Just Seventeen (UK), ~ March 1995

"To Ke or not to Ke"

Keanu's rolling about the floor with a dagger in his hand, but I'm not scared. He's in Hamlet, you see, I'm in the front row (on opening night!) and right now it's the climax of the play, a swashbuckling sword fight between the Danish prince and his rival, Laertes. The people next to me look like they're afraid of catching it between the eyes, but I'm just grinning. Maybe it's because as a dedicated Ke buff I remember him fencing in Dangerous Liaisons so I know he knows his stuff. Or maybe it's because he happens to be the cutest in-the-flesh babe this side of Alaska.

Now he's pacing across the stage like a stalking panther - and we girlies in the audience are gasping. And then, all too soon, it's over and we're giving him a standing ovation, shouting: "Bravo" and screaming like we're at a Take That concert.

Why the mega-applause? Well, for one thing, Ke makes a darn fine Elizabethan sex god. We're clapping for his tattered tights, his dark regal tunics and his billowy white shirts. And his hair - he starts the play with surprisingly convincing long locks, but soon graduates to his own closely-cropped buzz cut. Hoorah! But most of all, we're applauding the way he uses his body to project emotions, his charm, his passion - the wonder that is Keanu!

Of course there were a few wibbly bits. We couldn't help giggling at all the Bill & Ted "excellents" - especially when he greeted Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as "my excellent good friends". And he tended to rush through the serious stuff, as if he were nervous and uncomfortable standing still. (Put it down to first-night nerves: seeing the play again, a week later, I notice he's mellowed out a bit, 'cause he slows down and puts real emotion into the lines.)

Later at the after-show party, I overhear a fan telling Ke how good his performance was. He replies softly, "It could have been better." Still dressed in black, he looks exhausted as he patiently signs Hamlet posters and programmes with his trademark: "All my best, Keanu Reeves."

The next time we meet (joy!), it's just me and Ke - oh, and his guitar. He brought it along to help him unwind between performances, even if he'll be strumming Elizabethan verses rather than his favourite grunge numbers. "Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet, words, words, words, Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet," he says, humming a tune and drumming on his knees. Then: "I can play Hamlet, Hamlet, Hamlet, practise the iambic." He's talking about an Elizabethan verse form, the iambic pentameter - but, hey, English lessons at school were never like this!

Dressed in black jeans, a black shirt and a charcoal-grey jacket, he just can't sit still. "O vengeance," he shouts suddenly, lunging forward on the couch, his intense brown eyes flaring with passion. A minute later he's doing a Bill & Ted oh-so-laid-back chuckle.

That's Ke for you - serious one moment, wacky the next and never one to act like a big shot.

Get this - he can make $7 million a movie but all he earns in Hamlet is a measly (for him) $2,000 a week. And just look at his luggage - the only stuff he's brought with him is a load of books on Shakespeare, his bassguitar and a duffel bag full of clothes - hardly the accessories of a superstar. And does he throw a celebrity wobbler when the theatre director informs him of today's 40°-below-zero temperature? Nah - he just says: "Cool", of course!

I often see him walking to the theatre from his hotel - I hear the only time he rented a limo to take him is when his mum was in town, bless! And night after night of his two-month stay you can spot him signing autographs in the theatre lobby - often for two to four-hour stretches at a time. See, the thing about Keanu is he cares - about his fans, about words, about acting. That's why he came to do Shakespeare in a small Canadian town in the middle of winter when he could have been raking it in on an LA film set. And that's why we had to come too...

Article Focus:



Hamlet , Dangerous Liaisons


(2009-10-09 14:48:49)
 Yet another person I envy for getting to see Ke play Hamlet. I bet he was INCREDIBLE.
Yeah, (2009-10-09 20:43:44)
 so do I!

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