Super Kool Keanu
Keanu Reeves talks exclusively to Live & Kicking about bodily scars, being a rat and more...
by Edwin J. Bernard
There's no doubt that on-screen Keanu Reeves is an absolute sex god, especially with his cropped hair and rippling bod in Speed. So it's a bit of a shock to be faced with this really tall, skinny guy on the set of Johnny Mnemonic in Toronto and realise it's none other than Keanu himself. Looking rather scruffy in a baggy, grey suit, Ke takes a break from playing Johnny, the cyber-space courier who carries important information in his brain, and chats rather chummily with his female co-star, Dina Meyer, (who played Brandon's sexy older mistress in 90210).
Recently there have been all kinds of rumours about whether Keanu is gay or not, but it looks like sparks are definitely flying between Mr Cool Breeze Over The Mountains, (that's what 'Keanu' means in Hawaiian) and the lovely Dina. When he realises it's time to talk, the incredibly polite and remarkably shy Keanu grabs himself a bottle of Evian, pulls up a director's chair in the corner of the set and gives L&K an exclusive few minutes of his precious time.
Do you ever think of yourself as a beautiful, hunkmungous movie star?
(He covers his face with his hands in embarrassment and murmurs to himself for a moment.) "How nice of you to say that. But it's not a reality to me. I'm a very private person. People talk about my career and sometimes I ask, 'What career?' I guess I can be very uncomfortable with lots of attention. Basically, I'm a person who doesn't want too much."
We know lots about your films, Keanu, but not a lot about you. What can you tell L&K about yourself that may surprise us?
(He thinks for a minute.) "Well, I recite Shakespeare to calm myself down. (He then gets very excited, moving his hands around). I love Shakespeare. When I was 18, I did Romeo and Juliet on stage. It's very relaxing when you read it out loud. You should try it!"
You played Shakespeare's Hamlet in Canada earlier this year. The world's press was there to see you on the opening night. Surely that wasn't too relaxing?
"Some of it was actually quite a lot of fun. Great part, great play. Good cast. Nice people at the theatre. It went OK."
Is it true that you and your band Dog Star are going to tour Japan this summer?
"Yeah (he grins). It's going to be a hoot! Myself and everybody who's in the band is very, very excited about going over to Japan and playing. I've never been outside the airport and maybe one or two hotels in Tokyo, so I'm looking forward to seeing some other places. And we have some friends who are coming. Hopefully we are going to get money to do a documentary at the same time. So, yeah, we're going to go to Japan and Hawaii and do some concerts. No, not concerts... shows!"
Who else is involved in the band?
"We're a four-piece. My oldest friend in the band is Robert Millhouse and we've known each other for about four years. I had this house and I made a jam room where I played bass. And Robert would come over and play drums. And then some friends came in from New York City and we jammed. One day another friend of ours opened a bar and so we played there and it's just been going along since then."
What was your first gig like?
"Well, before that we played at a Hollywood club called Spice, in the back room in front of about 15, maybe 20 people. And we probably knew 10 of them! Our best gig so far was at the Milwaukee Metal Fest last year. We weren't at all what they expected. I guess they were into the Reeves thing. Everyone started throwing cups and beer and stuff at us, but we were laughing. We're really bad, but our songs are fun in a stomp-your-foot kind of way!"
Do you think you'll combine your acting and music at some point?
"You mean playing 'The Rock Star'? (He shakes his head.) Maybe 'The Dog Star'! (He grins.) I have no idea. It's not an ambition of mine."
Is It true you get together with other Hollywood actors to play ice hockey every weekend?
"Not every weekend, but when I'm in LA. Actually, I've been in a few leagues. I'm a goalie. It's weird, though, playing ice hockey in the Californian desert!"
Being a goalie's a tough job - is there anything you're scared of?
"I don't go in caves because I'm afraid of the dark!"
What were you like as a teenager?
"Younger! (He grins.) I was more afraid of the dark too! Actually, I had an interesting childhood. We travelled. It was weird. A real free existence."
When did you decide you wanted to act?
"When I was fifteen and a half I said to my mother that I wanted to be an actor. And it was settled. From then on, I started taking acting lessons. The weird thing is that I don't know what made me tell my mom that I wanted to act. But I did!"
Right after Johnny Mnemonic, you have another film, A Walk in the Clouds coming out.
"Yeah, it's about a World War II officer who meets a Mexican girl who's travelling from college to her home in California to work the vineyard harvest with her family. She's single and pregnant. I'm married, but I'm on the road trying to sell chocolates. I tell her, 'Why don't I pretend to be your husband for a night to save you from shame? I'll leave in the morning and never come back.' That way, she can say I abandoned her and the baby. I'm the rat. I start to do that, but we fall in love. It's a big turmoil."
Has there been any turmoil like that in your own life recently?
"No. (He thinks for a moment and then grins.) But you never know!"
What part of your body are you most proud of?
"I have a scar on my knee. I was on my motorcycle and I got hit by a car on the corner of Hollywood and Normandie (two streets in Hollywood). The car was making a left turn and I jumped from the motorcycle just before the guy hit me. I did a somersault in the air and landed on my feet. The scar's only about two inches long, but it was deep. You could see, like, ligaments. And I totalled my bike!"
You're a pretty cool geezer, Keanu, so what's the coolest thing you can think of?
"White tablecloths. Definitely. They appeal to my aesthetic sensibility!"
And with that, Keanu is called into make-up and disappears into a big, shiny trailer with a smile and a handshake. Keanu Reeves may not agree that he's a movie star or a sex god, but there's one description everyone can agree on... he's a nice guy. Johnny Mnemonic and A Walk in the Clouds are both set for release this autumn.