WIPED OUT BY ROLE, REEVES DOVE INTO IT
by Luaine Lee
It's not enough just to play a role in a movie anymore. Often you have to learn to do things that would shock your high school gym teacher.
For his role in Point Break, Keanu Reeves had to learn to surf, sky-dive, fight, play football, handle an arsenal of weapons and nurse a field of cuts and bruises.
"It was great, man," says Reeves.
The young actor, who first gained attention in River's Edge, has been one of the busiest performers in Hollywood since. He appears in Point Break, which opened two weeks ago, and in Bill and Ted's Bogus Adventure, which opened last weekend. He has co-starred in Parenthood, Dangerous Liaisons and Tune in Tomorrow.
When he took the role in Point Break, he'd never dived out of an airplane or climbed onto a surf board before.
Patrick Swayze, who became proficient at it, did all his own jumps in the film. For Reeves, they cheated a little, though he vividly remembers his skydiving training in Perris, Calif.
"I did an advance jump. You pull your own cord jumping at 12,500 feet. You jump with two jump masters. Once you go out of the plane, they wait for you to do your arch, and if you maintain control they let you go. Then they go, 'Pull.' "
But Reeves didn't pull. "I was just like, 'Wow! . . . Ground.' Then I looked up and pulled about 400 feet later."
In Point Break, Reeves plays a hotshot FBI agent who infiltrates a gang of surfers suspected of robbing banks. When he first read the script, he was intrigued by the language and the action, he says.
"The language in the film -- it's its own world, right? It's a point-break world. And it reminded me of (director) Walter Hill and a little of (playwright) Sam Shepard. The character himself is a highly motivated, competitive person," says Reeves.
The world of surfing is unique, he says, with its own social strata. "The bottom line is to surf," he says, tapping the table in front of him."You've gotta commit. You can't just walk in.
"Surfing demands time and respect, energy and commitment. There are the professional surfers, the weekend warriors, the radical guys, the big-wave guys in Hawaii who ride 60-foot waves. They ride them at 50 to 60 miles an hour on 12-foot boards called 'guns.' Wow. And those guys are alive, man."
Even with the FBI, where Reeves underwent arms training, he discovered two kinds of agents. "I met older cats who were cowboys and I met some young, idealistic men. As an FBI agent you are trained with more weapons than you can even imagine," he says.
"It's not like being a cop. You're dealing with large crime. One of these older cats told me, 'You don't join the FBI out of a sense of right or wrong. You don't join the FBI for justice. You join the FBI for power. And if you could, you'd do it for free.' "
Reeves, who was born in Beirut but grew up in Canada, never finished high school. He began acting in Toronto in local theater productions and did some television work. Later he studied at Hedgerow Theatre in Pennsylvania.
He tends to trail off into his own world when he's acting, he says. Though director Kathryn Bigelow was very demanding on the set of Point Break, she was kind to Reeves. "She indulged me a bit. I mean, even to give me the part, I was indebted to her," he says.