into a tree. Reeves pulled the joint back into its socket by himself and chose to continue filming and performing his own stunts. Swimming in a subsequent underwater escape scene he reinjured his shoulder. The injury would be aggravated by his stunt work in each successive film, ultimately leading him to retire early.
In 1968 Reeves appeared in his final film, a spaghetti western which he also co-wrote, titled A Long Ride From Hell
, fulfilling his wish to make a Western before he retired. George Pal had considered him for the title role of Doc Savage: The Man Of Bronze
but delays in filming had the part eventually go to Ron Ely. At the peak of his career, he was the highest-paid actor in Europe. His last screen appearance was in 2000 when he appeared as himself in the made-for-television A&E Biography: Arnold Schwarzenegger - Flex Appeal.
Later in his life, Reeves promoted drug-free bodybuilding and bred horses. The last two decades of his life were spent in Valley Center (Escondido), California. He bought a ranch with his savings and lived there with his second wife Aline until her death in 1989. On May 1, 2000, Reeves died from complications of lymphoma.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.