Keanu Reeves ('Matrix: Reloaded')
Still Flying High'
Reeves, whose first name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian, was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1964. His mother, Patricia, was a showgirl; his father, Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a geologist. After their marriage dissolved, Keanu moved with his mother and younger sister Kim to New York City, then Toronto.
In high school, Reeves was lukewarm toward academics but took a keen interest in ice hockey (as team goalie, he earned the nickname "The Wall") and drama. He eventually dropped out of school to pursue an acting career. After a few stage gigs and a handful of made-for-TV movies, he scored a supporting role in the Rob Lowe hockey flick 'Youngblood' (1986), which was filmed in Canada. Shortly after the production wrapped, Reeves packed his bags and headed for Hollywood. Reeves popped up on critics' radar with his performance in the dark adolescent drama 'River's Edge' (1986), but his first popular success was the role of totally rad dude Ted Logan in 'Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure' (1989). The wacky time-travel movie became something of a cultural phenomenon, and audiences would forever confuse Reeves's real-life persona with that of his doofy on-screen counterpart.
Over the next few years, Reeves tried to shake the Ted stigma with a series of highbrow projects. He played a slumming rich boy opposite River Phoenix's narcoleptic male hustler in 'My Own Private Idaho' (1991), an unlucky lawyer who stumbles into the vampire's lair in
'Dracula' (1992), and Shakespearean party-pooper Don Jon in 'Much Ado About Nothing' (1993). In 1994, the understated actor became a big-budget action star with the release of 'Speed' (1994). Its success heralded an era of five years in which Reeves would alternate between largely unwatched small films, like 'Feeling Minnesota' (1996) and 'The Last Time I Committed Suicide' (1997), and unwatched big films like 'Johnny Mnemonic' (1995) and 'Chain Reaction' (1996). But, he struck box-office gold again a few years later with the Wachowski brothers' cyberadventure 'The Matrix' (1999).
And yet, despite all the Hollywood glamor lifestyle and such, as far as Reeves is concerned, it seems, he's just a regular guy who rides a motorcycle, plays in a band (Dogstar), and shows up every now and then for a movie shoot!
Today Keanu is very, very relaxed. Siting in front of me, one leg cocked under his other on his chair, his hair is slicked back, his eyes are wide and his grin is almost to full range! Keanu is happy, which makes for a much better interview ... or so I'm told!
You've said that training for the sequels was more physically demanding than for "The Matrix". What kind of training did you have to do, and have you continued with the kung fu? "I have not continued with the movie kung fu! But yeah, it was a lot more demanding this time around. The fights were a little more sophisticated. It wasn't just one-on-one. There were multi-character fights and the weapons involved meant you needed more training. It started with four months of training - just basic stretching, kicking and punching. Then the choreography is when the whole dance comes together."
Did you ever wish they would just bring in the stuntman and give you a break? "No. Why we do the training is so we can participate in the physical action that they [the Wachowski brothers] want us to do, for the simple reason that if you can get close and see the actors performing in an action sequence, hopefully your experience of the film will be enhanced. You're going to relate to the characters, seeing what they go through. It's also, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects of it. It's good fun."
What else can you say about the experience of working with the Wachowski brothers? "They're very, very specific in terms of what you're doing and how you do it. They were always after a specific feeling. They were all about the idea they wanted to get across, and what they wanted the audience to feel. Yeah, very specific."
The hype around this film is incredible. Do you take much notice of all the hoopla that surrounds a film like this? "It's different with each picture, but with this experience, I am really excited about it. I am watching its progress, and I am seeing what's going on, and how people are responding and reacting to it. I really just want to try and soak in this exceptional experience."
Are you concerned that the film might not live up to all the hype? "I don't really know about that. I loved the material when I first read it, and then the experience of making the film was a great one. I just hope that when people see this film, they get something out of it. I think more than anything else, it's a story of hope."
What did you, personally, take away from the experience of making the trilogy? "I'm still finding that out. But, I know that it was the most incredible experience of my career. First of all, it's an incredible role and I got to work with really great writers. Participating in a film that I specifically loved so much, on the page, and in the creating of it, and even with the amount of time it took to make it. You know, sometimes when you make a film you go away for a few months and you make a movie and you come back to your life. But this experience was my life for so long. So, it struck a deep chord in me and trying to speak about it in an objective way... well, I don't have that ability yet!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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