Margot Kidder, the actress who starred as Lois Lane opposite Christopher Reeve in the Superman film franchise of the 1970s and 1980s, has died aged 69.

Kidder died on Sunday at her home in Livingston, Montana, according to a notice on the website of Franzen-Davis Funeral Home.

Kidder’s manager Camilla Fluxman Pines said she died peacefully in her sleep and no cause or details were given.

The Canadian-born actress acquired American citizenship in 2005, and became a political and women's rights activist alongside her acting.

Superman, directed by Richard Donner and released in 1978, was a superhero blockbuster two decades before comic book movies became the norm at the top of the box office.

It is cited as an essential inspiration by makers of modern day Marvel and DC films.

Kidder, as ace reporter Lane, was a salty, sexually savvy adult who played off of the boyish, farm-raised charm of Reeve’s Clark Kent and Superman, though her dogged journalism constantly got her into dangerous scrapes that required old-fashioned rescues.

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Kidder had many of the movies’ most memorable lines, including “You’ve got me?! Who’s got you?!” when she first encountered the costumed hero as she and a helicopter plunged from the top of a Metropolis building.

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige called the moment “the best cinematic superhero save in the history of film” at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences event honouring Donner last year.

Kidder and Reeve were relative unknowns when they got their leading parts in the first of the films in 1978, which also included big names Gene Hackman and Marlon Brando.

Kidder and Reeve went on to star in three more Superman movies, the fourth and last in 1987.

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She said she and Reeve, who died in 2004, were like brother and sister, both in their affection and animosity for each other.

“We quarrelled all the time,” Kidder said on May 9 in an interview on radio station WWJ in Detroit, where she had been scheduled to appear at Motor City Comic Con later this month.

“The crew would be embarrassed. They would look away.

“Then we’d play chess or something because we were also really good friends.”

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Kidder had a debilitating car accident in 1990 that left her confined to a wheelchair for almost two years, however, she continued working, appearing in films and television shows, amassing credits until 2017, when she appeared in her last movie, The Neighborhood, written and directed by independent filmmaker, Frank D'Angelo.

The Italian-Canadian director first worked with Kidder in 2013 when he cast her in his debut feature film, Real Gangsters. 

"We wanted somebody feisty to play the bar owner for the mob and we sent her the script. I had never met her, she was very kind and cordial to me on the phone and we ended up doing five movies together," D'Angelo revealed exclusively to The Herald. 

Kidder told him that two of his films (that she also appeared in) were her favourites - The Big Fat Stone (2014), starring Robert Loggia and Michael Paré and The Red Maple Leaf (2016), in which she appeared alongside an all-star cast including James Caan, Kris Kristofferson and Daniel Baldwin.

"When I was a kid in school, she was the talk of all the guys becuase she was in The Great Waldo Pepper (1975) with Robert Redford and there was a scene where she's on the wing [of a plane] and the wind catches her dress and you can see a bit of her ass and all the guys were saying you gotta watch the movie because you can see Margot kidder's ass," D'Angelo recalls with fond nostalgia. 

"Margot was one of my closest friends, I loved her and I will miss her with all my heart and soul. We talked about everything and she held back no punches."

Kidder was set to appear in D'Angelo's next film project. 

English actress Sarah Douglas - who played supervillain Ursa, famously sucker-punched by the plucky Lane - tweeted that Kidder had been "a joy to be around."

Teri Hatcher, who played Lois Lane in the 1990s TV show Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman alongside Dean Cain, wrote that it had been "a privilege" to step into Kidder's role.

Actor Cameron Cuffe, currently starring in Superman spin-off TV series Krypton, also paid tribute on social media saying: "On screen there are few who have brought a legend to life in the same way Margot Kidder did. As a person there are few who have been as honest and brave when it came to being open about mental health."

"A pioneer and inspiration always."

Kidder married and divorced three times and is survived by her only child, Maggie, and two grandchildren.