A sex symbol for the 90s
... black hair that's almost brown, long slim surfer's muscles, exotic cheekbones and dark unreadable eyes...
by Cyd Capriati
Keanu Reeves is fast becoming an un-disputed Hollywood sex god. Here in the UK, poll after poll of British women continue to name him their Number One big-screen idol. His clinging wet suits in "Point Break" and the regular sight of his muscled body have gone a long way to making the 28-year-old actor a hot property.
Part of Keanu's appeal comes from the laid back, easy going attitude to life that is quickly becoming his trade mark. Phrases like, "I'm not hardcore," and, "I have a lot happening for me," have given him a cool, hippy-like image that sends the chicks wild.
Faced with Keanu at the back of a restaurant in Central Park, it's easy to forget that you're sitting across from the movie industry's premier pin-up. For a start, Keanu loves to dress down, almost to the point where he's only one step away from the homeless who roam the city's streets. His jeans are tattered and dirty, his hair unkempt. There's a three-day stubble on his chin and he squirms in his chair like a restless adolescent who has better things to do than talk about himself.
But he does. When asked about his heart-throb image, he gives a typical Keanu reply.
"I'm no babe magnet," he says without a flicker of emotion. "All those women must be having a day off today because I don't see any screaming legions of babes out of the window."
It's this basic ignorance of his appeal that continues to drive everyone mad. On the set of his latest film "The Little Buddha," filmed in Nepal, Keanu began to get to grips with the ancient art of meditation. However that wasn't the only thing that grabbed his attention. Reports back from the studio say that Katmandu turned out to have its fair share of babes with more earthy matters on their mind. Keanu was in particularly good shape, having lost a fair bit of weight for the film, but insists -- in his own special way -- that weight watching is not a major concern.
"I know what it feels like to be in good shape," he says, "but I don't work at it all the time. If I don't go to the gym, well, that's okay. It's not a priority of mine."
He comes over, on-screen and off, as the *real* new lad, whose tastes may be blokeish (the bikes, the band) but who is nonetheless in touch with the feminine in himself -- the Keanu who goes to pieces when his friend dies in "Permanent Record" and who didn't baulk at playing a gay hooker in "My Own Private Idaho." He likes to flirt, "it's playful to hang out and talk," he smiles, he has female friends and handles the difficult position of a male sex symbol with a kind of passive grace. He's a sex symbol for the 90s.
His first name is Hawaiian and roughly translates as 'cool breeze over the mountains' which is a pretty fair description of his character. He was born in Beirut in 1961 to a British mother and a Chinese-Hawaiian father, but was brought up by his mother when his parents split up.
Keanu studied at the High School of Performing Arts in Toronto, before picking up his first pay check from a Coke commercial at 16, along with a role in a Toronto TV show called "Hanging In." His educational track record isn't the greatest -- he dropped out of school after flunking everything -- "even gym". The Performing Arts School ditched him because he talked too much. His teachers thought he was hyperactive.
He was 21 when he moved to LA. His first major Stateside film role was in "River's Edge" and he's been working ever since. His projects range from risky art house stuff to blockbuster roles like his surfing FBI agent in "Point Break." (He once used the combat skills he was taught on the set to rescue a girl from muggers.) Keanu has enough work to keep him going at the moment, but he doesn't take his career for granted. "It's that balance of what the fates afford and what you create for yourself," he explains.
To a certain extent, he created his role in the "Much Ado About Nothing." To get himself a part, he flew to England just to tell Kenneth Branagh he was available if he was needed. He took the part for what, by American standards, must have been peanuts and lived in shared accommodation where self-catering was all part of the bargain. The two cast members he shared with put newspaper down in the kitchen to stop him making a mess! He was rather put out that his UK fans were so surprised to see him in Shakespeare.
He rushes from project to project, but it would be a mistake to think he doesn't pause in between. The question on most people's lips is: Who does he spend his spare time with?
Everyone wants to know what Keanu thinks about women, but it's a subject which he's so loathe to discuss that he comes across as almost inarticulate in his attempts to dodge the issue.
"These days I don't, uh, have a girlfriend. But it's kind of weird saying it out loud like this." Even though he denies having a woman in his life, it's impossible to tell if it's actually true. His drive for privacy regularly takes him well off the celebrity-beaten track. It's not often the paparazzi manage to pin him down and when they do, he's normally alone and looking surly.
Romantically, he's been seen around with "Point Break" co-star Lori Petty, Paula Abdul (he appeared in her "Rush Rush" video) and Sophia Coppola (director Francis Ford Coppola's daughter). But his love affairs all seem to have been pretty low key.
So, if he actually went out looking for a girlfriend, what type of woman would he want? What in a woman attracts him? What excites him?
"Gosh! I don't know," he says smiling. "Many things. I don't have a particular taste. I mean, I'm not looking for a redhead or something. It's not, like, 'Oh, she's got to be out there doing this particular thing'." He pauses and then adds, "but I actually don't think there's anything that I don't like about women."
When his babe magnet image gets too much for him, Keanu has a passion that takes him away from it all -- fast. The 1974 Norton Commando, the Harley Davidson, the Moto Guzzi and the dirt bike. Bombing around the hills behind Hollywood at 130 miles-per-hour -- without a helmet, of course -- meant his insurance was a little on the high side. "I work to pay my motorcycle insurance," he says, laughing.
Keanu Reeves, with his black hair that's almost brown, his long slim surfer's muscles, his exotic cheekbones and dark unreadable eyes, may seem surly and irritable. He may occasionally seem like his airhead character from the Bill and Ted films. But at times he lets the mask slip and a glimpse of the deep, complex man behind him emerges. He has a sharp wit and an easy sense of humour and when he's discussing his acting, he describes it in the terms of an intellectual, drawing on philosophy and psychology. The silent, brooding Keanu Reeves is the one at the front to keep the world at bay, but behind that, there's a well hidden, private Keanu that he keeps to himself.
Do you enjoy being single?
"It's kind of lonely."
Are you interested in a relationship?
"Yeah, my heart and dick are out. But I don't have a feeling about it. If you know of a good, expensive, elite prostitute agency, if you have a card, I'd like to know."
--> "When I see stuff in L.A. now, I realise how safe and sheltered my upbringing was. We didn't even do graffiti."
--> "I'm one of those kids without a Dad. I saw him last when I was about 15. For ten minutes. Yeah, man, of course it's heavy."
--> "I'm not the best dressed man in town. As long as my clothes are clean and they fit, I put them on."
--> "I'm just a bourgeois white boy from Toronto."
--> "I don't wanna live a stupid life. I'm going to, I know I'm doomed, I'm just a dog. But I'm trying to shake the dog, y'know?"