Sky (UK), October 1994

Women who love Keanu too much

What's Keanu got that other stud-muffins haven't? A million obsessed women could tell you, and Toni Rodgers is one of them.

There is a poster of Keanu Reeves and it's the best poster of him in the whole world. I know this because many people have told me so. Its popularity has nothing to do with photographic technique (grainy black and white); nothing to do with the alluring nuance of his expression; and, regrettably, nothing to do with him not wearing many clothes at all. No, the overriding attraction of this image proves, once and for all, that size matters. This is the best poster in the whole word because it is life-size. A leather-jeaned, leather-jerkined Keanu (only Keanu can lose the jerk in jerkin), cloned to six-foot-something printed perfection.

This picture graces most Holly Hobbit-wallpapered, Laura Ashley-bedcovered, Zig and Zag-slipper filled teenage girls' rooms in the land. It also graces my friend Lexy's. A 23-year-old Cambridge graduate who works in something to do with digital information networks, Lexy lives in the sort of flat where you're offered balsamic vinegar for your fish and chips.

Keanu is lovingly (and largely) stuck to her bedroom door. "Doesn't such an ... um ... obvious crush [i.e., teenage-type tendency to garnish your bedroom with overblown, some would say immature, posters] come between you and your boyfriends?" I asked one day. "No," she retorted, archly. "My boyfriends come between me and Keanu."

Owners of a Life-size Keanu Part Two: my mate Fan (hey, how, like, appropriate). Keanu's place of residence: the toilet door. "So," I queried, one day, "doesn't Mike [her partner] mind your poster?" "Hmph," she replied, and before aspersions could be cast, she continued...

One evening, Fan had been musing on how it would feel to actually be with Keanu Reeves. And what with his feet being too high off the ground to get an accurate measure, she carefully peeled him off the wall and lay him on the living-room floor. And prostrated herself on top of him, foot to foot, knee to knee... just to see how it would feel, you understand. Only Mike, who came in from work a tad earlier than usual, didn't quite see it that way.

After a ranting tirade about Keanu's lack of acting skills, Mike slammed out of the room, but not before stopping to lob one last jibe: "I always knew I'd have a problem respecting a woman who liked Keanu Reeves."

Which kind of paraphrases another incident that occurred between my friend Jodie and her new man. Having caught the bus home together they were playing "You show me your bus-pass photo and I'll show you mine." Jay's was fine - he looked like something out of a Quentin Tarantino movie. Jodie's was fine. Except neatly lined up next to her own photo was a teen-mag sticker of Keanu Reeves. And uniting the two of them was another sticker bearing the following slogan: I love him -->.

Jay's comment? "You fucking saddo."

Now this suggests troubled times ahead for Mike and Jay. For I can swear, hand on my Keanu dream-boy T-shirt, that women who don't like the one of Keanu straddling his Norton Commando are rarer than shots of Pamela Anderson in a polo-neck. So what is it about Keanu that makes him so universally lusted-after by women? What sets him apart from all the Johnnys, Christians, Brads and Ethans? What makes a 10-year-old-girl stick a poster of him on her bedroom wall and thirtysomething Emma Thompson thank him in her BAFTA acceptance speech for Much Ado About Nothing for "getting undressed in front of me"?

Well, there's the short, sharp, shallow answer: he's desperately beautiful. There's the we'd-like-to-be-intellectuals-but-wouldn't-say-no-to-a-shag argument: "All his leading women are strong inspirational characters - think Lori Petty in Point Break and Sandra Bullock in Speed."

But no, the real point about Keanu is this. He might be the perfect modern guy whose soul you can bond with (you won't catch him phwooaring over Pamela Anderson photos in a self-consciously laddy way or fretting about his masculinity like your average confused 90s bloke). And yet, whether by luck or judgment, the publicity-wary Keanu has managed to retain that thing so elusive to a modern movie star: mystery. He doesn't desperately date supermodels, turn up at baseball matches with Madonna or have a posse of naff personal bodyguards. And, unlike most devastatingly good-looking men, he doesn't have the I-know-I'm-beautiful swagger (cocky Tom Cruise, virtually any male supermodel). Somehow the fact that he's so unconscious of his beauty makes him more male. But what really sets Keanu apart from Christian, Johnny etc. is that you feel you don't know him. And if you did know him he might be, unlike Christian etc. etc., interesting. OK, so I know this sounds hopelessly corny - that's the problem with explaining Keanu, especially to men. It all comes out horribly wrong, You start mentioning words like "Zen," "Complex," "Beautiful, generous goofball" and "That curious open quality," and they fall about laughing.

Still, while we're explaining, guys, we also like the way he says the word "Fuck." It's inimitably endearing. Hugh Grant should take note.

Let us briefly backtrack to my Keanu dream-boy T-shirt. An item of many modish qualities (designed to fit a robust 10-year-old, adorned with a distorted Keanu head and equally illegible graphics), it was last night being sported by moi down my local.

"Cool T-shirt," says bloke, with smiley, thumbs-up gesture.

Me: "Cheers."

He: "Who's the picture of?"

Me: "Keanu."

He: "Oh, riiiiiight... you're using him as a kitsch cultural icon are you?"

Me: "Nah, I'm just being a fan."

He: "Nah. You're just being crap." Exeunt.

Let's now take another boy's view of Keanu. My mate Jack was getting on pretty well with Lily. They'd been out a few times, shared a few good-night kisses. And then one night she asked him in for "coffee." Jack sat in the living room while Lily made like a Gold Blend ad. Tired of making conversation through a hatch, Jack entered the kitchen.

And there he was. Keanu. Life-size. But this wasn't just any old usage of The Best Poster in the World. This was a deification. Wilting daisy chains were stuck around his neck. Fresh flowers blossomed in a vase at his feet. Photos of Lily and her mate Helen were worshipfully collaged around the edge.

Lily took note of Jack's mortified silence. "That's our shrine to Keanu," she said, with an "Oh yeah, that's my brother on his graduation day" blandness. Still Jack didn't speak.

"This," she said, pointing to a folded piece of cardboard with Keanu Reeves typed on it, "Is HIS place-name from a restaurant in Cannes. He touched it... Look... just here... that's his fingerprint."

Jack was just beginning to wonder how he could get himself off the hook when Lily bowled him over. "And this is a bottle of massage oil like the one they used on Keanu in Much Ado About Nothing. I've always wanted to re-enact that scene. [Pause] Interested?" Jack now thinks Keanu isn't so bad - after all, he did do all his own stunts in Point Break and Speed...

Note how, as part of her shrine, Lily had a Keanu Reeves name-card. A mate managed to swipe it when she sat next to him at dinner. Keanu's like that. Mortals get to share napkins with him; have a drink with him; go clubbing with him; knock on his hotel door and have it answered by him; meet him once and then have him pull up in his car as he drives by some days later to say "Hi"; I know this, because all of the above have happened to friends of mine.

Take my mate Jane, a journalist. She heard that Keanu needed someone to get him access to the retirement home of the British gentry, the Reform Club - it was during the shooting of Dracula and Keanu wanted to brush up on his English accent (see, at least he tries). Jane trawled through her entire family till she found some distant, white-haired fogey who had membership. A date was set.

Keanu, Jane and the old duffer spent a lovely evening drinking gin together until finally Keanu had to go. Being a polite young man, he asked Jane if she'd like to continue her evening with him - dining with Richard E. Grant and Grant's wife. Unthinkingly, Jane said no thank you, she'd already agreed to meet some mates at a pub in Brixton (I know, don't even ask). So Keanu went off to order cabs for everyone. Half an hour later, Jane arrived at her destination and asked the driver how much she owed him. " Nothing," came the reply. "The American bloke who booked the car settled up in advance."

Keanu Reeves. Desperately beautiful generous goofball, complex Zen possessor of that curious open quality, subject of the Pasadena, California, college course "Keanu Reeves 101" and $7 million-a-movie-commanding actor, we salute our life-size posters of you. Guys, you wouldn't understand: it's a girl thing.


Much Ado About Nothing , Point Break , Speed , Bram Stoker's Dracula


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