TV Hits Special (UK), November 1995
The Life of Keanu!
"Fame is crazy scary!"
by John Jordan
Keanu might have made it big, but he's not totally happy with life at the top!
Has fame and fortune changed you?
I don't think I've changed much. Hopefully, I have to a certain extent. But I think it's just growing up. A little more experience.
Now can you not change?
It's such a vast question. These are tough questions. I thought we were going to talk about my new movie - now I have to speak about my life!
Well, what's difficult in your life?
Work. Acting in films. Getting work. Doing good work once you have the work. Hoping that the work is good once it comes out. I guess some of the publicity aspects in terms of the press are difficult. Sometimes press happens that you don't want to happen. Some of the feelings of powerlessness are difficult to deal with. When I say that, I don't mean in a controlling way, but sometimes it feels like you're getting punched and not able to punch back.
What's the dumbest thing you've ever read about yourself?
They say I'm either on drugs or I'm gay.
There was a story that you were going to marry David Geffen, the record company boss...
That's pretty dumb.
Did you get a good laugh out of it?
I think my friends got a good laugh out of it, more than I did. I didn't even know about it. I was in Winnipeg (in Canada) playing Hamlet, so when I was told I just went, 'Oh...' and then I went on. It became ridiculous when so many of my friends went, 'Oh, are you married?'
How did the experience of playing Hamlet help your career?
I know more about Hamlet and a little more about acting Shakespeare. It's helped me become a little more conscious about trying to see what I don't usually see - if that makes any sense! It made me more concerned about the process of putting on a stage play in the sense that we only had 160 hours to rehearse it, so if we did that again I'd ask for double the time.
You had loads of critics watching you play Hamlet. How did that affect you?
I think it's only going to make me a better actor, and if anything else, it pushes you to places you've never been before. It makes you deal with questions like, 'How do you feel about yourself?' and 'How do you feet about this happening?' It really pressurises you and I like that.
Isn't it scary doing things like Hamlet?
Yeah, thank God. Fame is crazy scary!
When you were doing Hamlet you signed loads of autographs - why give up so much of your spare time?
I don't know if that was generous. A lot of people had travelled a long way to see me. So whenever I had the energy after the show and I didn't have to meet friends, I'd try to do that.
Didn't all the attention annoy you?
Sometimes it was hard because I'd do a warm up at home and I'd put my head in a certain place to come to rehearsal. Then I'd meet these people and I'd have to deal with it and that would take me out of what I had prepared for myself at home. That was sometimes frustrating. It'd make me dodge the crowds and try to sneak in - but only because I was preparing. So that was sometimes aggravating and confusing because I want to say 'Hi', but I also wanted to do my work.
What did you think when you stepped on stage for the first time?
When I first hit the stage, I couldn't think anything. I was trying to breathe. I almost passed out. But now I know that I have to fight that because I didn't give a good performance that night and the critics who saw that performance went thumbs down and I can't blame them. But a couple of critics came later and they were very kind, so it got better.
What makes you try something like that?
It's not about just making movies. It's about acting and content - it's expression. If I'm broke then I have to make money, so I'll do whatever it takes. But if I'm not broke, and I have the luxury to work on the art - oops, I used that word - then going on the stage is one way to do it.
What's the coolest thing you've bought with the money you've made?
I got my sister a house.
When did you decide to be an actor?
I decided when I was 16. I went up to my mother and said. Is, it OK if I'm an actor?' She said, 'Whatever you want!' I guess it was like being a boy who's seen a fireman and says, 'I want to be a fireman'. I was like that because my stepfather was a director and I guess I looked at actors in that way.
What were you like when you were a teenager?
I was a lot of different people when I was younger. I started off pretty quiet and reserved and worked my way out from there.
When was the hardest time for you as an actor?
I guess I haven't really had one - I'm not like other actors when they talk about having to live off peanut butter! Maybe it was difficult when I first started out, but I was 19 or 20 and I just stayed with my family. I've never been a waiter for six years and struggled. There were times when I was running out of money and did work I wouldn't have done if I wasn't broke, though.
Were there times that you just wanted to quit?
Oh yeah, sure. Just because the process isn't going well. You have no time to do the work you want to do. Directors and producers run out of money and want you to do a quick take, then you're not doing your best work. My expression is that the camera is God.
Was Speed a turning point in your career?
Yes, I seem to have many, but that was one of them. But it's kind of wearing off now. I'm due another one.
What do you mean, it's wearing off?
The success of it. Being thought of as a bankable actor. It's kind of shifting.
Did you have to work out a lot before doing Speed?
That was a lot of time in the gym.
Did you carry on going to the gym after filming?
Your new movie, A Walk In The Clouds is a romantic movie, but do you consider yourself romantic?
What's your idea of a relationship romance?
It's been so long that I can't speak about that.
How do you know when you're in love?
There we lots of different ways. You feel it. I guess it depends on how old you are and I guess it depends on the state of the relationship.
Do you have any responsibilities?
I have a lot of responsibilities. I just don't have to concern myself with normal responsibilities like the painting of the house or mowing the lawn.
Have you ever done any TV work?
I've done three or four TV films. They were OK - not bad. The comedy shows I did were alright. I've also done cartoons and stuff. I did voices for the Bill And Ted cartoons which was great fun. but I prefer to be in cinema.
Do you keep momentoes from all your movies?
From Bill And Ted have some of the wristbands I wore. From Speed, nothing. Walk in The Clouds, nothing. Johnny Mnemonic (which is out early next year) I kept the suit. From Hamlet, I have my sword. It's in a box at my sister's house.
What's your favourite song by the band that you're in, Dogstar?
Isabelle. (launches into song) Isabelle is a girl. Isabelle loves her world. You can tell by the way she smiles, cutest girl by a country mile.
That's it. It's about the baby of a friend of mine, but she's not a baby anymore, she's three and a half. The lyrics change. The first verse is always the same, but the next two verses I always make up because it's always about what she's doing at that moment. So it changes. It's cool.
What's the best moment you've had on stage with the band?
I've had a couple, but one that comes to mind is when we played The Belly Up which is a club in San Diego. It's one time I played the bass and played Isabelle and I was missing her and I felt her so much. When I sang it, I got such a thrill that my blood tickled. I was like, 'wow' - it was very much fun.
Last question, has this Interview been an excellent adventure?