BACKSTORY (Jan. 21, 1926—May 1, 2000): Bodybuilder and actor Steve Reeves developed an interest in bodybuilding in high school and trained at Ed Yarick's gym in Oakland, California. After serving in the Army during World War II he won "Mr. Pacific Coast" in Oregon (1946), which led to his titles of "Mr. Western America" (1947), Mr. America" (1947), "Mr. World" (1948) and, ultimately, "Mr. Universe" (1950). Next, Reeves embarked on an acting career. In 1949, director Cecil B. DeMille almost cast Reeves as Samson in "Samson and Delilah" (1949) after Burt Lancaster proved unavailable. Although DeMille liked Reeves and thought he was perfect for the role, a dispute between Reeves and the studio, requiring him to drop 15 pounds, forced DeMille to recast the role of Samson with Victor Mature .In 1954 he had a small role in his first major motion picture, "Athena," playing the boyfriend of Jane Powell's character, followed by another bit part as a cop in the Ed Wood film "Jail Bait." These are the only films that utliized Reeves' actual voice.
In 1957, Reeves went to Italy and played the lead character in Pietro Francisci's "Hercules." Despite a small budget, the film was a major box-office success, grossing $5 million in the U.S. alone in 1959. From 1959—1964, Reeves continued playing similar roles in similar films that showed off his impressive physique. After the box office success of "Hercules", Reeves turned down the role that finally went to Clint Eastwood in "A Fistful of Dollars" (1964) because he could not believe that "Italians could make a western". He also claimed to have turned down the James Bond role in "Dr. No" (1962). He said he was offered only $100,000 to play Secret Agent 007, whereas he was earning $250,000 per film in Italy, which tied him with Sophia Loren as the highest paid actor in Europe at the time.
During the filming of "The Last Days of Pompeii," Reeves dislocated his shoulder when his chariot slammed into a tree. Swimming in a subsequent underwater escape scene, he re-injured his shoulder. The injury would be aggravated by his stunt work in each successive film, ultimately leading to his retirement from filmmaking and weightlifting. In 1968 Reeves appeared in his final film, a spaghetti western that imitated the Sergio Leone epics, which he also co-wrote, titled "I Live For Your Death!" (later released as" A Long Ride From Hell") 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, California, near Escondido.
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