IDOL WITH HIS HEAD IN THE CLOUDS
by Gill Pringle
WILL the real Keanu Reeves please stand up. There is either a great deal to the star of A Walk In The Clouds - or there's no-one at home.
Off-screen, Reeves sticks in the mind as a perpetual teenager, a brooding, beautiful young man who's a bit of a puzzle in the IQ department.
The tall lanky frame, golden skin and deep brown eyes make an alluring package, yet there is a curious detachment about him.
Sharing a sofa, and sitting just a few inches away from him, you never quite feel he is in the same room.
Or, indeed, on the same planet.
There are some who have described the actor as "permanently stoned". And without imagining for one minute that he is high, one can understand why people would make such a remark.
Keanu really is away with the fairies.
He's talking enthusiastically enough about his new movie, but you just know that there's this other part of him which really isn't joining in the conversation.
Those who know him well say the detachment is down to his shyness, although his co-star in Speed, Sandra Bullock, goes one step further.
"I believe he's gone through harder times than he's willing to admit," she says.
"There's a hint of sadness in his eyes - but he keeps it to himself, and that makes you want to know even more about him.
"Before I met him I was expecting some kind of stud-muffin, but he's the sweetest, most sensitive guy."
And in my own conversation with Reeves, even the most innocent line of questioning would meet with an occasional: "What kind of question is that, are you writing my biography?"
At other times, he feigns an air of studied nonchalance.
Talking about his nomadic early life is one of those painful subjects. He becomes virtually monosyllabic.
Born in Lebanon, of a British mother and Hawaiian-Chinese father, he was raised in Australia and Canada.
His parents separated when he was two, and he was raised by his mother, Patricia, who by then was designing costumes for rock stars, and various step-fathers.
He hasn't seen his father - who is currently serving a prison sentence for drug possession - since he was 13.
"If I was going to be a parent myself, I believe it is important to make a commitment to being around ..." he says, before drifting off again.
"But I'm not really available for that right now - because of my work," he adds hastily.
Keanu has long fended off rumours that he is gay.
"If someone doesn't want to hire me because they think I'm gay, well, then I have to deal with it, I guess.
"Or if people were picketing a theatre, I would have to deal with that too. But otherwise it's just gossip, isn't it?"
A solitary young man, Keanu Reeves doesn't really live anywhere. He owns an apartment on Manhattan's Upper East Side, but says that a dispute over the lease on his Los Angeles condo forced him to leave.
He moved his belongings into storage a year ago and has since sought refuge in a variety of hotels.
With his scruffy apparel, there have been some hotels who failed to notice they had a movie star in their presence.
One such was the Hyde Park Hilton in London, a story which he relates in a wonderful snooty British accent.
"I was walking across the lobby when I hear this voice, 'Excuse me, sir, are you staying in this hotel?'' 'Yes!'' I said.
"'May I see your key?'' he insisted, until I held it up for his inspection." There are days when Keanu doesn't think his acting is any good.
"On those days I get real angry at myself," he says.
"There are days when I'm okay, but not too many.
"Maybe it's because I'm a Virgo, I tend to be hard on myself," he says.
"I have received some pretty scathing reviews but I try to not let it get me down.
"I've made some fairly serious films in the past 10 years, and I've been lucky in that I've been around some great artists."
And there, more or less, it ends. Keanu Reeves has done his bit for lively conversation.