Young Americans (UK), Autumn 1989
Find out why the coolest dude in town is the hottest property in the movie world
When your name means "cool breeze over the mountain" there's every chance you could be a bit of a spacehead. Keanu Reeves, for it is him, gives the impression of being other worldy with his long flowing locks, exotic name and haunting good looks.
The reality could hardly be different. He is jam-packed with energy. It's a wonder he has any time to make movies with all his other interests like motorbiking, playing bass guitar, travelling and just plain hanging out. However he has knocked up quite an impressive selection of work.
There's not much that's traditional about Keanu Reeves. He's 1/4 Hawaiian. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and lived in Australia, New York and Toronto before settling in his current base of Los Angeles.
About the only time Reeves followed formula was when he started out in theatrical acting classes. Even then he flunked out the acting course at the Toronto High School for the Performing Arts. However, he followed this by spending summer at the Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania under the tutelage of Jasper Deeter. It was here he developed his love for the stage with his favourite role to date being Mercutio in 'Romeo and Juliet'.
Although at this time his first love was drama and the theatre, Keanu was in demand in the worlds of film and TV. He made his first film appearance in 'Youngblood' alongside Rob Lowe.
"He's (Rob) all right. We hung out for a while, but all he did was try to steal my girlfriends. He almost had his wicked way with two of them, but eventually they saw through him.'
Reeves followed up with several more films and TV specials including 'Act Of Vengeance' alongside Charles Bronson, 'Under The Influence', 'The Night Before' and took top billing in the Disney Family Movie 'I Wish I Were Eighteen Again'.
But it was in 1987 with his critically acclaimed performance as Matt, the spaced cadet in 'River's Edge', that he started catching some attention.
The Real Reeves was about to show himself. First in 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' about two kids catapulted back in time to avoid failing their history exam.
"I like it although the character's not me personally."
Then another tortuous disaffected teen drama - 'Permanent Record'. It was a low key/low budget worthy film but Keanu Reeves' excellent performance was definitely in the high rent neighbourhood.
It was next that this rising star got his double-sided big break. He made 'Prince Of Pennsylvania' and 'Dangerous Liaisons' back to back.
'Prince of Pennsylvania' was yet another tale of teenage alienation albeit not nearly so downbeat as 'River's Edge' and 'Permanent Record'. So is it merely chance that he plays such disaffected teens?
'It was a coincidence that the parts were similar, but I love playing them. I guess I just like being alienated."
In 'P of P' Reeves is Rupert, the kid who kidnaps his own father and holds him to ransom. The film manages to mix some pretty heavy moments with light comedy. It opened to a mixed reaction but it did prove Keanu Reeves could hold a film pretty much on his own.
His part in 'Dangerous Liaisons' was much more of a supporting role. His part was Danceny, an eighteenth century French nobleman. With such an experienced cast as Malkovich, Close and Pfeiffer it's no surprise that a newcomer like Reeves had a background role. Not that he minded one jot.
"I spent most of my time just drinking wine and cavorting around Paris. I was there for three months, but my part only involved 15 days' work. I got to know the Beaujolais better than the cast.
"It brought out the boy in me. Costumes, pomp and circumstance - the chance to wave sword about. It was great."
He has good words to say on the experience of working with the top people.
"I've never really been to drama school (bit a fib actually - YA) But acting is a process constant learning. And there's no better way to learn than watching professionals at work.
"Glenn Close, John Malkovich ... heaviest actor, man - he's great.
"Cool people, radicals."
Keanu Reeves enjoys sprinkling his speech with L.A. biker type vocabulary. Everything is "weird", "heavy", "cool" or "gnarly." Which isn't that suprising for this weird cool cat has ridden some pretty heavy bikes and gotten himself pretty gnarly in the process. His body is like mini-map with his biking accident scars.
"My body's a wreck." Some wreck!
Keanu Reeves is a genuine original. He's largely self-educated having failed virtually everything while in school.
"I even flunked gym."
Nowadays he's an avid reader with everything from T.S. Eliot to Dostoevsky through books on Greek mythology and physicists. He recently read a book by physicist Stephan Hawking, "One heavy dude", and just finished "Doctor Faustus" by Thomas Mann "I'm like 'WOW!' "
But it's not all heavy reading matter with him. He likes to take off and travel with friends on his bikes, he likes dating lots of girls, he likes playing industrial rock on his bass guitar and in typical Reeves fashion he likes having unusual breakfasts.
"Somedays beer's just the thing!"
Keanu Reeves is a definite mould breaker. He's a one and only.