"I want to be as normal as possible"
His film career's in the fast lane after the blockbusting success of Speed, but Keanu insists he's still just a down-to-earth, ballroom dancing kinda guy!
Imagine life in the weird world of one of Hollywood's most lusted-after stars, where college kids can enrol on a course about your films, and you're dancing all the way to the bank. The gorgeous Mr Reeves talks about life, love and, arm... Fred Astaire.
Hello, Mr Sex Symbol!
Don't call me a sex symbol, damn it! I don't see myself that way and I certainly don't look like one.
Well, Sandra Bullock thinks so!
(laughs) Geez, give me a break here.
She thinks you're a great kisser...
(laughs even more) Well, I won't argue.
And your latest film, A Walk In The Clouds is a romantic movie which should rocket you into the hearts of millions...
Ha-ha! I have a romantic scene, and yes, I am proud of it. I got to make love to this beautiful young girl. I play Paul Sutton, a young GI who meets the beautiful daughter of a vineyard owner. I agree to pose as her husband to help her face her domineering father. Of course, it gets a bit complicated. And you can probably guess the rest - we end up falling madly in love.
What made you decide to do the film?
My character really appealed to me. Paul Sutton is a simple man who's very straight-headed and fairly good-natured. He's kind and he's also an orphan who's coming back from the Second World War. He was fighting in the Pacific and his war experiences have given him a sensitivity to emotions and people. His biggest priority after the war is to start a family and find himself a wife. Actually, I was right in the middle of filming Speed where the script for A Walk In The Clouds came through to me. And after reading it I immediately thought 'This is great' because I really wanted to do a film heavy on romance, a project that concerned itself with the heart and nature of passion and sensuality.
There are always rumours of flings, but are you dating anyone at the moment?
I don't have a girlfriend right now. Frankly it's hard having a relationship when you're moving around so much. I'm always being connected with someone because, and you've got to understand, you show up at a premiere together and next thing you know, the papers have you married.
What sort of woman lights your fire?
I don't know what I look for in a woman. Many things, I guess. I don't think I'm actually looking for anything at the moment. I don't have a particular taste. I mean, I'm not looking for a redhead or something like that.
How did River Phoenix's death affect you?
I miss him very, very much. It's a terrible loss.
We've heard that you have a strange new hobby
(shrugs and smiles) Yes, it's true - about a year ago I started learning how to ballroom dance. I think there's a part of me that maybe in ten years' time would like to do a film where I can sing and dance. Like in the old movie musicals. I like the Fred Astaire tradition of dancing. And since I was a kid I've always found myself jumping around. Waiting for buses at bus stops, kinda dancing and twirling and jumping. So that was one element. And then I was trying to - I needed to find some grace, I think - for my acting. Just a presence, a physical grace. I know it sounds funny. As the world heads towards apocalypse, I'll be dancing and singing, like the great jester fool.
Johnny Mnemonic's been described as unpronounceable, spacey and downright weird - how would you describe it?
Johnny Mnemonic is what I call a cyberpunk thriller. And I play this guy with a computer in my head. It's cool stuff. I enjoyed making the film a lot. It was probably one of the most intense films I've ever done, energy-wise. I made it after taking a month and a half off from Speed.
After the success of Speed, are you dying to do the sequel?
I'm not sure I'd want to do a sequel. I'll have to see the script first and then decide. I don't want to get locked into playing just action heroes. If I did a sequel, I'd want to wait three or four years. Definitely not in the near future.
Hollywood bigwigs are hailing you as the next box office superstar...
How very kind of anyone to say that, or anything for that matter. I have to laugh at the notion. It's not part of my reality, quite frankly.
How did you react to the news that a college was running a Keanu Reeves course?
I actually heard about it from a person who had gone to the school that had offered it. I learned that it concentrated on the detachment I brought to some of the characters I had played and the variety of films and directors I had worked with. So that sparked my curiosity. Maybe one of these days I'll have to sit in an actual class to see for myself what it's all about. But I'm flattered, naturally.
Is it good earning $1 million per movie?
Yeah, but I only clear about $450,000. Money doesn't mean power in Hollywood. The power, from what I can discern - I mean I don't think I'm moving around in that realm yet - comes from the success of your films -that's what brings the interest from the studios. No doubt about it. But the bottom line has to be your acting - you have to give certain performances in order to get better parts.
You've been acting for years now - what do you want to do next?
The opportunity for maturity is definitely there. It's still not clear cut but my biggest interest is to become a better actor. I still haven't settled into my career. In a way I feel like I'm beginning. I really do. That's because I've had successes and non-successes.
What's been your biggest disappointment?
In terms of performances the critics killed me in Dracula. I got slaughtered. I didn't think the accent was that bad. But supposedly it was. But those kind of failures put me in a precarious position, so I really do have some improving to do.
But you're a huge star!
Other than Speed I haven't been in any major studio successes. I mean, I know right now I have a lot happening for me, but I never get too secure with it. Making movies is always a risk. You just don't know what people out there are going to think is cool. What I think is really good can turn into something that nobody wants to go and see, so I just try to do my best and hope that people appreciate that. It's a good way to keep me grounded and to keep my ego in check.
You haven't been in any huge flops, though.
Listen, I don't mind being in a hit film but if it isn't a hit, well, that's cool too. What interests me is just day-to-day living and being a positive part of the world. I want to be as normal as possible and while other actors are creating something identifiable to sell, I prefer my freedom. It's as simple as that.