The Play's The Thing, For Keanu
by Kevin Prokosh
So what's he like in the flesh? That question was on many minds yesterday as movie star Keanu Reeves arrived in Winnipeg to begin rehearsals for Hamlet, which opens January 12 at the WTC. In a 10 minute interview yesterday in an MTC office, he was accomodating, thoughtful, and forthright. He seemed relaxed fielding questions, although he nervously twisted his fingers and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. Not once did he refuse to answer a question, nor did he flippantly dismiss an inquiry. Reeves' china doll complexion was obscured by a slight growth of beard. His most striking attribute was his vivid brown eyes. He was dressed entirely in black. Over a black t-shirt and a black sweater, he wore a stylish made in France Agnes B jacket, a past Christmas present, he said. He munched on a Turtles chocolate bar before addressing one of his favorite subjects, Hamlet.
Q) Are you ready for Hamlet?
A) Yeah, I'm ready.
Q) Got your lines down?
a) No I don't know the whole play yet. I know most of of it. I can't say I know them all but I'm familiar with all the soliloquies and major speeches and most of the scenes. I don't know the fifth act that well. I'll learn it this weekend.
Q.) Are you scared?
Q.) What did you know of Winnipeg before you came here?
A) Nothing. I had never been here. I met Mr. Schipper and he sent along some material about the theatre and himself but nothing about the city. I knew about the Winnipeg Jets of course (NHL Hockey team)
Q.) To come here and do this did you have to turn down movie offers?
Q.) Anything that was painful?
A) Yeah. A film with Robert deNiro and Al Pacino.
Q.) What's it called?
A.) I don't know what they are calling it right now.
Q.) Is it costing you very much money to come here?
A.) It's a hard question to answer because it's been a year since I've known about it, so the time has been set aside.
Q.) As a guy from Toronto who went to L.A. to become a movie star....
A.) I don't know about a star, man. I've had the opportunity to act and I've had some good luck and some bad luck, but I don't know about "star". I don't even consider myself having "made it" at all.
Q.) Would you feel less nervous if you were coming here to do a movie version of Hamlet?
A.) Yeah, definitely I would feel less nervous doing the cinema version. I think maybe because of the form. If I did a soliloquy and wanted to change something I could.
Q.) Have your preparations involved any physical work?
A.) The vocal warmup that I've been learning is fairly and cardiovascular.
Q.) It's not like you're putting on weight or losing weight?
A.) I'm not going to do a fat Hamlet? I might need a little buffer zone so perhaps I'll start eating to supress and quell the distance between emotions, but I don't think so.
Q.) What kind of Hamlet do you hope to project?
A.) A Hamletof passion and reason. And hopefully a searching Hamlet.
Q.) Have you talked to anyone who has done Hamlet?
A.) (Italian Actor) Giancarlo Giannini. He said you can do Hamlet any way you want. If you 're angry, be angry. If you're tired, be tired. Just go out there, try not to hold onto one.
Q.) Was that kind of liberating to get that message?
A.) Oh yeah.
Q.) Have you watched very many Hamlet films?
A.) I've seen L. Olivier's, Mel Gibson's and Nichol Williamsons'. I disagree with the interpretations of them all. I liked Gibson's vigor. I found it was a little one-notish but a lot of it had to do with the form. A scene would be set up for one kind of trick. There's a scene where he kicks over a stool with Rozencrantz on it. You know that is going to happen before it happens. There is no beginning, middle or end to it. There was an innocence to it.
Q.) How will you measure success with this Hamlet?
A) I will go by my own feelings and from the feedback of the people who see it and from director Lewis Baumander and Steven Schipper. If I can make people understand that "Conscience doth make cowards of us all". If I can get that out and people can feel that and go wow! If people who have seen the play come out and say they have heard it anew, then we will have succeeded. We'll know we have succeeded if they don't go to sleep, or boo. That's a good signal.
Q.) Do you get tired of people who doubt your love of Shakepeare?
A.) I don't care. We'll see. Perhaps if I'm not brave in my rehearsal and in my performance maybe Lewis can say to me you don't care. I would take that to heart.
Q.) How long has this been on your mind?
A.) A year and a half.
Q.) It's been on your mind all that time?
A.) I had the opportunity to do some films this year, so occasionally when I could, I would learn some lines.
Q.) What could you tell actors from Canada who want to head to L.A.?
A.) When I did it I was 20 years old and I left with desire and with that desire I pursued the craft.
Q.) Was there something that you did when you got to L.A. that made people notice you?
A.) I had the good fortune to have a manager at the time who got me an agent to see people. A couple of those meetings worked out well where I got to have some auditions and about eight months after being there I got a job - in a movie of the week (Under The Influence) with Andy Griffith.
Q.) Are you a hockey fan?
A.) Yeah! Not as much as some of my friends but I miss it. Yeah, of course.
Q.) You're a Leafs fan?
A.) I don't have a team, I just really love good hockey. Q) What do you think of the NHL strike?
A.) I have no words of wisdom. I am not informed enough to have an opinion.
Q.) Which of your films are your favorite?
A.) River's Edge, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Dracula, The Night Before, Speed, Tune In Tomorrow.
Q.) What are you doing for Christmas?
A.) I have no idea. I will either be here or go home (to Toronto)
Q.) And New Year's?
A.) I don't know. I haven't even thought of New Year's.