Walking on Clouds With Keanu
by Diana Saenger
Lush green hills bathed in soft light and dotted with fertile vineyards make Napa California the perfect spot for romance. The unveiling of 20th Century Fox's new film "A Walk in the Clouds" starring Keanu Reeves couldn't have been staged in a more perfect setting. As I anxiously waited with journalists from all over the world to interview the intriguing actor, I wondered what revelations the silver screen's newest romantic lead would disclose.
As we chatted face to face, I realized I could have made a handsome profit by relinquishing my chair to any one of millions of romance fans across the country. His dark sparkling eyes widened with surprise when told he was voted Most Romantic Hero of 1995 by Romantic Times Magazine. "I'm really pleased," he beamed when presented with the award.
His fans have seen him metamorphose through such diverse roles as Hamlet; a teen idol in the sci-fi film, "Johnny Mnemonic"; as well as an action hero in last year's smash hit, "Speed ", which garnered him rising fame and fast-growing popularity. With the opening of "Clouds," everyone will see that Keanu's new walk is under a romantic moon.
"People's interest in me comes and goes and I have to ride the wave of popularity," says Keanu. Despite being guarded about his personal life, he says he doesn't mind the occasional press conference, especially when it will help promote a film he passionately believes in. "I love this movie and really want it to be a success."
Director Alfonso Arau ("Like Water for Chocolate") chose Keanu to play the post-war hero in "Clouds" after seeing his electric performance in a screen test. "I knew he had passion and many emotions just waiting to be released," said Arau. "A Walk in the Clouds" revolves around a young GI, Paul Sutton, who meets and falls in love with Victoria, the daughter of a wealthy vineyard owner, but must fight the objections of her family. The character of GI Sutton is the romantic hero we find in our classics and Keanu delivers this role to perfection. From the moment Victoria (played by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) and Paul meet, there is an instant undeniable attraction that builds for an hour and ten minutes before the first kiss.
"I enjoyed that it took so long," Keanu smiles. "Paul is overwhelmed by this family experience and the tenderness of the many relationships involved." Acknowledging that romance is usually put on a pedestal and distorted, Keanu admits that the film shows the more erotic and sensual emotions of life.
To create this instantaneous sexual tension, the director brought in an acting coach to set up improvisations that would promote the spontaneity necessary to achieve such on-screen chemistry. "First I'd say, I like your eyes, and she'd repeat the same thing," Keanu says, explaining that the phrases became more personal as they progressed.
He admits that he and his co-star (her first American film) became friends. "I eventually came to trust Aitana and we began confiding in each other about more personal matters." Because of this mutual trust, the on-screen lovers are quite convincing. Keanu explains that it was a natural projection of their working relationship; "there was an easiness we felt with each other; we moved really well together."
When asked about his real-life romance, he sets his face to stone while slowly running a hand through his short black hair. "That's a private question," he grins. However, he will admit he's a vagabond. With no home and no ties, he lives out of a suitcase and travels on his Norton motorcycle. Perhaps his wanderlust has something to do with his name, which in Hawaiian means "cool breeze over the mountain." "My stuff was in storage for so long, I finally gave my couch to my sister so I could sleep on something familiar when I visit," he laughs.
Keanu's shyness can swing into an intense brooding, and often he becomes his own worst critic. Filled with self-doubt, he continually strives for the perfect performance. "Acting can be painful, but there's so much pleasure in the pain, that it's hard to discern the difference," he admits.
Keanu has just completed his next film, "Feeling Minnesota," an off-beat romantic comedy that will further his romantic leading man image.
When forewarned that such sensitive-guy films will cast him in a new light as a romantic lead, he says cautiously, "We'll see, although that's not a bad place to be!"