Smash Hits (Aus), May 10, 1995

Keanu's Kiss-Up!

(Previously published in August 1994 as a longer version under the title 'Much Ado About Keanu, and in May 1995 as an even longer version under the title '"I hate the term sex symbol" Reeves says quietly.')

by Jane Smart

"I hate that term, 'sex symbol'," says Keanu Reeves quietly but forcefully. "I don't think I'm a sex symbol and I don't think I look like one either." Fans throughout the world would beg to differ with the star's self-assessment however, and tonight at least, on the-set of his latest movie in California's Napa Valley, an ultra-romantic and passionate tale called A Walk In The Clouds Reeves himself seems to be unwittingly providing them with some fine ammunition. Long gone is Keanu's military-style buzz-cut and SWAT outfit of last summer's blockbuster, Speed. Instead, the star is sporting a comfortable 1940s linen suit and period hairstyle to match.

Talking with Keanu about his career, it's a bit of a shock to realise that he has never played a romantic lead before this film. After first making a name for himself as an airhead dude in the hit comedy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Keanu has appeared in movies as diverse as Bram Stoker's Dracula, Much Ado About Nothing, Little Buddha and the harrowing My Own Private Idaho.

The closest he's come to getting the girl is in Speed, where, after saving a busload of frightened passengers from being blown sky-high, he got to roll around a bit with luscious co-star Sandra Bullock.

Mention that Sandra later commented, "I get to kiss Keanu Reeves for crying out loud! I'll be the envy of every woman from 6 to 60!" and the actor looks slightly embarrassed. "I guess I haven't had too many romantic scenes," he eventually allows.

In his new film, he seems to be making up for lost time. "I have to make love to this very beautiful young girl, which should be a lot of fun," smiles Keanu. "I play Paul Sutton, a young GI, who meets the beautiful daughter of a vineyard owner and agrees to pose as her husband to help her face her domineering father. It get a bit complicated and of course we end up falling madly in love.

"My character really appealed to me too," Keanu continues. "Paul's a simple man, straight-ahead, fairly good-natured, kind. He's an orphan and he's coming back from the second World War, fighting in the Pacific, and his experiences I think have created in him a sense of sensitivity to emotions and people, and he just wants to have a family and a wife."

Ask Keanu if it was hard for him to relate to the ultra-romantic image after playing a gum-chewing SWAT team member in Speed? "Not at all, though to go from Speed to this is probably as different as you can possibly get," he admits. He explains how, in a later scene, he will be required to serenade the girl under her balcony window. "I've never done anything like that myself, but sure, I can relate to it," he adds with a grin.

"I was actually doing Speed when the script for A Walk In The Clouds came through," continues the actor, "and I immediately thought, this is great, because I wanted to do a romance, a project that concerned itself with the heart and the nature of passion and sensuality."

Although he is one of the most eligible young stars in Hollywood, the 29-year-old actor apparently still lives alone and is still unattached. "Yeah, I don't have a girlfriend right now," he mumbles. "It's hard having a relationship when you're working and moving around so much."

Various press reports have linked Reeves with co-stars like Bullock in the past, as well as Pamela Anderson, the busty blonde from Baywatch. Reeves just shakes his head. "You show up at a premiere together and the next thing you know, they've got you married," he notes wryly. He isn't much more forthcoming about his day-to-day living arrangements beyond admitting that he had "a problem" with his apartment in Los Angeles, and that he recently moved out and into the chic Chateau Marmont, a trendy Hollywood hotel.

If Keanu seems like somewhat of a loner and a mystery man, those close to him suggest that his troubled childhood may have a lot to do with it. Born in Beirut to an English mother, Patricia, and a Hawaiian father, Samuel, Keanu was only four when his father walked out on the family. Keanu, his two sisters and his mother moved around a lot, eventually settling in Toronto, where he admits to going "to about five schools in as many years" before dropping out. It's no secret that Keanu was devastated when River Phoenix, a close friend who co-starred with him in My Own Private Idaho, died of a drug overdose in October 1993. Mention Phoenix, and the star looks visibly shaken. "I miss him very, very much," he says quietly. "A terrible loss."

Even over a year later, Keanu won't say much about the event. He has even less to say about his own estranged father who is currently serving a lengthy sentence for drug possession at the Halava State Prison in Hawaii. "I don't want to talk about him," he says politely but firmly. "He disappeared out of my life when I was kid."

So how does he see himself? "I don't know, I don't have a character description for myself," he states. "I think that I can play an all-American boy to a certain extent. I don't think it's something I can't play. But..." His voice trails off and he leaves the rest unanswered.

So what else can he reveal about himself? The actor sits and considers this for quite a while before finally confessing to being "a perfectionist. Yeah, I am, but I don't know if it helps," he laughs. "I mean, I watch my films quite critically, although I don't really have a set thing that I look for. No, that's not true either. I guess I look at the physicality and judge the acting and see what it looks like."

Reeves isn't much more comfortable talking about "the stuff" he likes to do when not working, such as riding horses, playing street hockey, riding his vintage Norton motorcycle and playing bass with his spare-time group, Dog Star.

"It's not really a rock 'n' roll band," he explains. "It's more like folk-thrash. We just have fun with doing the odd show now and again. It's not a big deal."

Even if he wants to make the group a bigger deal, Reeves probably won't have the time now. He's already completed another film, Johnny Mnemonic, and is being wooed to make a sequel to Speed. "Johnny Mnemonic is a cyberpunk thriller and I play this guy with a computer in my head," explains the star with a straight face. "As for a sequel to Speed, I don't know. I'd have to see the script first. I don't want to get locked into playing just action heroes."

Reeves isn't kidding. He reportedly turned down a $7 million offer to star in the movie version of Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, Instead opting to pursue a long-held ambition to appear as Hamlet in a production in Winnipeg, Canada - a very long way away from Hollywood.

As Reeves wanders off alone before his next scene, you get the impression that he'd be quite happy if he never came back.




Images:


Article Focus:

A Walk in the Clouds

Tagged:

A Walk in the Clouds , Speed , Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure , Bram Stoker's Dracula , Much Ado About Nothing , Little Buddha , My Own Private Idaho , River's Edge , Dogstar , Johnny Mnemonic , Speed 2 , Hamlet






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