On solid ground
by Bob Thompson
HOLLYWOOD - Keanu Reeves likes to be challenged, but his Point Break part nearly took him to the breaking point. "I really got worked," admits the former Toronto actor who plays an undercover FBI agent trying to bust Patrick Swayze's surf gang
Besides taking FBI courses for Kathryn Bigelow's action picture (which opens today), Reeves' role also required him to learn how to surf, play quarterback and skydive.
That's right - skydive, although he adds jokingly: "I did all my running, and all my acting. The only thing I didn't do was the free fall."
There was a method to his acting madness however.
For the sake of emotional authenticity, Reeves says he tried some jumps at a skydiving school just outside of L.A. He remembers the four hours of training. He recalls the airplane lifting off the runway, and he remembers leaving the plane at 12,500 feet.
"And I said, wow - ground'," says Reeves smirking just a little at the recollection. He managed to pull the cord before he got too wowed.
He even jumped a few more times, but admits he couldn't come close to Swayze's mastery of the pastime.
Still, says Reeves, "It was pretty radical."
Even more radical? Reeves busy agenda, which is underscored by the release of Point Break, the sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (out next week) and My Own Private Idaho (set for later this year).
Presently, Point Break is on his mind. "When I first read the script it kinda reminded me of Walter Hill and a little bit of Sam Shepard."
But later he realized it was a Kathryn Bigelow. "Because it's her movie, man," Reeves says. "And it's not just pure, adrenalin eye candy."
It has style and grace and intensity. "And really cool lines," Reeves says.
And it gave him an opportunity to check out worlds he had never fully appreciated before.
Surfing, for instance. "It demands time, respect, energy, and commitment," he suggests.
"I was introduced to a lot of surfers, and I realized there are all kinds. There are the professional surfers, the weekend warriors, the radical guys, and the big wave guys who ride 60-footers. Hawaiian style. Those guys are alive, bud."
His stint with the FBI was another story.
"Yeah, I met the FBI," says the un-FBI-like Reeves. "I met the older cats who are the cowboys, and the idealistic guys who really believe in what they are doing."
And this is what be remembers most.
"This older cat goes, 'You don't join the FBI out of a sense of right or wrong. You don't join the FBI for justice. You join for power!"
"He says to me - and he really dug this part - 'If you call the head of GM he'll be on the phone in 10 seconds'."
Yeah, telephones. Reeves talks into telephones a lot these days.
After his memorable 'goof' roles in River's Edge, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Parenthood and I Love You To Death, Reeves' career is entering a new and improved level in the industry.
"It's not the scariest part of my life," he says thoughtfully, "but then is a lot at mystery, because I don't know what my next acting job is."
Fact is Reeves has been offered development opportunities, which is code for leading man gets movie made, "which is making me think about questions I've never asked before."
"It's heavy," he insists, pausing to consider how heavy. "It's responsibility when you have to decide what to do with your choices."
It's something he never considered before, because he wasn't offered choices.
Add to his dilemma personal priorities. "I want to live my life a little, and see friends. So I'm asking a lot of questions that have nothing to do with movies."
All Reeves knows for certain is this.
"I'm 26 and something happened when I went from 25 to 26," he says. "I started asking myself, 'What am I doing here and what's going on?'"
So far, he doesn't have the answers. "They're looming," he says with a sheepish grin.
In the meantime, he's sure about one thing.
"I'm not a movie star," says Reeves. "I'm not because I don't want to be. I just want people to dig what I do."
That's why suffering for his part is such a small sacrifice.