Keanu Reeves King!
A Spiritual Adventure
To his fans, Keanu has always been a god, but, in his new film, Little Buddha, Keanu gets to play one for real - the spiritual leader Buddha, otherwise known as Prince Siddhartha. The story of a young boy's journey back in time to meet the prince. Little Buddha is one mystical tale, indeed! And for its star, it was an experience, he says he'll never forget.
Filming in the Himalayas, India and Bhutan must have been an amazing experience. How did that affect you?
It was very intense. I packed one suitcase, most of it was books, and just went and tried to be really open to it. I was very happy to be in Kathmandu, down these 900-year-old city streets with cows and children and houses that barely have electricity.
How much did you know about Buddhism before getting into this project?
I didn't know anything. I didn't know the story of Siddhartha or anything else, for that matter.
Then how did you learn about Buddhism and your character?
It was such a crash course, literally 90 days of total immersion. As an actor, I'm trying to portray the princely Siddhartha. That was my concern: to have this man, Siddhartha, live; the Prince Siddhartha of the fables, not the real man. I took it mostly from a couple of fable interpretations of Buddha; of how he was born with the signs and lived in three palaces, never seeing old age and never seeing death; never seeing sickness. So I was just trying to put that across, to manifest emotionally and physically what it would be like to see an old man for the first time when you're a prince, but not quite horror. What's going to happen to me? Am I going to get sick? Why is that? What is crying? That's how I wanted to do it. That was my inspiration.
This must have been a challenging role for you. Could you relate to the character in any way?
I'm of that age, 29, so I'm historically, traditionally in the spiritual quest part of my life, the beginnings of the quest of spirituality.
Do you find that, in general, you're playing more of a boy than a man in your films?
I'm sort of a boy-man. I'm in the middle, the transition. I'm certainly not playing the commander of an army or the father of eight. I don't necessarily want to be in high school or losing my virginity or at that time when you're 16. Hopefully, I'll be able to find parts that will be interesting and entertaining.
What is the most valuable thing you personally gained from Little Buddha?
Uh ... I guess the learning, the reading that I did and, obviously, trying to reflect the sensation of suffering. Learning how to meditate. It really was an eye-opener just knowing and believing that there is more than meets the eye. You know what I mean? Waking up and working and just thanking God - that's not all there is. There's never just what there seems, there's always more. And I guess a kind of acceptance of people, things and happenings.
So it was a spiritual type of experience?
Yeah. It was such a joy, man, some of the best days of my life in acting and in film. I mean, it was just so full, and working on something like that is beyond entertainment. It's really what you hope your art, craft and entertainment will do - give you a little push toward passion, understanding and enjoyment of life existence toward yourself and other people.
Do you have a favourite scene in the movie?
My favourite scene to do was the Sadhu, the long-haired Siddhartha, the kind of yogi, going into the river, talking to the moose.
Do you think that now you have to leave the whole Bill And Ted thing behind and move on another level of acting?
To a certain extent. I thought it was great clown work and I'm very lucky to have had the opportunity to work in different genres. I mean, the only consistency I can see, upon reflection, is this innocence. There's always innocence in my characterisation and in my life. So that's got to change. It's changing, but I like that kind of comedy and I hope that I can keep it. I've been very lucky to do Bill And Ted or Point Break and to do Buddha, I mean, gosh!
What about your music career?
My music career (laughs), I don't have a music career!
What about your band, Dark Star?
Dark Star! (hoots) Woooooooo! Well, one thing I can say is that we are not a pretentious band. That could be a knock against us because, I think, in rock 'n' roll a little pretension goes a long way. We played in the garage the other day. It was a bitchin' jam. We hope to tour in the summer (laughs).
Is it casual or do you want to be a rock star?
I would like to make some good music. But I certainly have no ambitions to do this all the time. I'm not a musician in that sense. But, ah... I'll play in a bar, that's for sure, if they ask me. "You guys want to play?" Yeah, sure, cool!
If you believe in reincarnation, what do you think you were in your past life?
In my human reincarnation? Actually, I don't think I've been human all the time.