Young Americans (UK), Spring 1989
Keanu Reeves - the Prince
Prince Charming or clown Prince? There's a bit of both to Keanu Reeves.
After spending several years hovering around the film scene in small but worthy roles, 23-year-old Keanu Reeves has moved centre-screen. 'Prince of Pennsylvania' was his own quirky starring vehicle and he now also appears in the Oscar-touted 'Dangerous Liaisons'. Not bad for a guy who sees himself as "Joe Q. Actor, lining up to get my turn to audition."
It's part of Reeves' policy to maintain a certain distance between himself and Hollywood. He doesn't like teen movies, or mention of the 'Brat Pack', and is more concerned with securing good theatre rotes than constantly splashing himself across the screen.
Keanu Reeves has always been that step sideways from his fellow actors, preferring to avoid the Hollywood film machine. "I'm just a cog in the wheel. You've got to keep your distance from all that." Yet at the same time he's a bit of a mercenary sort, claiming he'd do anything for money.
"Soaps, sit-coms, dramas, I don't care. What would I do for a million bucks? Absolutely anything, I'm shameless!"
Statements like this are more endearing than off-putting when you realise that Keanu Reeves is only half serious. Truly, this guy just wants to have fun!
Born in Beirut, Lebanon, he lived in Australia, New York and Toronto before settling down in his present home of Los Angeles. With such a nomadic childhood, it's no surprise that travelling is one of his great loves and he confesses to having spent all his recent money bumming around America with friends and motorbikes. In typical Reeves style, for one who has seen Munich, Paris, London and Rome, he says he'd prefer to live on a remote island.
The nomadic influences have spread into his work too. He's been here and there and back again already in his short career.
Keanu Reeves started out acting while he was still in High School. The four different schools that he attended in five years didn't help his studies but with his tutors giving him "great support", he was able to realise his obvious potential.
His first screen credits came with the Canadian TV series 'Hanging In'. Two years later, having survived flunking out of the acting course at the Toronto High School for Performing Arts, he did a summer course at the Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania. It was here that he discovered he had a strong affinity to the theatre with his all-time favourite role being Mercutio in 'Romeo and Juliet'.
However, it's films and TV that pay the rent and all the "bumming about" projects that Keanu loves to undertake, and thankfully his Star was on the up and up.
'Youngblood' in 1986 alongside Rob Lowe was a good bit of exposure. When it comes to Lowe himself, Keanu Reeves is guarded, only mentioning that the handsome one tried to have his winsome way with two of his (Reeves) girlfriends. "But eventually they saw through him".
'Youngblood' was a star vehicle for Rob Lowe and obviously Keanu Reeves' part was small. Not only small but very normal. Since then, he's appeared in a variety of off-the-wall guises.
First with Charles Bronson in 'Act of Vengeance' where he played a psychotic assassin. Then came 'Under The Influence', his role as an alcoholic teenager. Before his best part to date in the critically acclaimed 'River's Edge', Reeves managed to fit in a Disney movie 'I Wish I Were Eighteen Again'. Psychopaths and Walt Disney! It's no surprise that he says, "I love irony". Quite.
'River's Edge' was a disturbing thought-provoking study of a group of kids and their reaction to a murder in their midst. Based on a real-life incident, the film made gripping viewing and big names for its leading protagonists Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves.
Another Reeves U-turn followed as he completed 'Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure'. A fantasy piece where two teenagers are catapulted back through time to avoid a vital history exam, it's the opposite end of the film lens from the superrealism of 'River's Edge'.
By now, Keanu Reeves had enough of a rep to carry his own movie. 'Prince Of Pennsylvania is just that film.
Rupert Marshetta is a rebel coming of age in a small Pennsylvania coal mining town. Rupert is no James Dean rebel clone however, he sports a sei one-sided bob haircut and Day-Glo gear. He just doesn't fit in. It's tempting to see Rupert as a version of Keanu himself bucking the Hollywood system and just being himself. However, as he admits, he wasn't so different.
"When I used to go out in Pittsburgh after filming, little old ladies would say 'I think he looks cute'."
Unfortunately, nobody really went a bundle on the film, critics or audiences. Reeves doesn't seem either disappointed or surprised.
"When it opened in New York the audience hated it. They supposedly didn't like the essence of the son-father relationship.
"I didn't think the film would do too well but I'm not really bothered."
One film that will do well is his latest - 'Dangerous Liaisons'. It's heady, Oscar-winning sort of stuff set during the French revolution and a chance for Reeves to return to his theatrical origins. Also working alongside Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer was a chance not to be missed.
And that is just what Keanu Reeves is - a chance taker. He probably will never be an international star with a private jet or a yacht but he will have his motorcycle and he will bum round the world and he will still make his sort of movies.