Full Speed Ahead
(Previously published on April 27 as a longer version under the title 'Easy life?')
by Emma Cochrane
Keanu Reeves wants to get something off his chest. And we don't mean his shirt either! Here he talks exclusively to Smash Hits about his own private, um, life, turning 30, and the death of his best Friend, River Phoenix!
"Don't they know I'm just a doomed dog!" This is Keanu Reeves trying to explain himself, but he's not doing very well. Oh, he's talking alright about everything under the sun but he's just not making much sense. Maybe it's nerves. And he has every reason to be nervous. It's been a weird six months. Real weird. In that time he has "found" Buddhism, survived an earthquake, realised that he's fast approaching 30 (on the second of September), his best friend, River Phoenix, has died, and his new movie, Speed, is tipped to be the biggest one of his career.
In LA it's an overcast day. Keanu is dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt and a brown suede shirt - "a Christmas present". He is pale, but looks healthier than when he finished filming the film Little Buddha, which left him more than a stone underweight. His hair is short compared with its fringeflopping Bill & Ted days, and his only companions are publicity people who flap around arranging things in the background. This is Keanu's first meeting with the press for six months and he's a changed man. In Little Buddha he plays the mythical Prince Siddhartha, one of the founding fathers of Buddhism. The eastern religion has obviously left its mark on him, and at one point he even thought of converting.
It's hard to get a coherent sentence out of Keanu at the best of times but right now it is nigh on impossible. The difference is, he is trying much harder. He really wants to show that he's grown up.
"The character I play goes through everything, realising about old age and death," Keanu says by way of an explanation, "and I think that going through that for a few months imprinted a kind of sensitivity on me. You know, made me a little more patient?"
Despite having a go at meditation and trying to take on board other Buddhist ideas - this superstar even mucked in with making the dinner - there was one thing Keanu just couldn't achieve for the film: the lotus position, a cross-legged sitting position Buddhists use for meditating.
"It was impossible. I only reached it for 20 seconds, once! It was terrible! I felt very embarrassed because I just couldn't achieve the position that's integral to that experience. In the end they just had to cover my legs!"
Closer to home, another embarrassing experience for Keanu was the earthquake in LA.
"I jumped out of bed and fled my house," he laughs about his reaction to being shaken awake in the middle of the night. "Then I ran back and got dressed, haha!"
Apart from the earthquakes, LA life suits him. He moved there from Toronto, Canada, when he was 19 and now has his own house and, of course, his band, Dog Star.
"Yeah, we played the other day, jammin' in the garage, but now I'm going to London to do this film!" Johnny Mnemonic, his follow-up to the recently completed Speed. "They also have work to do, so we'll have to get together again after that. We want to go on tour."
He's leaving potential pop stardom a little late, though. For on September 2 Keanu turns the big three-o. He's looking apprehensive again...
"I haven't been struck by the 30 number yet. And yes, I guess I'm single," he adds, anticipating suggestions that his looming "old age" might cause him to settle down.
"I've known some incredible women, but I've never proposed. I've never been proposed to!" Yet marriage and children are definitely on his mind. "Oh, my God! Yes, it inspires everything. It's driving me crazy! You know I was just going along and (hits himself on the forehead) I'm like, what is this?"
Perhaps only he knows what it is. The recent death of his friend River Phoenix made Keanu step back and take a long look at his life. The two became very close when they starred together in My Own Private Idaho and it's still difficult for Keanu to talk about the loss.
"I just miss him very much," Keanu says simply, when asked about the tragic event. "I was downstairs in my house when a friend told me - they had heard about River on the radio..." He trails off into silence.
In fact, Keanu was so shocked at River's death that he didn't leave his house for more than a week, not even answering the door to his friends. Today though, there are signs that he can cope better, and it could be the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation has given him a means to deal with his friend's death. He can even smile.
"Where is Mr. Phoenix going?" he asks himself in a mysterious voice, laughing, "I don't know!"
But he believes in reincarnation?
"Yes, you know, I almost take it for granted."
So, how will Keanu come back?
He looks above him searching for the right words.
"I'll be coming back as a cat."