On His Acting
"Acting is the only thing that keeps me still. If I'm not acting I'm bouncing of the walls. My teachers thought it was sugar. But they were wrong."
– Keanu Reeves
I think as an actor part of his gift is that he'll will himself to physically become the character. Keanu has such a sense of truth. He's not faking anything.
– Howard Deutsch (director, The Replacements), "Keanu Reeves Scores Again" – Biography (US) – Sep 2000
I thought the kid was first brought in for his juice [studio talk for box-office appeal], but after working with Keanu, I believe he's got what it takes, and in some scenes in particular, you really see him come across. Now he owns the role.
– Al Pacino (costar, The Devil's Advocate), "Route 666 – Galaxie (Malaysia) – 17th Jan 1998
Keanu is a very underrated actor. His work is just phenomenal. I met him and I remember looking away and wondering, 'My God, he's got it all back there.' I mean, just look into this guy's eyes and it's a wonderland of experiences. I think he's amazing, and not a lot of people know it.
– Charlize Theron (costar, The Devil's Advocate and Sweet November)
He quite embodied the innocence, the splendid fury, the animal grace of the leaps and bounds, the emotional violence, that form the Prince of Denmark. ... He is one of the top three Hamlets I have seen for the simple reason: he is Hamlet ... full of undercurrents and overtones. ... He has a gift given to few; like Garbo, he is an actor who can register – simultaneously – both pleasure and pain.
– Roger Lewis (Shakespeare critic for The London Times), "Most Excellent Prince" – The Sunday Times (UK) – 22nd Jan 1995
Halfway through Constantine, a fully clad Keanu Reeves steps into a shallow pail of water, sits on a chair next to it and holds a cat in his lap. Any actor who can retain his charisma in this weird-silly moment--can keep us watching, and admiring his dutiful nonchalance--deserves to be called a movie star.
– Richard Corliss (journalist), "Caught Between Heaven and Hell" – TIME (US) – 14th Feb 2005
If any one male film star sums up his generation, it is Keanu. He's a chameleon, literally changing physically with each role.
– "Keanu Reeves", Chris Nickson
Keanu is an actor who is hugely popular because although he’s very attractive, he’s also an Everyman. This seems to be a quality that’s very difficult for a lot of actors to achieve. No matter how talented, or technically accomplished, there’s still a distance between them and the audience. For me, the centerpiece of this movie is Shane Falco, a man who is having trouble believing in himself and is looking for something to hang on to, a restoration of the sense that he can make some kind of contribution. Although with films like ‘Speed’ and ‘The Matrix’ Keanu projected something of a superhuman figure, he also retained the essential humanity of those characters. In fact, Keanu plays vulnerability with absolute emotional honesty. Keanu is a very honest actor. Audiences can feel the truth and that’s what Keanu is about.
– Howard Deutch (director, The Replacements), "The Replacements – Production Notes" – 2000
You know a lot of people give Keanu Reeves shit, I know I was one of them until I saw The Matrix then I just wanted to apologize for everything that I had ever said about him, he was just working away at his goal not listening to any of the assholes like me, and he fucking did it man. I just love The Matrix, and Zhou Zhao looks like Keanu if Keanu was less awesome and more intense.
– Quentin Tarantino (Quentin Tarantino), "Hong Kong Epic Adventure" (Off-site link) – Aug 2001
I don't think there's anything Keanu doesn't know. I heard he went and played Hamlet at some theater once, and I see the things he does, and it's like, he's just another actor struggling to try to get better. And I am, too. I just don't get into that 'he's someone to put down' kinda thing. Acting's a really hard thing to do, after all, and some people, I think, do it easier than others. But I do think that some people get better, and I also think some people take it very seriously, and I have a feeling he's somebody who probably does, that he struggles like everybody else to try to do it well. But if I saw him, I'd probably ask him for tips, to be quite honest, my friend. I'd be like, 'So, how did you get in that first Matrix movie? How'd you swing that?'
– Philip Seymour Hoffman, "The Talented Mr. Hoffman" (Off-site link)
Most of the good actors are introspective. And Keanu's that way. Of the actors who began with me in films in 1955, 98 percent were gone from the business after three years. ... But Keanu has worked his way through that phase... He's going to stick around.
– Dennis Hopper (costar, River's Edge and Speed), "Reeves Enjoys the Role – Any Role" – Gannett News Service (US) – 9th Jun 1994
He is great to work with – he's a collaborator who meets you more than half way. I think people underestimate him now but he'll work his way up to the right leading role and then, boom!
– Patrick Swayze (costar, Point Break), "Keanu's Excellent Career" – Sydney Morning Herald (Aus) – 23rd Sep 1993
He evidences incredible range when you look at it in conjunction with his body of work. He's an actor willing to take risks, and that quality has done nothing but reward him.
– Kathryn Bigelow (director, Point Break)
His talent is hard to pin down, which is one reason a lot of critics think he doesn't have any. But they're wrong. Reeves can handle goofball comedy (the Bill & Ted movies), high drama (River's Edge, My Own Private Idaho), cockle warmers (Hard Ball) and the occasional romantic comedy (he really should have wound up with Diane Keaton in Something's Gotta Give)
– Lev Grossman (journalist), "The Man Who Isn't There" – TIME (US) – 14th Feb 2005
He brought to it an oddly serious sensibility for such an unserious character. That was part of what made the movie great and it's also what makes Keanu great as an actor. You'd walk into his trailer and he'd be reading Stanislavsky's 'An Actor Prepares' and applying it to Ted. The reason he ended up unfairly taking this rap of 'he IS Ted' was that he did such a great job and it's hard for any actor, when they truly excel in something, to break out of it.
– Scott Kroopf (producer, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure)
I was delighted by him and his spirit. I thought he was an extraordinarily charismatic young actor. Very serious about acting and all the different shapes that it can take. And great-looking, like a teen idol. That combination is always intriguing.
– Lawrence Kasdan (director, I Love You to Death)
I saw in him constant emotion. He's like a Chinese menu – he'll give you half a dozen different readings.
– Ron Nyswaner (writer and director, The Prince of Pennsylvania), "Like a Chinese Menu" – Los Angeles Times (US) – 1st Oct 1988
What makes him stand out is that he dares to let emotions show. He has a vulnerable quality – if you had a daughter, you'd let him take her out. A little old-fashioned, chivalrous. We've had enough cartoon-type action heroes.
– Jan De Bont (director, Speed)
A film star is what a film needs and Keanu is certainly that. He’s a great film star. He’s extremely bright, funny, aware and naughty. I think it can be seen that Keanu is always making experimental films, actually. I do find his filmography extraordinary. If you think about it, there have been these amazing moments in sort of film development – he’s kind of always been there for them. Bill and Ted, even Speed or Point Break, or the first Matrix, and My Own Private Idaho. He’s always been there. It just shows how damned bright he is. Even Constantine was Francis Lawrence’s first feature film and really did feel very experimental while we were making it, and again he was there. I think that’s his natural place. That’s the way I read him; he’s not easily frightened. The thing that people need to remember about him is that he’s so much more than an actor. He’s a serious, serious movie star. I mean, if you think of Gary Cooper, for example, who’s so much more than an actor. He’s iconic in that way. He’s so much better than a good actor. There’s so much more to him, so much more than the sum of his parts.
– Tilda Swinton (costar, Constantine and Thumbsucker), "Tilda And Keanu’s Excellent Adventure" – 14th Sep 2005
I've met Keanu and I think he's a really nice chap. I'm still waiting to see the role that really astounds me. But I definitely think he's got the potential for it.
– Russell Crowe
I've been an enormous fan of his since 'River's Edge'. When this film (Point Break) came up, I thought Keanu's innate physicality, intelligence and charm would make him perfect to play Utah. He holds the screen, and he's got a magical ability to put the audience in his back pocket.
– Kathryn Bigelow (director, Point Break), "Pseudo-Quasi-Method in His Madness – Film Review (UK) – Nov 1991
Here (Devil's Advocate) he appears as a young man who never had doubts about what he wanted, who's succeeded in life by trying hard and not wondering what else may have contributed to his success. I think Keanu has done a terrific job of bringing that kind of competitive, non-reflective, All-American guy to the screen. In the 1940's and 1950's, if you were looking for a male actor who could be sexy, sophisticated, articulate, and stand up and play a real man, you could choose fifteen or twenty. Now, it's different. Keanu has worked his ass off on this film. He went after it in a very real way. And there's a certain mystery to him.
– Taylor Hackford (director, The Devil's Advocate)
That's the role Keanu was born to play. When I watch the movie and I see the choices he made, there are a hundred occasions when I think, 'I would have messed that up'.
– Will Smith on The Matrix, "Smith has no Matrix regrets" (Off-site link)
Most of the kids coming in wanted to get any part at all. The ambitious ones tried for Romeo. Then in walked Keanu with a passion, a hunger and a zeal: he said, "I need to play Mercutio." He did the Queen Mab speech, and was extraordinary. Only twice or three times in my life have I cast someone there on the spot, but I did it with him. It struck me that he had an understanding of the piece, and of the soul of Mercutio. There was no question to me that he was a very special young man.
– Lewis Baumander (director, Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet), "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston
For his age he was a brilliant Mercutio. He was very exciting to watch. We sat there and wondered how someone that young could do such a super job. He had such a range of feeling from comedy to despair to a note of cynicism. At the time you really felt he was Mercutio. Possibly it was all the things Keanu was going through himself, I don't know.
– Rose Dubin (director of Leah Posluns Theatre School) on Keanu's performance in Romeo & Juliet, "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston
Teenager K.C. Reeves steps in with terrific success as Urich the youth. Without imitation of a lookalike face, he conveys the Urich essence to uncanny effect...Reeves' open-faced, exuberant study of the boy who turns into a young man in love goes a long way towards keeping the fantasy in the realm of reality.
– Review of Young Again – Variety – May 1986
[Keanu] captures the born-again teenager's energy, euphoria, and delight brilliantly.
– Review of Young Again, unnamed film critic
[Keanu gave a] layered performance, suggesting maturity, sensitivity, and life experience that set him apart from his schoolmates.
– Review of Young Again, "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston
Colleen Murphy, who wrote up the play based on student improvisations, found Keanu riveting but also a little inarticulate. 'I don't know if we're talking a great actor here,' she said, 'but we're talking a great personality who's very open with his feelings, who has a face audiences can project a lot of stuff on to. There's a mystery – when he doesn't speak too much.' It was an observation made by many others after her: Keanu was a superb physical actor but not always as sure a verbal one.
– On the play For Adults Only, "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston
Chris's gradual coming to grips with his sense of guilty gives this film its only point of interest, largely due to Keanu Reeves' performance which opens up nicely as the film progresses.
– Review of Permanent Record, Variety
clearly a young actor of depth and remakably sure instincts.
– Review of Keanu's performance in Permanent Record, Boston Globe
[full of] relaxed vitality and unwavering honesty
– Review of Keanu's performance in Permanent Record, Los Angeles Times
That evening I watched River's Edge and thought he had an extraordinary quality of stillness, which he didn't have in life at all, or not at that stage. So I changed my mind. When we actually worked on the film he was charming. Slightly other-worldly, as if he'd arrived from another planet. I think very fondly of him.
– Christopher Hampton (screenwriter, Dangerous Liaisons)
He'd only up until that point played wild child roles, and I saw in him an ability to feel great affection and a tremendous romanticism, actually. I felt there was more native intelligence than I'd seen used before on the screen.
– Jon Amiel (director, Tune in Tomorrow)
A breezy engaging presence and a winning hangdog lyricism.
– Review of Keanu's performance in Tune in Tomorrow, Los Angeles Times
[he conveyed] just the right mix of innocence and smarts.
– Julie Salamon, review of Keanu's performance in Tune in Tomorrow – Wall Street Journal (US) – October 26, 1990
With his short hair slicked back, Reeves has the outrageous glamour of a Thirties matinee idol, and he gives his most winning performance yet.
– Review of Tune in Tomorrow, Entertainment Weekly
I have seen Keanu Reeves in vastly different roles... and am a little astonished by the range of these performances.
– Roger Ebert (film critic), "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" – Chicago Sun-Times (US) – 19th Jul 1991
Mr. Reeves... displays considerable discipline and range. He moves easily between the buttoned-down demeanour that suits a police procedural story and the loose-jointed manner of his comic roles.
– Janet Maslin (film critic), "Surf's Up For F.B.I. In Bigelow's 'Point Break' (Off-site link) – 12th Jul 1991
It was a dangerous role for him, but he pulled it off with grace. In a state of grace.
– Jeremy Thomas (producer, Little Buddha)
One sees in his work that he can sometimes be very gentle, he can sometimes be very fierce, he can sometimes be very funny. And yet he’s got something at the back of the eyes that says, ‘No, I won’t be committing here.’ He’ll always be on the bus, heading off. And I think there is something tremendously attractive to men and women about thet combination of the utterly desirable and the definitely unattainable.
– Kenneth Branagh (director and costar, Much Ado About Nothing), "Not just a sex god" – The Age (Aus) – 9th Sep 1993
a surprisingly watchable and dashing Siddhartha.
– Review of Keanu's performance in Little Buddha, Variety – 13th Dec 1993
He's a very honest actor and when he can't get his hands around a role he fails.
– Alex Winter (costar, Bill & Ted films)
I think he's very truthful. He may not have a large expressive range but, in a sense, that's a positive anecdote. My impression is that he doesn't fake things.
– Christopher Hampton
What seemed to me very clear in the choices that Keanu has made was that here was somebody with great ability who was looking to learn. He needed a lot of help, by which I don't mean to say that he's a bad actor or that he needed more than other actors do. He's someone who looks for and responds to close work with the director. ... He has tremendous natural talent but he's not bullet-proof on the screen and if he's not fully inside a moment, inside a line, inside his character, he can appear very gauche.
– Jon Amiel
I'd say he's far better than most people realize.
– Alex Winter
Keanu gave the film a believable sexuality. He is great at dialogue, and terrific at romantic comedy. He really was the anchor of this movie, and is underappreciated for what he meant for it.
– Nancy Meyers (writer and director, Something's Gotta Give)
Keanu has an ability to do things that other actors can’t do. I don’t think there’s another actor in the world who could have been Neo in The Matrix and not look silly. I really mean that. I think sometimes he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for his ability to act physically and for the nuance and the understated manner in which he can express himself and make the audience interested in what that character is going through.
– Scott Derrickson (director, The Day the Earth Stood Still), "Keanu Reeves Interview" – Buzzine (US) – Aug 2008
[Reeves had a] single-minded passion, almost a need [to play Mercutio]. He was a live wire, he couldn't sit still, yet he was not nervous. There was too much life coursing through his body. His was the most fully realized Mercutio that I – and all who saw that production – have ever seen.
– Lewis Baumander (director, Hamlet and Romeo & Juliet), "Curtain Call" – Toronto Sun (Ca) – 4th Dec 1994
The depth of his passion, curiosity and desire to find where a character is living is far superior to any other actor I've worked with.
– Lewis Baumander, "Curtain Call" – Toronto Sun (Ca) – 4th Dec 1994
[I was] awed by his talent -- by his honesty, his sensitivity. And he had extraordinary courage, to go for it, whatever the situation.
– Steven Schipper (Manitoba Theatre Centre artistic director), "Keanu's Excellent Adventure" – MacLean's (Ca) – 23rd Jan 1995
Keanu radiates a visceral, emotional intelligence found only in the best natural actors. He has character – an old-fashioned moral imperative that shines through in every role – wrapped around a core of reserve, of feelings withheld. Above all, he's a risktaker, gamely plunging into wildly different roles without a thought for the exigencies of image
– Michael Shnayerson, "The Wild One. Keanu Reeves on Sex, Hollywood and Life on the Run. – Vanity Fair (US) – Aug 1995
Keanu is incredible. He's romantic, he's sensitive, he's nuanced. It's Keanu like you've never seen him before.
– Robert Mark Kamen, screenwriter, on Keanu's performance in A Walk in the Clouds, "Feeling Groovy" – Premiere (US) – Aug 1995
Rational and intellectual. When that happens he looks stiff. But he also has this terrific charisma and innocence that I needed in that role.
– Alfonso Arau,, director of A Walk in the Clouds, "Keanu Reeves Has a Way of Finding His Head in Clouds" – USA Today (US) – 27th July 1995
The greatest thing about Keanu is he finds himself in the skin of the character so much that it makes him uncomfortable. There's a lot of pain involved in that.
– Vincent D'Onofrio (costar, Feeling Minnesota), "Lunch with Keanu" – Mar 1996
Keanu Reeves. To look at a list of his roles is to wonder how the directors of half his movies could have visualized him in the other half, and vice versa. This is the actor who made two of the most harrowing films of all time about teenage angst, "River's Edge" (1986) and "Permanent Record" (1988). And the same actor who played one of the key predecessors of the dumband-dumber movement, in "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989) and "Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey" (1991). The same actor who was an average, if troubled, teen in "Parenthood" (1989) and an 18th century rake in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1989) and a male hustler in "My Own Private Idaho" (1991). He was even in an action movie before "Speed." It was titled "Point Break," it was made in 1991, and it combined surfing, sky-diving, bank robbery and Zen. I liked it. ... When you think of those pictures, you can't really find the line connecting them. It's like they're all points of a star. It's hard to get from "My Own Private Idaho" to "Bill & Ted."
– Roger Ebert (film critic), "On the Set; Checking Out ''Chain Reaction'' in Chicago" – Chicago Sun-Times – 7th April 1996
When I first met Keanu, he'd just had a motorcycle accident. He had a cast on his leg and he was a little bit overweight. I told him how much he was going to have to prepare himself mentally and physically for this part because he has to carry a $[US]57 million dollar movie from beginning to end. He looked me in the eye and said, 'I like the script and I want to do it.' I asked him why he didn't want to do Speed 2 – for which he would have been paid an astronomical sum – and he said, 'I didn't like the script and I don't want to keep pursuing action dramas. I want to prove that I'm an actor.' Now, when someone tells me this, it means that they're committed and that they have something to prove. If he fails, he'll fall flat on his face because everybody out there will end up saying, 'Keanu can't act.' And I know how much he can act.
– Taylor Hackford, director of Devil's Advocate, "Devil in Disguise" – Cleo (Aus) – Jan 1998
He's only going to get better. Because he so much wants to.
– Howard Deutch, "Keanu Reeves Scores Again" – Biography (US) – Sep 2000
Like everybody else, I just came in with what I had seen him do and I thought, 'Well, you could never achieve this'. But after sitting and talking with him at the table, I thought he was much more intelligent than I ever gave him credit for. I bought the story of who he pretends to be in these movies. During that first meeting, he became the character and shifted in and out of him for me and I thought, 'Somehow, it's brilliant that you play Donnie Barksdale.' I think he really liked the idea of working with Cate and I know that he really liked the screenplay. He felt that this character was very well developed and it gave him a chance to expand what he was known for and to challenge himself in a different type of part.
– Sam Raimi (director, The Gift), "A Very Special Gift" – X-posé (UK) – Feb 2001
He's done so much, and this time, on this picture, working with him firsthand, it's quite a nice surprise. I realise how actually he's a very talented man, and... he's so anal about the work. The guy has received some criticism, good and bad, but working with him, you have a great affinity for the kind of generosity that he has with the work and with people that [are a] part of this picture. He definitely is a very simple man and somewhat maybe misunderstood, because he's just very reclusive, very private.
– Djimon Hounsou (co-star, Constantine), "Hell Bent" – Sci-Fi Magazine (US) – Feb 2005
I think a lot of of actors carry the baggage of past roles with them, but because he was so strong in a sense in Bill and Ted's, he just carries that with him," Lawrence said. "And he became [Ted]. He became Neo. They are nothing alike. You carry that with you and I think that's part of it, but I have no idea why that happens. The reaction to him is so sort of polarized it's just amazing.
– Francis Lawrence, "Pros and Constantine" – Entertainment Today (US) – 11-17th Feb 2005
I had my preconceived notions, like anybody else, he's the whoa guy, or the guy in Speed, he's Keanu Reeves, he's not a great actor. That's what I thought walking in. And the truth is, and this is not a lie, I've never seen anybody prepare as much as Keanu Reeves in my life. And I have so much respect for him now than I ever did, and I understand why he has a career. You've got to look at his resume, he's worked with the best of the best of the best in every field, from Gary Oldman to Al Pacino, every director you've ever heard of, all the greatest writers. The thing with Keanu is an actor is 50% choice, 50% talent, and Keanu's choices are unreal, and his talent is getting there. He's there, he's getting better with every role, and I think that this is his best role ever, I think he's really believable and the audience vibes with him. First of all, I've never seen anyone prepare like that, and I've never seen anybody so unjaded, he's such a veteran and he's still works and treats himself like it's his first film. He's so hard on himself to the point of sickness, I've never seen that before. He gave an importance to acting that I've never seen, and it made me feel better about my profession, and it's rare that you find that. Also, look at his career, look at what he's doing it for, why is he still making films? He's not doing it because he wants to be famous, because he's shy from the press, he doesn't want that. He has fame, why is he still making movies? It's not because of money, he has all the money and he still hasn't bought a house, so it's not money, you know what I mean? It's not that. Keanu is shy and that way because 's all about being respected as an actor, that's all he's about, that's all he wants in life. And you'll notice a difference in Keanu, when you say, 'Hey man, Matrix was awesome.' He doesn't want to hear that. But you say, 'There was a scene in Dracula with you and Gary Oldman that was very believable, and you were very on-point, and I really liked that scene,' Keanu will smile like a 13-year-old girl on prom night. He's so happy.
– Shia LaBeouf (costar, Constantine), "Interview: Shia LaBeouf " – Moviehole (US) – 7th Feb 2005
He gets deep in character, like deep, deep, deep" Rachel revealed. "Like, you might get scared sometimes, like 'Keanu!
– Rachel Weisz (costar, Constantine), "Telling Tales – ExtraTV.com (US)
Keanu is a very underrated actor. From one side, he's very childlike and innocent like Cary Grant, and from the other side, he's so strong. Most important are his eyes: You can read emotion in them. There's nothing going on behind the eyes of most action heroes.
– Jan de Bont (director, Speed), "Keanu Reeves: Quiet Power" – Greensboro News & Record (US), 18th Jun 1994
He's a much better actor than people know. I've worked with good actors. This guy's incredible. Underrated is the word I always use. He's misunderstood or something, maybe because he does a lot of action pictures, which are very difficult. Harrison Ford is Harrison Ford because he can pull that off. They don't get the credit that they deserve on action pictures because they are really tough to do.
– Howard Deutch, "Having a ball with Keanu Reeves" – Valley (US) – Oct 2000
I really do. People's idea of who Keanu Reeves is as a man is fiction, it's based on roles he's played over the years. And you realise how much he is acting. Once I met him and saw who he really was, I was like, 'OK, he can do this, absolutely'
– David Ayer, when asked if he thinks Keanu's acting is unfairly maligned, "Keanu Reeves: I relish being an antihero" – The Independent (UK) – April 15, 2008
I'm really into miscasting. Keanu has always played the good guy. This is the first film where he's ever played a bad guy. The first film where he's ever killed good people not bad people. And the first time he's ever played a serial killer. Everything pointed to not having him do it and he was perfect. It's almost Ted Bundy-ish. He's charismatic and attractive. You can see why girls would get in his car. You can see why people would be fooled by him. But then, when he gets mean, he's as mean as mean gets. He just blew me away.
"Keanu is a charismatic, good-looking guy, but when he's scary he's not really attractive, he's monstrous. He looks like a monster. He turns on the evil side really incredibly.
"Even when he's killing people, you sort of root for him. I always love rooting for the bad guy.
– Joe Charbanic (director, The Watcher), Cinefantastique – October
I had no idea he was going to be that involved in what he was doing. Keanu made the part much more than it was, and much more than I thought it could be.
– Sam Raimi, "Keanu as nasty as can be" – Toronto Sun – January 14, 2001
Keanu has a great gift for self-mockery and humor. There’s a real true emotion in him. He never lies when he’s on the screen.
– Pat O’Connor (director, Sweet November), Sweet November – Production Notes – Warner Bros. (US) – 2001
I think he's really growing. He's not afraid to expand his powers as an actor. He's interested in challenging himself and the audience's perception of who he is. Even though he seems like a very carefree going guy in his previous films, those are really just performances. He's really a very dedicated craftsman and wanted to understand his character in the film with a great intensity and bring him to the screen. He came in with a lot of fire and was relentlessly hard on himself until he got the job done right.
– Sam Raimi, "Director Raimi Has 'The Gift'" – The Boston Channel (US) – January 12, 2001
He's a good actor, see? People underestimate Keanu.
– Diane Keaton (costar, Something's Gotta Give), Her Keaton heart – U-Entertainment (US) – December 6, 2003
Keanu has a depth that's sort of unknowable. He has an unknowableness, and I think that works really well for a hero who's sort of for the ages. You don't have all your questions answered, and it isn't completely obvious what's going on with him. Some people can say, 'Oh, well, it's vacant.' Or they're still stuck with what he did early in his career, like 'Duuuude' kind of acting. But I have seen him in a different way, that he has achieved an iconhood that is about this sort of drifting in his own universe, no matter what universe the story is in. And I think that's one of the keys to the hero in these mythic sagas. You know what they do, and you suspect you know why, but you're not exactly sure, and I think he has that dimension.
– Rob Cohen, "Cohen Defends Reeves As Sinbad"
I commend Keanu enormously for his courage and his commitment to it. He's, to me, a very genuine individual and I think a much more talented actor than anybody gives him credit for. ... When people are in a successful movie, the image from that picture goes with them. [Keanu was in] Bill and Ted, those two movies, and that image of Keanu is one that people carry. And actors that don't fall naturally into a way of presenting yourself in all this circus of media, you know, so that people think, well, that's who he is. I think, for instance, he did a beautiful job in that Bill and Ted film, but actually doing that kind of stuff is not remotely as easy as it looks. If it were, everybody would be doing it much better. It has real charm, real lightness of touch, real kind of comedic ability. I mean, he worked like a dog on Much Ado, he's really easy to work with. And I think when you're in his position and you know that you're gonna get flack out of every corner for doing something like Hamlet, people would say it's an act of hubris or vanity, I'd say an act of great courage.
– Kenneth Branagh (director and costar, Much Ado About Nothing), "Much Ado About Kenneth" (Off-site link) – Andy Jones – Rough Cut (US) – Dec 1996
Keanu Reeves doesn't have "gnomic blankness" but otherworldliness; it's as if he comes with his own private Theremin.
– Richard Brody (@tnyfrontrow, movies editor for The New York Times)
Whether playing a super hero or a weary working class drone, Keanu Reeves brings an everyman aura to his roles. His approach may be somewhat vanilla, but his anti-showboat acting method allows his fellow actors ample room to display their thespian skills.
– Russell Engebretson, "DVD Verdict Review – Henry's Crime (Blu-ray)"
I really like Keanu. The thing about him which is so unique is that he's the only movie star I can think of that actually transcends generations. Every ten years, a new generation rediscovers him in their own way. I don't know anyone else who has done that.
– Nicolas Winding Refn (writer, The Neon Demon), "Nicolas Winding Refn on the Joys of Vinyl and the Transcendent Keanu Reeves – Vulture (US) – June 5, 2015
Keanu has a weird ability. If you watch his stuff, he can be as tough as you want, but he never looks the tough guy part. He's got a sensitive side, but he can go icy cold. That's what you look at in the eyes. So we took it apart. We made a list like, 'These are the 10 best things about Keanu. These are the 10 things we like about hit men, and these are the 10 things we don't like about hit men.' Then you cross-reference and go, 'Wow, Keanu scores really high over here, and hit men score really low over here.' You know, so we just go back and forth so it's interesting. At the end of the day, I think he's an interesting character.
– Chad Stalheski (director, John Wick), "Keanu Reeves Wants Revenge on the Set of John Wick" – IGN (US) – September 10, 2014