Eye on Keanu Reeves
Starting to Connect; A RISING STAR
By Patrick Pacheco
"It's HAWAIIAN; it means 'breeze over the mountains,'" says Keanu Reeves of his unusual first name, "but do we have to go into that?"
The 23-year-old actor, who edged up on stardom in "River's Edge" and is now the lead in a new film, "The Prince of Pennsylvania," demurs a lot on personal questions, such as his birthplace (Why Beirut? "My mom and dad were just hanging out") where he has lived (Australia, New York City, Toronto, Los Angeles and just recently New York again), and his parents' background (his mother was in the rag trade; his father, "didn't work; he just sort of disconnected when we moved to Toronto").
"Disconnected" applies to many of Reeves' roles as well, including his latest as Rupert Marchetta in "Prince of Pennsylvania," a coal miner's rebellious son and punk prince who stumbles, half-cocked and half-sheared, through a series of misadventures as he tries to escape a domineering father (Fred Ward), liberate his oppressed mother (Bonnie Bedelia) and fly away with his pot-smoking lady fair (Amy Madigan).
"He's a nice guy and he tries," says Reeves. "He's a bit pathetic, but he's also heroic. I like him. He's twisted and crazy."
Reeves' list of brooding or troubled young men continues to grow. He just completed filming the role of Danceney, the lusty young lord who is betrayed by his scheming mentor in Stephen Frears' "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. And he is about to start shooting "Life Under Water," an American Playhouse production. In it, he plays a character he describes as a "mama's boy, who is something of a cipher, a professional lounger who seduces a girl with serious emotional problems. The question is how much he understands about the moral ramifications of his actions."
Reeves eschews any parallels between himself and the characters he plays, and asks a friend, Frederika, who is with him in his apartment on the Upper East Side, for corroboration. "Would you say I'm an angry person?" he asks her. She replies, "No, you're a teddy bear."
About future goals, he simply says, "I just want to do amazing work with amazing people, and hopefully, before I die, not be too sad and pathetic."