He Just Doesn't Act His Ageby Jim Farber
KEANU REEVES has the kind of face few storeowners would sell beer to without first seeing two major forms of I.D. The actor may be 24, but he looks no more than 18, a huge asset considering the roles Reeves has played so far. In the last two years, the actor has built a solid rep, playing troubled teens in such movies as "River's Edge," "Permanent Record" and now, "The Prince of Pennsylvania," opening this Friday.
In person, Reeves is very much like his screen persona; a mixture of the earnest and the mischievous. He hunkers, bearlike when he walks, fidgets goofily with his hair and face and uses words like "wow" and "cool" as often as do his characters.
"I was once described as offbeat; and kooky," Keanu says with a donkeylike laugh. "Oh, yeah, totally. That's how I describe myself - I'm a goof."
Make that a talented goof. Reeves' acting talent showed ,up early. Though he was born in Beirut, he grew up in Toronto ("My mom thought it would be a good place to raise kids," he explains). Reeves' dad, who is Hawaiian, left home when Keanu was five. By 16, Keanu was acting in community theater. Soon after, he got a Coke commercial.
"I always wanted to do one," he says. His big break came in '86 when he got a lead role in the acclaimed "River's Edge," playing a wasted youth with a heart of gold. Reeves was so credible in his part, he seemed less an actor than some kid they ripped out of a Motley Crue concert.
Probably Reeves' biggest stretch since was his part in the HBO movie "Act of Vengeance," where he played a baby-faced assassin. "I was the second guy (on film) ever to kill Charles Bronson," he boasts.
Several of Reeves' subsequent movies have had troubled histories. A teen comedy, "The Night Before," was shelved and will appear only on video in November, and "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," completed over a year ago, may not surface until next year. Of the latter, he says candidly, "It's almost a really good movie."
SUCH HONESTY is typical of Reeves on film as well. In his latest work,"The Prince of Pennsylvania," he stars as a precocious teenager opposite Amy Madigan and Fred Ward. Like many of his roles, the character lives very much in his own world. However well Reeves plays such internalized and ingenuous youths, though, he hopes to be able to grow up on screen soon. "I don't want to be one of these forever boys," he says. "That would be very depressing."
Toward that end he's got a part in the very grownup film "Les Liaison Dangereuse" coming up, plus the lead in a PBS version of Richard Greenburg's one-act play "Life Under Water." "In that one, I get to play 22," he says with a smile.