Keanu Reeves takes a most excellent route to stardom
by Jackie K. Cooper
Keanu fever has struck. The young actor who labored for years doing good work in good films has come into his own. He's risen out of the stereotyped "male bimbo" niche and into the mainstream.
Reeves has a reputation as being a guy who likes to flirt with danger, but in person he plays this quality down.
"I'm no warrior!" says Reeves. "I mean, I ride a motorcycle ... but so? That's just something I do for fun. Everybody does that. I'm not going to start bungi jumping or anything totally radical."
Keanu sounds a little defensive about his behavior, but there is no reason for it. Thus far, no insurance company has refused to insure him on a film, and no director has kicked him off the set for taking too many risks. He is just a guy who likes to get some kicks, and he does it in adventurous ways.
Keanu is cool -- the coolest. He has become the icon of the hour with his super-popular role as the radical Ted of 'Bill And Ted' fame. Whether he's playing his air guitar or pulling a "melvin" on an unsuspecting grim reaper, Ted is totally awesome to the younger generation.
In person, Reeves is not unlike the whimsical Ted. He has the same shaggy haircut, the same rumpled clothes, and the same sweaty aura. His hair continually falls in front of his eyes and he constantly pushes it back. And while the constant fidgeting can get on your nerves, the charm of his personality wins you over.
The secret weapon of Reeves' charm arsenal is his sense of humor, thoughit is not obvious at first. You get some words out of him that are mumbled, more that are jumbled, and others sound fumbled. But that's just a part of his act. Keanu knows exactly who he is and what he is doing at all times.
As he warms up in an interview, the words become more coherent and the information flows -- and then the humor appears..
Looking at his recent work, he acknowledges there has been a lot of it. In fact, one week in July found a virtual Keanu Reeves film festival in every town in America. You couldn't turn on your MTV without seeing Keanu and Paula Abdul recreating James Dean and Natalie Wood's roles in 'Rebel Without A Cause' as Paula purred "Rush, Rush." Plus, 'Point Break' garnered good reviews, and then 'Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey' followed with a strong opening. It was a high point for Reeves.
"Yeah, that was pretty awesome," he says with a push of his hair. "But it just happened. It wasn't like I had planned it all to happen at the same time. It just did. I'm just glad I got all that work.
"After those two, I still had 'My Own Private Idaho', and then I was unemployed," he continued. "You don't know if you going to get more work or not. It just depends on whether what you do is successful. Whether the people like it or it makes any money."
Then he gives a grin that makes you think maybe he did have it all planned. "You just give it your best shot and hope it comes out alright."
In making sure his career has gotten his "best shot," Reeves has appeared in every type of role from the male buddy film 'Bill And Ted' to the brooding and romantic 'Dangerous Liaisons'. He is one of the few teen idols who can cross the boundary between generations and stay popular with both.
Patrick Swayze may have been the reason a lot of older women flocked to see 'Point Break', but they stayed out of appreciation for Mr. Reeves' charms.
"That movie was a real kick," Reeves explains. With his body poised atop an imaginary surfboard, he adds, "I got to do most of my own stunts. I did just about all the surfing stuff -- especially the falls. The falls were all mine. I got real good at them.
"I didn't do the skydiving stuff. Patrick did all of his -- all of it. It was just so great when he did it. I mean, he was standing there in that one scene in the door of the plane and he said 'Adios, amigo' and he was out of there."
Keanu did manage to get in one jump on his own while filming. "I went out on a Saturday with some instructors. They were jump masters and they tag along to make sure everything goes alright. They have you run through some exercises while you're there to make sure you aren't freaking out.
"I really loved it. I mean, I was scared and all, but once you get out and are just hanging it is great. You are supposed to pull at a thousand feet but I was having such a good time I pulled at seven hundred and fifty. That isn't too bad. Some of the real adrenalin junkies pull at four hundred and fifty or something wild like that!"
As he talks about all this excitement, his face glows. It is obvious he loves the thrill of such risk.
"But I'm no warrior," he repeats. "Those guys just live for that stuff, and I can't do that. I have to worry about my next acting role and what I am going to be doing there. Some of these guys are just able to worry about making enough money to move them to the next thrill or a bigger wave."
'My Own Private Idaho' was Reeves' next thrill after 'Point Break', and it was a movie he desperately wanted to make. Still, even as he was making it, he realized a story with homosexual overtones might be a tough sell with the general public.
"I think you have to see that it is just a movie about love," he says with earnest conviction. "It isn't a movie about male prostitutes ... well it is, but it isn't. It is because River [Phoenix] and I both play guys who are male prostitutes or hustlers. But the movie is really about love and the search for it.
"And the film is just a collage of emotions and scenes. It moves from one experience to the next and one image to the next. It is..." and his voice trails off. "Well, it's just a movie about love."
When it comes to preparing for a role, Reeves gives his all. And when it comes to accepting a variety of roles, he obviously keeps an open mind. This has led him to a background rich in variety. He has appeared in the cult favorite 'River's Edge', the little seen 'Prince of Pennsylvania', and the mass appealing 'Parenthood'.
"I just want to act," he says. "I want to be able to do it all and keep doing it forever."