REEVES PROUD OF DIVERSE 'LITTLE BUDDHA,' 'SPEED' ROLES
(Previously published on June 9 as a longer version under the title 'Reeves Enjoys the Role - Any Role')
by Jack Garner, Gannett News Service
Keanu Reeves is described as "a reluctant star" by "Speed" producer Mark Gordon. But reluctant or not, Reeves is definitely a star.
So says Dennis Hopper, who co-starred in "Speed." Hopper also worked with Reeves in the Reeves' first major film, "The River's Edge," in 1986.
"Most of the good actors are introspective," Hopper says. "And Keanu's that way. Of the actors who began with me in films in 1955, 98 percent were gone from the business after three years. ... But Keanu has worked his way through that phase... He's going to stick around."
Reeves is perceived by his co-workers and friends as a shy, humble, gracious guy. And on this day in Manhattan, the 29-year-old actor lines up with that image. But he objects to the idea of "image."
"I don't work out of any reaction to my 'image,' " he says. "Image is something that comes from someone else, after the fact. I'm more interested in the process of acting, and in the characters I play. I don't want to do the same character again and again."
That's why Reeves is proud to be seen in "Speed" and "Little Buddha" within the same month. The former offers an action hero in a thrill ride, the latter features Reeves as Siddhartha, the prince who becomes Buddha, the most peaceful and restrained human being on Earth.
"It's good that they're both out now," Reeves says, simply. "Diversity is something I'm interested in."
In truth, Reeves has had considerable variety in less than a decade of work, in such films as "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure," "Parenthood," "Dangerous Liaisons," "Point Break" and "My Own Private Idaho."
Reeves is part Hawaiian (his name means "cool breezes over the mountain"), but was raised in Toronto. After attending four schools in five years, he dropped out and worked at odd jobs while taking acting lessons and performing in community theater and commercials. He left for Hollywood at age 19, landed a TV movie and then was cast in Tim Hunter's "River's Edge."
Some critics have been unable to accept the "Point Break" and "Bill & Ted" surfer dude in period pieces such as "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and the Shakespeare film, "Much Ado About Nothing." But Reeves is not deterred. He's studying "Hamlet" for a performance as the moody Dane with a Canadian stage company.
Responses to his work in "Speed" and "Little Buddha" have ranged from respectful to laudatory.
Asked to compare his efforts in the films, Reeves says, " 'Speed' was just jumping and running and playing." "Little Buddha," on the other hand, required Reeves to immerse himself in Buddhist reading and philosophy for four months.
"I tried to communicate a princely aspect," Reeves says, "which meant that he was confident in knowing the world in which he lived. However, he didn't know about pain and what that does to human behavior, and that's the journey he goes on."
Reeves seems proud of both films, but "Little Buddha" has a special place in his heart. "Art is about trying to find the good in people, and making the world a more compassionate place," he says.