What are you looking at?(also published on February 15, 1994 as a slightly shorter version under the title 'Keanu! Keanu!')
But people still can't get his name right.
Pete Stanton meets Keanunu Reeves
I know Keanu Reeves. I'm his mate. Well, sort of. See, he knows a friend of mine. Do you remember when he jammed with Mouche Philips (ex-Neighbors starlet) and a band called Fabulous last year? We printed some shots of him playing the bass. Well, I know the manager of that band and Keanu knows him too.
"Wow, how's James doing?" asks Keanu, really surprised that we have the same pals.
"Oh...., fine," I say casually.
"That day was fun. I enjoyed that," he says.
So, if he knows my mate, then that must mean that me and Keanu are mates, too. Cool!
Keanu is half an hour late for our meeting. But mates don't worry about things like that. Security are buzzing around, film press office-type persons are looking worried. But stars are allowed to be late, aren't they? He eventually saunters in, cool as you like.
We're in New York, in the poshest hotel in town, overlooking Central Park and he's looking fancy. He's decked out in a snoot grey suit from some Japanese designer called "Myaki" or something. Underneath is a dark t-shirt and braces holding his pants up. If your dad wore this outfit, he'd look like a right arse. On Keanu it looks amazing. His hair is short and ruffled and he looks thinner in the face than usual. His mannerisms are a wonder to behold. Ask him a question and he can ponder on it for hours before returning a reply. His arms are all over the show as he emphasises his answers. He loves to say "cool" a lot but doesn't say "most excellent" at all. He's 29 but could pass for a 19-year-old. Let's face it, you would sell your granny and all your mates' grannies to be his girlfriend or mate.
"Hi, I'm Pete from England," I say.
"Hi, I'm Keanu." As if that's news to me.
"What odd names have I been called? Well, one I heard was Keanunu. I was like, 'Where did you see the other N?' Don't start calling me Keanunu though. My name can't be that tough to pronounce."
You wouldn't think anyone in the world could get the hottest property in town's name wrong. And Keanu is hot property. Once you've seen Speed you'll know; it is without doubt the biggest action movie of the year. Keanu plays a cop who has to keep this booby-trapped bus from going under 50mph or it'll explode into millions of tiny pieces. It's an amazing white-knuckle ride from start to finish. Travelling to town on the little Hoppla bus will never be the same again. And while we're on the subject of buses....
WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE ON A BUS?
[Looks surprised] Errrrrm, I think it's been about eight years.
SO YOU DIDN'T PRACTICE RIDING ON THE NUMBER 29 TO LOS ANGELES TO GET INTO SPEED?
[Looks more surprised] Errrrrm, not really.
WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO THE FILM?
This first thing that hit me was the title. I opened up the page and it said Speed... and I went "cool." So I went onto the second page.
DID YOU BECOME AN ADRENALIN JUNKIE PLAYING YOUR CHARACTER?
Yeah, I was kind of in there... [laughs] yeah, I was in there. I surprised myself. It was great to participate and get as close as I could. I enjoy that sort of pressure and excitement very much.
SOME OF THE STUNTS LOOK PRETTY LIFE THREATENING...
Well, that's the great thing about it.... I didn't really do tough stunts. Other people get paid to do that sort of life threatening thing. I did do a lot of what's in the film though. I think there's only two shots in the whole piece that isn't me.
SO YOU REALLY GO UNDER THE SPEEDING BUS? [There's an amazing scene in the film where Keanu has to go under the speeding bus on a rickety old trolley to defuse the bomb!]
Mmmmmmm [he looks a bit miffed]..... well, maybe there were three then. The last scene of someone going under the bus is a stuntman. If there was a dangerous situation where there was no control, they would bring in a stuntman.
WERE THERE ANY STICKY SITUATIONS YOU ENDED UP IN?
Hmmmmm..... there was one occasion. It was when I had to jump from the car to the bus. The first time we did it, the stuntman driving the car couldn't look at the bus, where I was jumping to, in case the camera caught his face and it'd be obvious he was a stuntman. So there he was driving really fast, one-handed and not looking where I had to go!"
DID YOU POOH YOUR PANTS?
Well, there I was hovering outside the car going, "Can you see?" and he'd say, "Oh, yeah, yeah!" The car's going [wiggles his arm about in a swerving motion] and the bus is going [wiggles his arm again].
SO, DID YOU DO THE STUNT?
Yeah, right! I was like, "I'm not going -- I'm not doing this!" So much of me wants to be a hero usually, but time I wasn't so sure. The second time we did it the stuntman was a little more coordinated.... so I leapt.
SO YOU'RE THE NEW ARNIE?
[Laughs] I don't know, man. I'm not interested in becoming that guy. I'm not interested in doing another action picture for the next two or three years. I'm not saying it's not fun, though.
WELL, YOU'VE GOT HIS PHYSIQUE...
Yeah, well, that's 'cause I had eight months to prepare. So I lifted weights, focusing on the arms and chest 'cause that's what would be seen most of on camera. I took gymnastics classes too for tumbling. I was studying that for a month and a half, three times a week doing handstands, trampolining, somersaults and back handsprings. Oh yeah, and the high bar. I was just trying to know my body better.
DID YOUR GYMNASTICS COME INTO USE MUCH?
Yeah, quite a bit. There was one scene, which got cut out eventually, where I was supposed to walk on this high ledge.
ISN'T THAT A BIT OF WASTED TRAINING THEN, EH?
Yeah, well, we ended up not filming it because it became a scene that was unnecessary. But that training put me in good steed or shall I say "speed." Ha ha.
IS SPEED THE MOST TIRING MOVIE YOU'VE EVER DONE?
[Laughs] No, no... [laughs again] oh no, no. The hardest one was the last film I finished, Johnny Mnemonic.
It's a science fiction film. More of a drama than Speed. There are action elements, but it's not the main thrust of the film. And if you thought my stunts were good in Speed, wait till you see this -- woooooooooooooooooh! I only had a month and a half after finishing Speed to prepare for this film. Going from such a physical film and then going into another physically demanding experience takes a lot of energy.
WHAT ABOUT A SEQUEL TO SPEED?
Well, it's a bit ridiculous to be talking about that now.
WOULD YOU DO IT?
I'm ambivalent [i.e., couldn't care less] about sequels... which means I might or might not do one.
YOU DON'T LIKE SEQUELS, THEN?
No, not at all. Well [realising that he does like them]... the Indiana Jones sequel was good... erm, The Godfather one was good... and, oh, yeah, Evil Dead II was really good as well. Yeah, they were cool.
WHAT ARE YOU COMFIER WITH: ACTION, COMEDY OR SHAKESPEARE?
[Looks skyward pondering] Erm, I'd have to say I prefer Shakespeare to the action stuff.
YOU LOOKED REALLY COOL RIDING A HORSE IN MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Oh really? Cool! I had ridden a little bit before. I went to this place in Los Angeles for riding lessons... Errrrmmmm [looks lost], where was I?
Oh yeah. To perform Shakespeare you get to say very profound words and in the body it feels more thrilling. Your spirit, your intellect, your heart and your voice all have to, at a very high degree, melt into the speaking of words and behaviour.... [he carries on for hours how great it is]. And for me all of these things are missing in action pictures. In Shakespeare it's pure.
HOW ABOUT DOING A ROMANTIC ROLE?
Well, I've already started one in a film called A Walk In the Clouds. It's about a Second World War soldier coming home. I'm learning about the war, life as a soldier and the whole American history thing.
ARE YOU ALWAYS WORKING ON FILMS NOWADAYS?
Not really, it was eight months between Little Buddha and Speed. And that's a long chunk of time not to be working.
HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING WITH LONE STAR [HIS BAND]?
I don't really have a band anymore, to be honest.
WHAT, THE BAND HAS SPLIT UP?
Kinda -- I just don't know. We jammed when I got back from Toronto and we sounded OK. I still play the bass but I'm not going to pursue it anymore. I rented a speaker when I was back home and jammed on my own, but I just don't have time for it really.
WHEN YOU FILMED IN TORONTO FOR JOHNNY MNEMONIC, DID YOU STAY WITH YOUR MUM [HE'S ORIGINALLY FROM TORONTO]?
Well, I saw my mother and my younger sister. I hung out with some old friends I've known since I was a little kid. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see everyone I wanted to.
DON'T YOU GET MOBBED BY LOADS OF KEANU-HUNGRY GIRLS?
What do you mean?
WELL.... YOU'RE A BIT OF A SEX SYMBOL, AREN'T YOU?
[Looks perplexed] I don't really get mobbed. In the sense that I don't have people camped outside my door. I think it's cool that people find me attractive, though.
CAN YOU POP OUT TO THE SHOPS?
[Laughs] Yeah, sure. No problem. Once in a while people say "Hello" when I'm out shopping, which is cool.
DOES BEING FAMOUS EFFECT YOUR EGO?
Erm, well, it has and it hasn't. I'm trying to keep it under control. I'd say I'm fairly vain, though.
WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR IN THE MOVIES YOU DO?
Well, I don't get to choose them all the time. Sometimes I get asked -- and sometimes I do the asking.
WHAT ABOUT DRACULA?
I was just hired on the strength of Winona Ryder putting me forward for the part. The director, Francis Ford Coppola, didn't really know my work but he'd been told that I was popular with younger people.
HOW DID YOU GET THE PART IN LITTLE BUDDHA?
I asked Bertolucci (the director) why he picked me and he said it was for my innocence.
ARE YOU INNOCENT?
ARE YOU PROUD OF THAT ROLE?
I'll never forget making that picture. I remember I was in my underwear parading back and forth in front of monks and lamas and all the monks are looking at my feet and my hands checking me out. It was like being inspected by the police. And they'd say things like, "Yes, we asked the oracle and it is good you are playing this part."
YOU'RE A LONG, LONG WAY FROM BILL & TED NOWADAYS....
Mmmmmmmmm, kinda. I mean one moment I'm playing a hero and the next I'm the clown. I've only done a few films that are very different. My Own Private Idaho was certainly a very unique picture.
HOW MUCH DO YOU MISS RIVER?
[Long pause] An incredible amount. River's performance in that picture was exceptional. I'm OK in it. But he's the activator of it all. He was brilliant.
DO YOU EVER DREAM ABOUT YOUR CHARACTERS THAT YOU'VE PLAYED?
Erm, sometimes. I'll try and go to the place where I'm going to perform and try and visualise it. Try to almost rehearse it in my head. I kind of go through an experience like that sometimes.
DO YOU HAVE OUT WITH OTHER STARS, PEOPLE LIKE JOHNNY DEPP OR TOM CRUISE?
I'm never met him or Mr Cruise.
WHAT WOULD YOU ASK HIM IF YOU MET HIM?
I don't know. I don't have any questions for him. I don't mean that in any bad way. I think he's a very good actor.
ARE YOU A BETTER ACTOR THAN HIS IS?
[Grinning sheepishly] Now I can't answer that can I?
[The door opens and Keanu's American PR person tell us the time's up. Interview over. We shake hands. There's only one thing left to do....]
SEE YOU LATER, KEANUNU.
Mmmmmmmmm.... yeah, right.