Reeves keeping his head in the CLOUDS
Heartthrob's heart is in his acting job
by Diana Saenger (an Alpine-based free-lance writer)
Keanu Reeves' star on Hollywood Boulevard is not quite as bright as the sun in the Napa Valley wine country, where he's meeting the media to promote 20th Century Fox's film "A Walk in the Clouds." But the bright light of his ascending Hollywood stardom is nearly blinding.
That, however, is unimportant to Reeves, who says his focus is strictly on his acting and he cannot be bothered by how hot this star has become.
"Acting is painful, but there's so much pleasure in the pain, it's hard to discern that it's painful," he laughs.
His fans have followed him through roles as diverse as the changing seasons.
The 30-year-old actor played an action hero in "Speed," ran the gamut from "Little Buddha" to "Bram Stoker's Dracula," stepped into cyberspace in "Johnny Mnemonic" ("I know none of you saw it," he chides the press) and received rave reviews in Canada last year on stage in "Hamlet."
The green hills, the allure of soft light and a good glass of wine make Napa Valley the perfect spot for romance. It's also where director Alfonso Arau ("Like Water for Chocolate") set his magical-surreal film "A Walk in the Clouds," about a young GI returning home after World War II who falls in love with a vineyard owner's daughter.
Arau chose Reeves to play Paul Sutton, the romantic lead.
"I knew he had passion and many emotions just waiting to be released," Arau said.
Reeves seems unaware he's become an even bigger heartthrob to fans since he and Sandra Bullock made sizzling eyes at each other in "Speed."
So immune to that popularity, in fact, that his dark eyes widen with surprise when he's told he's been voted Most Romantic Hero of 1995 by Romantic Times magazine.
"I'm very pleased. That's really nice," he says.
Reeves' 6-foot frame folds easily into the interview chair he's visited many times, but his restless maneuverings shows he's still uncomfortable being "a star."
"People's interest in me comes and goes, and I have to ride the wave of popularity at that moment," says Reeves.
The actor keeps his private life to himself, and when asked about his real-life romance, he sets his face to stone and drags a hand through his short hair, as black as midnight. "That's a private question," he says.
Reeves says he doesn't mind meeting members of the media and helping to launch a film. What he does mind is when a magazine sets out to malign him.
He claims he'd like to disappear from the public but acknowledges his commitment to Arau, saying, "I love this movie and really want it to be a success."
When "A Walk in the Clouds" opens Friday, Reeves may not be prepared for the onslaught of fans who eagerly await the next leading man to idolize. The role of Paul Sutton is the perfect romantic hero, and Reeves delivers deliciously. From the moment Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) and Paul meet, an undeniable attraction builds for an hour and 10 minutes before the first kiss.
"I enjoyed that it took so long," Reeves says.
Acknowledging that romance is usually put on a pedestal and distorted, Reeves says this film shows the erotic and sensual emotions of life. "It's the better part you usually don't see," he says.
To create this instantaneous sexual tension between Reeves and Sanchez-Gijon, the director brought in a teacher.
"First I'd say, 'I like your eyes,' and she'd repeat the same thing," Reeves says, explaining that the phrases got more personal as they progressed.
He admits that he and his co-star (her first American film) became friends. "I could trust her, and we talked about things other than work," he says.
The on-screen lovers are quite believable, and Reeves says, "There was an easiness we felt together; we moved well together."
Reeves has just completed "Feeling Minnesota," an offbeat comedy that will further his romantic image. He chooses his films, he says, based on value rather than career moves. "I look for a good script and good characters and who I'll be working with."
In his personal life, the busy star has little connection to anything but acting. He admits he's a vagabond . . . no home, no ties. He travels with one suitcase and his motorcycle, a Norton.
Perhaps it has something to do with his name, which in Hawaiian means "cool breeze over the mountain."
"My stuff was in storage so long, I finally gave my couch to my sister so I can sleep on something familiar when I visit," he laughs.
His shy cuteness often swings into an intense silence. With a firmness in his jaw, Reeves often seems to become his own worst enemy.
"I used to carry one rope for myself, now I carry two," he grins, his dark eyes dancing.
He strives for the perfect performance, and when he seems uncomfortable with a question, he rattles off a line of complex Shakespeare dialogue, as smoothly and flawlessly as any actor who's graced the stage.
"I like some of his plays, and I like the verse," says Reeves, who comes alive when he's in character. "I love words and meanings. It's the closest I've found to the root aspect of sound and meaning."
Reeves says doing Shakespeare is like putting a hand in an electric socket. "If I was out of breath, the verse would take over. It's very energizing."
Reeves says his star isn't really that high, but when "A Walk in the Clouds" opens, he may have to reach for the ladder.
Will he be happy with all the new attention? "Sure," he beams.