by Lea Frydman
His first commercials were for Coca-Cola and corn flakes. In 1991, with the opening of My Own Private Idaho and Heart Blue , he became a rising star in Japan, too. The name Keanu means a cool breeze from the mountains. This interview was done during a break from filming Dracula.
DO YOU REALLY READ YOUR FAN LETTERS AND ANSWER THEM?
Yes, I try to. Some of them make me cry while I am reading. It's a great feeling. When I read letters like that, it makes me aware of how the movies I make affect people.
HOW DO YOU THINK OF YOURSELF AS AN ACTOR?
Acting is the only thing that calms me down. When I am not acting, I'm tense [hyper, nervous, something like that]. People tend to respect actors who suffer & struggle, but well, I think I like the struggle. For me, I think I will become better as an actor as I get older. For that purpose, I'd like to work for many years in the future.
WHO IS THE REAL KEANU? WHAT KIND OF A PERSON?
I am shy, really. I hate to look at my own photos because I look like a very serious & dark person. Sometimes I think I ought to make funny faces. I am not handsome or sexy. Of course, it's not like I am hopeless.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE FILM UP UNTIL NOW?
I Love You to Death. It's really great to be in the same place as Kevin Kline, Tracy Ullman, River Phoenix, William Hurt, all these big stars. I asked River, "It's not a dream, is it? Pinch me a little. I am really here, aren't I?" River laughed.
DESCRIBE YOURSELF WITH THREE WORDS.
Ultimately cool...Am I? (He thought for a while) It's a lie. I just thought that's what you wanted me to say. To be honest, I can't think of three words. Well, if you rephrase your question, how do I want people to think of me? A charming guy? Well, what do you think?
THE RUMOR GOES YOU ARE DATING SOFIA (COPPOLA). ARE YOU?
Yes. I used to say that I wouldn't date an actress because all actresses are egoists... (Sofia interrupted, "Have you said that to me before?" He looked into her eyes and said:) If I try to tell you that you're different than the rest of them, would you believe me?"
WHY DID YOU CUT YOUR HAIR SO SHORT?
(Laughing) It doesn't look good? I cut it for the movie Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. I like it myself. It's easier to put on my helmet when I ride my bike. I am not the type who looks into the mirror all the time. But maybe it's too short?
AREN'T YOU WORRIED THAT FANS WHO SAW YOU IN MOPI MAY THINK YOU'RE GAY?
What? I don't want them to take it like that! The one who played the role of a gay person was River, not me. But I haven't thought about such ideas... Some people might take it like that by mistake. Maybe I ought to worry about it. But I like the story and the movie idea, and I knew River wanted to do the film so I decided to do it. It's fun to work with River. He's got a great sense of humor. When he gets frustrated about something, he really cracks me up.
HOW DO YOU SPEND TIME BETWEEN TAKES?
All silly things. When River is bored he does imitations. He may speak with a strange accent and make his characters German... He always makes me laugh. He could become a comedian.
HOW DID YOU MEET SOFIA?
Since I'm in Dracula. The first time I saw her, I thought she was a snob. She looked at us like we were a disgrace... But we can't blame her. When guys get together we may act strange. And one day after lunch we started talking about different things. For example, that I respect her father as a director & other serious talk. Then I found out Sofia is very shy. She grew up in this big famous family, Italian, warm-hearted. Family life is very important to her. I like that about women....... Sometimes I'm very childish & ride a motorcycle around & things, but Sofia is quite the opposite - really adult & serious. Opposite attraction? Maybe.
WHY DO YOU PLAY DIFFERENT TYPES OF ROLES? ARE YOU TRYING TO LEARN AS AN ACTOR?
Well, that's true, but maybe it's because I get tired easily. I get tired of playing one type. Even playing a great guy gets boring after awhile. I want to play as many different types of roles as possible. I can't keep playing a nice boy type of role. I really admire River. He can play serious & very eccentric roles well. He won the Independent Spirits Award. Did you know? He's great. And John Malcovitch, he's a great actor. Maybe I should add Robert DeNiro. And Johnny Depp! He's probably listening to this interview. (Depp showed up & patted Keanu's shoulder & said, "I'll pay you back later.")
FOR THE LAST FEW YEARS YOU'VE BEEN VERY BUSY, BUT DO YOU STILL MANAGE TO HAVE PRIVATE TIME?
No matter how busy I am, I always read. I read everything. Now it's all Tennessee Williams books. I intend to read all of them. I really like his characters. They are all odd & hiding secrets inside.
DON'T YOU HAVE SOME SECRETS OF YOUR OWN?
Yes... (He moved towards the interviewier and whispered.) Really?... Do you really want to know?...I don't have any. (He laughed.) I haven't even changed my name. Keanu Reeves is my real name. I try not to be influenced by such things as fame or popularity.
HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER YOU MANY YEARS INTO THE FUTURE?
(He paused to think.) When people watch my movies, I want them to laugh and cry. As an actor I think I have the power to draw people to my characters.