Keanu Reeves Reloaded
- Ricky Lo () - February 13, 2005 - 12:00am
I’m Mickey Mouse. They don’t know who’s inside the suit. – Keanu Reeves in an interview with Vanity Fair in August, 1995

What an apt self-portrait by one of Hollywood’s most popular, most well-loved and most intriguing/mysterious icons who basks in the limelight and at the same time seems to be repulsed by it, fiercely protective of his privacy that he is.

An A-lister who earns upward of $15 million per movie should know how to take things (read: negative write-ups) in stride and shrug them off. At 40, towering at 6’1", and still very much eligible, Keanu Reeves seems to retreat deeper and deeper into his shell when he should have broken out of it and, well, just go with the flow.

"Cool breeze over the mountain." That’s what his name, Keanu, means in Hawaiian.

He was born Keanu Charles Reeves on Sept. 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon, to Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a Hawaiian-Chinese geologist who, as has been widely-publicized, was sentenced in 1994 to 10 years for cocaine and heroin possession; and Patricia Taylor, an English costume designer who divorced Keanu’s father and remarried twice.

According to his bio-data, two years after Keanu was born, his parents moved to Australia, had a daughter and divorced. Keanu’s father went back to Hawaii; while his mother went with her two kids to New York where she met and married a stage and film director who moved with the family to Canada.

Keanu attended four different high schools, including La Salle and the Toronto School for Performing Arts, dropping out at 17 to pursue a theatrical career, supporting himself by sharpening ice skates and working as a pasta chef and tree cutter. (Early on, he caught people’s attention by dancing in a Coke commercial.)

Apart from these basic facts, the public hardly knows anything more about his private life (except for the tragic fact that his long-time girlfriend gave birth to a stillborn baby girl in 1999 and, two years later, while estranged from Keanu, was killed when her car crashed on an L.A. highway).

We know him better (and that’s how the public should know actors) by his stirring performances, such as those in Stephen Frears’ Dangerous Liaisons, Ron Howard’s Parenthood, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho (with the late River Phoenix), Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, Jan de Bont’s Speed, Bernardo Bertulucci’s Little Buddha, The Devil’s Advocate (with Al Pacino) and the recent Something’s Got to Give (with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson).

But of course, he is best known for his role as Neo the defender of Zion in the smash-hit Matrix trilogy.

Recently, Keanu was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the 2,277th to be so honored.

Acknowledging his mother who was at the ceremony, Keanu said, "When I was 15 in Canada, I did a play called Romeo and Juliet. I asked my mom if it was okay to be an actor and she said, ‘Whatever you want.’ So thanks, Mom!"

That’s what Keanu has always wanted to be – an actor.

Last week, Keanu was in Hong Kong for the Asian premiere and press junket of his latest starrer, Warner Bros.’ Constantine, with Francis Lawrence, the MTV artist having his movie-directorial debut. In Constantine, based on the British comic serial Hellblazer, Keanu plays supernatural detective and exorcist John Constantine, a hard-oiled, chain-smoking anti-hero who reluctantly saves mankind from evil to buy himself a place in heaven. Like Bruce Willis’ character in Sixth Sense, Constantine sees dead people (he has been to hell and back); he recognizes the half-bred angels and demons that roam the earth to derail mankind. Playing the police detective who gets involved with Constantine as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her twin sister’s death is Rachel Weisz, Keanu’s leading lady in the action-thriller Chain Reaction.

joined other Asian entertainment journalists in the round-table interview with Keanu. Excerpts:

I heard that part of your preparation for Constantine was to consult an exorcist.

"Oh, yeah, I did meet with a man who did that kind of work; I had to learn how to hold someone possessed by the devil. I wanted to get some practical information, nuts and bolts – you know, what you do with your hands, how you grab a person, how you use your voice, how to move your eyes. That kind of stuff."

Did you do all those risky scenes, like being hit by a glass door.

"No. That was a stuntman. Actually, he got hurt in some of those scenes. That was pretty extreme. But I did the scene where my character is punching the rogue demon and sending him flying out of frame."

Does your idea of heaven and hell jibe with that of John Constantine?

"No. You know, what I like about Constantine is...Well, I think everyone can relate to whatever the concept of good and evil is within themselves. In our culture, we have avatars that represent darkness; there’s a constant struggle for good within ourselves. I wasn’t raised in any special denomination and I used to have doubts about heaven and hell. But (after doing this movie), I doubt less now."

Do you believe in the afterlife?


What do you like about John Constantine?

"It’s easy to relate to him. I like that Constantine is dead, that he has been to hell and back...I like his being world-weary, cynical and fatalistic. I like the journey that he takes and the originality of the character. Constantine has a strong sense of morality yet his ethics are a little blurry. He’s trying to right some wrongs but he doesn’t always go about it in the nicest way. He’s a nihilistic guy with a heart of gold. He’s an anti-hero I’ve never seen before."

The character is a chain smoker, terminally ill (of liver cancer). Weren’t you worried with all the smoking that you did in the movie?

(Breaking into a wide smile) "Yeah, Keanu was worried."

Did you have a medical check-up after shooting the movie?

"Oh, yeah, I had body check."

Has the movie changed the way you look at life – and death?

"Has it? No, I don’t think so. No, I mean...No, it hasn’t."

In the movie, Constantine is deathly afraid of not going to heaven. What’s your own biggest fear in life?

"Oh, gosh! I haven’t really thought of it."

Talking about image... How careful are you about protecting your image?

"I don’t know, man! I’m not so concerned about protecting an image but I do feel that I want to protect my life. You know, I don’t really have a...well, I’m not a brand and I’m not seeking to become one. I’m hoping to be able to do different kinds of roles, different kinds of films. I don’t mind talking about work and that kind of stuff. But about personal life and the kind of image I am generating, I don’t really like talking about them."

But how can that be possible especially in your kind of profession?

"Yeah, hard! Especially in Los Angeles maybe because there are so many (media) outlets and there are so many paparazzi. There are so many pictures of actors getting into or out of restaurants. I know a lot of people have seen me in pictures showing me putting gas into my motorcycle. That must be very thrilling to read!"

Does it bother you – you know, the media or people prying into your private life?

"Yeah! It’s a pain in the ass. Because oftentimes that kind of situation involves other people who are not in showbiz and who don’t necessarily want to have their pictures in the papers and have their names printed. You know, that stuff is private."

Haven’t you ever been tempted to, you know, confront these (pestering) people?

"No! But I’ve had my share."

Back to your career...You’ve done all kinds of roles and worked with the finest directors. Any dream role, maybe a real-life person you like to portray?

"I’m thinking of doing a Scottish play. Any real-life person I want to portray? I can’t think of any right now."

You do dream of getting an Oscar, don’t you?

"Of course, I do. I’ve never won. I’m always nominated but I never won. I’ve always do you call it? Yes, always a bridesmaid, never the bride. But there’s always a next year. I can always dream."

If you were in a position to save the world like Constantine was, how would you do it?

"I don’t know if I would do what Constantine did. But, ah, whatever I could to save the world, I would do it. Whatever I could."

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