HE COMES OFF AS JUST A REGULAR DUDE, MAN, BUT KEANU REEVES IS, LIKE, HOLLYWOOD HOT
by Mal Vincent, Entertainment writer
"HEY MAN, HOW'S it hanging?" Keanu Reeves said as he brushed his jet-black hair off his forehead and flopped down in a chair.
Dressed in baggy trousers and tennis shoes, he'd arrived on his motorcycle, refusing to accept the limousine the studio sent to bring him to the interview.
"I like to keep it simple," he said. "I don't own anything. I mean, a house or anything. I have a little place in New York, for when I go there, but life is pretty simple. I dig Hollywood but, you know, just on the terms that they give me a job and I do it. That's what it's all about."
Keanu Reeves is the new breed of movie star. He's been in a half-dozen films in the past several years, and, as they say in the film industry, he's hot.
From all indications, no one has told him yet. He specializes in spaced-out, kooky teen roles, although, at 26, he has the bearing, and look, of a romantic leading man and has to face up to it.
He's appeared with Glenn Close and is currently in two widely different flicks - "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" and "Point Break."
Is he worried about his kooky, underachiever image?
"It doesn't bother me except if it means that I wouldn't get some acting job," he said. "I never played but one real space cadet, and that was in ‘Love Me to Death,' so I don't think I really have an image. The guy in ‘Love Me to Death' had checked out. He never had a chance.
"You may be thinking about Ted, but Ted is not spaced out. I love Ted. It changed my life when I played Ted. It tapped a part of my life I hadn't seen. There's a lot of joy in that guy. He just wants to be cool and have some fun. He's innocent, and he's hopeful. I want to live like him."
In marked contrast is what he calls his "super-straight" part as an undercover FBI agent who poses as a surfer in "Point Break."
"That guy is named Johnny Utah. Can you imagine playing somebody named Johnny Utah? It sounds like a Western or something, man. Johnny Utah is not like me at all. He's pretty uptight, but he loosens up when he learns how to surf and all that."
At the moment, Reeves was looking out the window at the beach at Santa Monica, Calif. The waves were tiny, practically non-existent, but he clearly would rather have been out there.
"I had to learn the surfing thing, but it wasn't hard. There are a lot of different types of surfers. They were cool to me. They didn't treat me like some Hollywood guy who was trying to get on their wave. Maybe it helped that I'm part Hawaiian. They like Hawaiians." (His name, pronounced Key-ah-new, means "Cool Breeze Over the Mountain" in Hawaiian.)
Reeves liked, even more, the sky diving that was required for "Point Break," a movie that has been praised for its action scenes but condemned for its rather simple, and unlikely, plot.
"Eventually, the producers had to threaten the actors with loss of pay or lawsuits if we didn't stop jumping. They thought we might get hurt. Patrick (Swayze, his co-star) and I loved it. It's great when, at 12,500 feet, you pull the cord. If you ever get a chance to do it, say yes."
Female fans have hailed Reeves as the hunk of the year, but he shrugs it off. Most fans who recognize him on the street from "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" and "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" are, he said, "little girls, about 9 years old who thank me for the movie and ask for an autograph. They're very shy and very sweet. I never refuse to sign."
He was hesitant, though, about doing a second "Bill and Ted" movie. The first one, in 1989, was "a mild theatrical hit," he said, but "it took off as a party tape when it got to video.
"We didn't want to just regurgitate the first film. It wasn't a matter of money. Bill and Ted are sacred to us. I mean, they represent an energy and a hope. We wanted them to get older, and we wanted them to do something new."
That "something new" turned out to be Bill and Ted meeting what Reeves calls "the ugly red source of all evil," the devil, as well as the Grim Reaper.
The movie is "very different and very funny," Reeves said. "I want everybody to come out of it and yell, 'Excellent, awesome.' Yeah, I hope they dig it. If not, well, life goes on, man."
TOO OLD FOR ROMEO?
Peter Falk, Reeves' co-star in "Tune in Tomorrow," once said that "Keanu is one crazy kid, but wise. There is a wisdom there."
If anything, he is the epitome of the boy-man, or perhaps the child-man. His appeal, on screen, extends to older women who would like to mother him or teach him how to grow up.
Reeves is not happy about hitting the old age of 26. "At 25, you have the whole world ahead of you. I hit 26, and it's a strange feeling. It's a part of the human condition, I guess. It happens."
Reeves' mother is English, and his father is Chinese-Hawaiian. He was born in Beirut, Lebanon ("My parents were cavorting, and that was one of their stops") and brought up in Toronto.
At 16, a mere 10 years ago, he decided he wanted to be an actor, after several local theater productions in Toronto. He studied Shakespeare and played at the Hedgerow Theater in Pennsylvania.
"Do you think I'm too old now, at 26, to play Romeo?" he asked. "I'd like to do Hamlet, but I'm not ready. Shakespeare is the greatest. The top rung of being an actor is when they can handle Shakespeare."
His movie career started with "The River's Edge." After rave reviews for his role as a troubled teenager, the offers began coming in. He was in the teen-suicide drama "Permanent Record" and, with Fred Ward and Amy Madigan, the comedy "The Prince of Pennsylvania."
INTO THESE HILLS
The huge scar on his stomach, visible during the love scene in "Point Break," is not makeup. It's the remnants of a serious motorcycle accident in Los Angeles.
"It was about 2 1/2 years ago. I was going too fast, and I hit a mountain. I guess it's better than going off a mountain. Actually, what I hit was a curb, I guess.
"Anyway, I landed on my back a good ways away, and these two little kids came over, looking at me. I remember them looking down at me, and they said, ‘Man, yeah, you really flew.' It was a really cool moment, but the doctors had to cut me open."
It's typical of his thinking that he's against mandatory motorcycle helmet laws yet favors wearing a helmet.
"It should be open to choice. There are too many laws telling people what to do. Some people just want to control other people. They should, instead, reason with them. People will always make the right choice if they've got the right information."
Next, Reeves will be seen starring with River Phoenix in "My Private Idaho," set for release in October. He plays a street hustler in what he calls "the carnival of the streets."
"It's going to be a little picture," he said. "You know, the great thing about acting is that you can be anybody. You can learn surfing or whatever you have to learn and, for a little while, you can be that person.
"I never leave any of my characters behind. They'll always be with me, once I play them."