Keanu's Drug Secret
by Terry Willows
His star is rapidly rising, but he has seen those closest to him devastated by drugs and there are worries about his own 'strange, withdrawn behavior'
He is being hailed as Hollywood's next young action adventure hero.
Studio bosses are already comparing him with youthful versions of Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis or Sylvester Stallone.
Keanu Reeves, 29, gave such a dashing nerves-of-steel performance as a SWAT cop in the new movie Speed that 20th Century Fox rushed the film out early and is already discussing a sequel.
However, Hollywood's new hero has a secret torment: he has a drug addict for a father. Sam Reeves, 51, has been jailed for 10 years for masterminding a heroin and cocaine empire in Hawaii.
Keanu has nothing to do with Sam, who ran out on his family when Keanu was two. Keanu says bitterly: "My father is nothing but a Sixties deadbeat reject."
His grandmother maintains a link with her son, saying: "Sam wants to get back together with his Keanu, but as far as I know Keanu has not made contact."
Keanu feels far greater anguish over the drug-linked death of his friend River Phoenix, with whom he co-starred in My Own Private Idaho and I Love You To Death.
It is not something Keanu talks about willingly, except to say: "Oh, I miss him greatly."
River's death - outside an L.A. nightclub on October 31 last year after a lethal mixture of cocaine and heroin - so devastated Keanu that movie director Jan De Bont changed the shooting schedule of Speed to give Keanu easier scenes.
Keanu's co-star Sandra Bullock says: "I'd see him go off by himself, and there was a hint of sadness in his eyes.
"He became very quiet and it took him quite a while to work it out by himself and calm down. It scared the hell out of him."
Three years ago, Keanu himself was rushed to hospital after being found unconscious in his dressing-room during the filming of Bill And Ted's Bogus Adventure.
Revived at the hospital, Keanu later claimed the problem came from a severe infection of his arm. But sources on the set had said they were worried about his "strange, withdrawn behavior".
U.S. magazines quoted sources at the time as saying that Keanu suffered a reaction to "some kind of substance use".
But in Speed, he seems to have left all that behind. Director Jan, cinematographer for Lethal Weapon 3, Basic Instinct and Die Hard, says: "I always felt Keanu would be perfect after seeing him in Point Break.
"He's not threatening to men because he's not that bulky, but he looks great to women. He finally grows up in this film and leaves that 'dude' thing behind.
"Physically, this is an extremely demanding part - he-wasn't completely convinced he could do it at first - but once he did a few of his own stunts, he loved it."
Close friends say Keanu's maturation had a lot to do with River's death. A self-confessed hell-raiser who once called himself "a goof" and said he sometimes drank beer for breakfast, Keanu now says: "People say drugs are a symptom of something else, but drugs are just drugs to people who do them."
Keanu has worked ever since he arrived in Hollywood at 19 and landed a TV movie with Lindsay Wagner. Now the young man for whom superstardom beckons lives alone. He has no steady girlfriend. He devotes his spare time to hockey and playing bass with the folk band Dog Star. And he considers himself "culturally illiterate".
Born of a British mother and a Chinese-Hawaiian father - in Hawaiian, 'Keanu' means 'cool breeze over the mountains' - he wanted to be an actor from when he was 14.
During the past two years he has worked so hard he has no permanent address. He says: "Having a home and a family sounds great to me. If I could find someone, that would be very important to me. But this work means being on the road a lot and right now I don't feel the need for a home."
Friends say Keanu no longer goes to the Hollywood brat pack clubs, and shuns the Viper Room where River met his death.
One friend says: "He still wonders if he could have helped River in some way, if he could have been there when he was needed. Only time will heal the wound."