Speed's Keanu Reeves' shocking first acting job - as a gay man
Hollywood's hottest hunk - as you've never seen him before
by Tony Frost
Hot Hollywood heartthrob Keanu Reeves - whose new movie blockbuster, Speed, is revving up his life - began his acting career in a shocking gay role.
The 29-year-old hunk had a homosexual role in a raunchy low-budget play, Wolfboy, and happily allowed a young fellow actor to kiss and caress him in publicity photos for the steamy Toronto theater production 10 years ago.
"Hundreds of posters using my explicit pictures were plastered around the theater district - and they caused a sensation." photographer David Hlynsky remembers.
"They became a collector's item.
"The city's gay community was turned on by Keanu - and that's still the case. He seems to put out signals that they take note of.
"I'm not saying it's deliberate. But I'm sure that he's willing to cultivate that audience."
Wolfboy was about two tough juvenile delinquents who are placed in a reform school together.
Their homosexual relationship is never consummated on stage, but it's heavily implied.
"Keanu knew the pictures I took were going to have a very jarring, shocking effect," says Hlynsky
"The fact that he's kissing the other actor, Carl Marotte, adds to the danger.
"I know that Keanu and his mother, Patricia, were happy with the pictures because she told me so.
"In fact, his mom asked me for a number of prints. She wanted extra copies to send out to producers and magazines.
"Patricia was an aggressive stage-door mom. She was always with him, always pushing."
But this was not Keanu's only homosexual role.
Later, after he had found success in Hollywood with the teen cult movie, River's Edge, then Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and Point Break, he played a male prostitute in My Private Idaho, which also featured his good friend River Phoenix.
However, instead of embracing the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Keanu adopted a grunge image - growing his hair long and hanging out with Phoenix.
"For a long while he tried to play down the big movie star trip," says an insider.
"He used to turn up at Hollywood receptions with his hair matted and in unkempt, dirty clothes.
"He even came to one party and boasted, 'Last night, I took my first shower in a month.'
"Everyone was really worried about the direction he was taking.
"He just did his own thing and felt that he was invincible."
But two things seem to have pulled him out of his complacency - the death of River Phoenix and Buddhism, which he studied for his role in Little Buddha.
"He was badly shaken up over River's death," says a friend.
"He went for weeks unable to express the depth of his feelings, bottling it all up inside him. But in the end, he turned to Buddhism to pull him through.
"His new-found spiritualism has turned his whole life around.
"He told me, 'Buddhist teachings have brought me inner strength and tranquility. I feel at peace with myself.'
"And he respects his body much more.
"For Speed, he had a personal trainer get him into shape.
."He went to the gym six days a week alternating weight training with aerobics and he was physically sick after his first few sessions.
"But he had changed his life around - and his appearance.
"He has muscles and lives a healthy, clean life. He knows that if he sticks to this regimen, he can command $8 million a movie.
"That's worth staying fit for," adds the friend.
Keanu, the son of an English mother and a Chinese/Hawaiian father, has cultivated the mystique that his own name gives him.
It is pronounced Kee-an-oo and means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian.
This mystery extends to his love life. Keanu has been linked with Sofia Coppola, Lori Petty and Paula Abdul.
He has talked about having "an actress girlfriend - not a well-known one" and in 1992, was pictured leaving L.A.'s Roxbury nightspot with Unlawful Entry star Sherri Rose.
Last year, he was involved with a girl named Autumn Mackintosh.
In one interview, he said his idea of a good time was: "Lying in bed with my lover."
But he insists that these days "there's no one in particular."