Editor’s note: This story was originally published in Yellowknifer on Feb. 6, 2013
On a Sunday cold enough for Superman’s Fortress of Solitude to emerge from the Northern ground, Yellowknifer caught up with Lois Lane actress and former Yellowknife resident Margot Kidder.
The now 64-year-old actress who played opposite Christopher Reeve in the first four Superman movies, rarely grants Daily Planet-like newspaper interviews these days, but because the request came from the Northern city she once called home, Kidder said she made the exception.
“I don’t really want it,” she said of press attention, from her home outside of Bozeman, Montana. “I have a very different life and (acting) is an old world from another part of my life. I am doing you because it is Yellowknife and I really want to do it.”
Kidder was born here in 1948 as “a Stanton baby” and for three years lived with her parents Kendall Kidder and Jill Kidder and four siblings in the caboose of a cat train in Old Town. Throughout her childhood, she moved to a number of northern Canadian towns, including Labrador City, N.L., Beloeil, Que., and Sept-Isles, Que.
It is the capital of the Northwest Territories, however, where she has tied much of her history and background.
As a geologist, mine engineer and expert in explosives, father Kendall had a fondness for the North and did a lot of early prospecting work in the area, including at Gordon Lake.
“When we were in Yellowknife, he was a jack of all trades. He had been there before World War II (1938) from school,” said Kidder.
“He would go often during his vacation as a student and he just fell in love with the North; just the wildness of it and the lack of social rules that he found so constricting in places like Toronto or Vancouver.”
In 1946, he brought Jill up from the south where he found himself putting together maps for the Canadian government, she said.
“There weren’t a lot of maps with the Canadian government and he would leave my mother in a tent for weeks, seven months pregnant,” she recalled. “He gave her a gun and said if there were any bears, just shoot them.”
Kidder has been in the news in recent years for being among a number of high profile people who loudly protested the expansion of the oil sands and fracking. She was even arrested during a Keystone Pipeline demonstration at the White House in 2011. As a self-confessed political activist, some of these more recent actions speaks to how she imagines the North and the need for the landscape to be protected.
“As a kid in my 20s or 30s, when I was in L.A. I had this image in my mind of the Canadian North and the Northwest Territories as this place of purity that somehow one could go back to if things got too ugly,” she said. “Now they are going to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean, which is a catastrophe waiting to happen.
“I remember when I was in London shooting Superman and the (Soviet Cosmos 954) satellite went down in the Northwest Territories. The London Times called it a vast and snowy wasteland inhabited by hunters and trappers. I remember going, ‘No it’s not!'”
She admits her early memories of Yellowknife are sparse because she was very young when the family moved on, around 1952. She still keeps a scrapbook of detailed letters written by her mother, which she says give a good history of the times because they describe when the miners got paid, their heavy drinking habits and how most lived in tents.
She remembers most happily being invited to the city’s 50th anniversary in 1984 as a guest of honour.
“My best memories of Yellowknife are when we went back to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the town,” she said. “My brother John and I and mom and dad went back. Listening to the stories from the bush pilots and the oldtimers of the pioneer days was wonderful.”
Lois Lane, which is in Peace River Flats, seemingly was named after both longtime resident Lois Little and Margot Kidder at the same time. Asked if she remembers if the lane was named after her, she quickly answered she thought so.
“Yes it is and I am just thrilled,” she said laughing. “Just delighted. They told me it was named after me, but the ego does rise to the occasion. I was told it was named after me and they took me there. I don’t know who Lois Little is, but maybe it was named after her. Somebody might have been trying to flatter me at the time.”
Former mayor Dave Lovell, who was a city councillor at the time, said he believed the namesake was a little less straightforward because the lane originally had two names – Penny Lane and Lois Lane – after two local residents, Lois Little and Penny Aumond.
“(Mayor) Mike Ballantyne announced that because it was Yellowknife’s 50 anniversary and other towns had official guests for their homecomings, that we got Superman’s girlfriend,” he said. “He said we would make it Lois Lane for the whole end of it and name it after Margot Kidder.”
Margot kidder interview outtakes
Here are some outtakes from a wide-ranging interview Yellowknifer reporter Simon Whitehouse conducted with Margot Kidder.
On Justin Trudeau, son of former boyfriend and prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who is running to be Liberal leader: “I knew him as a kid, but didn’t know him as an adult. My first thought is that those kids and that family had such a strong moral base. I know Justin does, and that isn’t something you often find in politics. I’m sure the voice of his dead father is in his head because Pierre’s voice was very strong, saying that you can’t do that, it would be morally wrong. So I think it is great and I think it is wonderful and I’m in support of it.”
On the legacy of Superman for boys: “I didn’t get that Superman was a boy movie until my grandson saw it. He was four and he got the outfit and slept in it. I thought, ‘Oh my god, it is one of the first movies little boys see and understand.’ The idea of the hero and the bad guys, and the hero getting the bad guys, and saving the girl and the good people from evil. It is the great morality tale. It is the Christian tale of Jesus. It is probably the first one you got and that is why I think it stays in people’s minds.”
On fracking for oil: “I have grandchildren and they’re not going to have a planet. It is serious. The shortsightedness of the oil and gas industry is horrifying. They make these huge profits and keep the price of gas up and invest them offshore. They pay no attention to the fact that they are quite literally destroying the planet for generations to come. So it is an enormous concern.”
On Amy Adams as Lois Lane in the upcoming Man of Steel movie: “She is a brilliant actress. I have a feeling she is going to come up with something really surprising and wonderful. So I am looking forward to it. I would have no advice for her at all and I don’t think I’m as good an actress as Amy Adams. I would never be so ego-maniacal to give her advice.”