Psst - this snitch is going places in 'River'
by Tom Green
HOLLYWOOD - In his first major film, the controversial River's Edge, 22-year-old Keanu Reeves plays a snitch, which, in the moral context of the movie, is about as bad as you can get.
Worse, in fact, than the assortment of punks and thugs and - in a TV movie with Andy Griffith - alcoholics he's played so far.
"But I really know this guy,'' says Reeves of the kid who's the nominal hero of River's Edge - based on a true case in California in which a teen kills a girl, brags about it, then shows his friends the corpse when they don't believe him.
The film, which has opened to good reviews in New York and Los Angeles, has generated considerable buzz and lively debate at major film festivals.
There is little argument, however, that the film - co-starring Dennis Hopper and Crispin Glover (George McFly in Back to the Future) - will hike the visibility of its young cast as it opens across the USA this week.
Reeves tools around Hollywood on a motorcycle and sleeps on a futon in a room so messy that he calls it a cliche. But he is about as far away from the stoned kids he's played as it's possible to get.
"Acting is the only thing that keeps me still," he says. "If I'm not acting, I bounce off walls. My teachers thought it was sugar, but they were wrong."
His energy level is so hyper, actually, that he has flunked every acting class he's taken. But his work has established him as one of Hollywood's bright young actors.
"My agents tell me this movie is going to do wonderful things for me. But I don't know. I did a very kicked-back performance. Some people think it's just boring. 'You didn't do anything, Keanu, you just stood around and smoked pot.'"
But he has finished other features, including Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, a summer fantasy comedy, and The Night Before, a comedy in which he plays a nerd.
"The Night Before is having Hollywood technical difficulties. That means the producer and the director have artistic differences. Which means that the film might be really bad."
Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived briefly in Australia, but really grew up in Toronto.
His first name is Hawaiian, in which you pronounce all the vowels (Kee-ah-new). "Remember the '60s burn-out guy? That was my father. He was Hawaiian. It's a lovely name.''
The day Reeves arrived in Hollywood from Toronto almost three years ago, he got a call from his manager saying they'd have to change his name. "What?" Reeves protested. "I just got out of the car." It isn't white enough, the manager told him. People would think of him as ethnic. For a month, the young actor was K.C. Reeves.
Even though he is enjoying some success, Reeves says he has not been seduced by a glamorous Hollywood lifestyle.
"I've been to a couple of clubs. I like to dance. But no hot tubs. No champagne.''
He is about to start work on Permanent Records, in which he plays a nice guy - a nice guy who commits suicide. Reeves likes playing nice guys, but he hasn't had a lot of luck at it.
"I gave my worst performance as one. I did a television movie called Brotherhood of Justice. It was like a disease movie-of-the-week. I was just bad in it. I didn't mean to be. I just was."
At least his mother is proud of him.
"She's happy that I'm doing something. I'm not a bum. There were days there when she thought I was going to become part of the couch."