KEANU REEVES SWEPT UP IN ROMANCE OF 'CLOUDS'
(Previously published on August 12 as a longer version under the title 'Keanu Reeves takes 'A Walk in the Clouds''; also published in August 1995 as a shorter version under the title 'Keanu Reeves Takes a Walk in the Clouds')
by Dan Yakir
"I didn't think of it as a romantic lead," says Keanu Reeves, running his hand through his short black hair. "But I was attracted to the project because of its romanticism."
With A Walk in the Clouds, the 30-year-old actor, Hollywood's hottest and one of its more versatile, is trying his hand at a full-fledged romantic role, showing a new side of his screen persona. Reeves plays Paul, a World War II veteran and chocolate salesman who falls in love with Victoria (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), a beautiful Mexican-American woman from an aristocratic family of Napa valley wine makers.
Directed by Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate), the movie, which takes place in 1945, has a decidedly different romantic tale at its core: Paul meets Victoria, who is pregnant and unmarried and afraid of her conservative family's response to her predicament. Paul volunteers to pose as her husband for a few days until she is better able to cope with the situation. The two then proceed to fall desperately in love.
"I was looking forward to (doing) such a romantic piece," Reeves says. "And I liked it when it came around. You can call me a fledgling romantic. What I liked about this movie is that it makes you enter a dream world. It's about a guy who would open the door for you. You might say, 'big deal,' but it is. He wants to keep giving and giving."
In the movie, it takes an hour before the two protagonists have their first kiss. This fits well with the "director's romantic notions" as well as with his own, Reeves says: "sex is for a few minutes, but eroticism is forever."
Does he believe people go about it too quickly today? "More than that," he responds. "I think in mainstream Hollywood films, at least, it's a cruder sensibility -- it seems more about coitus than it does about the kiss or about the kind of partnering that occurs.. Or else it's movies like Forrest Gump that put the romantic aspect on a pedestal and where there's no actual relationship. It's distorted. But this movie is about the gentleness that comes with partnering."
Reeves and Spanish actress Sanchez-Gijon clicked right away during their screen test. "It was obvious," Arau says. "Keanu was the only actor who had this innocence I was looking for, in addition to being a very charismatic, handsome, and devoted actor. To my mind, this was a role in the tradition of Gary Cooper and Henry Fonda.
"He has an understated quality that's natural to him, and he's also a private, introverted person," Arau continues. "I had to help him open the door for the character's passion."
Reeves has been the subject of so much gossip recently that people tend to forget how devoted he is to his craft. Ask him about his transformation from a goofy kid in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure to a graduate of the Kenneth Branagh, Bernardo Bertolucci and Francis Ford Coppola schools of filmmaking, and the actor responds that he hasn't really changed all that much. "People who saw Bill and Ted probably didn't see Permanent Record," he says of his 1988 teen suicide film. "People have different images of me, depending on which of my films they've seen. But I always took acting seriously. To me, there's nothing else."
Although he was offered millions to do it, he's turned down Speed 2 "because I didn't make it to do another one." He has consistently opted for quality projects. In the meantime, this hot media item says he's becoming even more reclusive in the face of mounting stardom. "There was a recent cover story in People magazine that I felt was very invasive and made me very angry," he recalls. "It was in poor taste. I think it's unfair to involve people around my life who perhaps don't want to be involved. I didn't cooperate at all with that article. It's things like that that make me want to disappear a little more."
Yet Reeves remains surprisingly matter-of-fact about it all. "My star isn't that high," he protests, adding, "but what does that mean? It doesn't mean anything. Hopefully the films will be good and the acting will be good and that's it."