Roadshow (Jp), December 1995

Interview with Keanu Reeves

by Anne Curtis

Well not only in the movies he is known as a shy and complicted man. With messed up hair he appears slightly sleepy today. But there is a reason for that. Last night he appeared with Dogstar in the Beverly Hills Troubador club and he was up until 3:00 am. But, "this is not a hangover, I just had a little bit of beer. I have a cold."

His outfit is black pants, white shirt, heavy black shoes, which is his style. With this wardrobe, he is living from hotel to hotel, his only property is a Norton 850 motorcycle.

He doesn't appear like a movie star but his favorite roles are from when he appears in A Walk In The Clouds, Johnny Mnemonic. Furthermore, this year he appeared in Hamlet in Canada, and June and July he is appearing Japan.

So we are going to introduce him in an interview.


Q: I understand that since moving out of your apartment in L.A. last year you've been living in hotels. Why is that?

A: I've been so busy with work the last few years that I simply haven't had time to look for a house.

Q: There have been a lot of rumors about this recently, haven't there?

A: The ridiculous rumors that have been spread about me, and the silly investigations that have been run on me over the past months have been a real pain in the neck. The rumors about me being gay and my marriage to David Geffin are all groundless gibberish. I'm not trying to live on the wild side. I don't have some kind of Bohemian personality. I just don't have a permanent residence, and that's it.

Q: How did your rise in popularity affect your lifestyle?

A: For me "fame" has been what the root of the word, "fama", means. It means "rumors". But not matter what, I just want to do good work. The only thing I'm interested in is making and acting in movies that people enjoy, whether they're Hollywood movies or independents.

Q: Are you feeling more comfortable in Hollywood these days? I mean now that you have the power to give the green light to projects and all?

A: In the past five years I have come to feel that I'm a member of the movie world, but there are still lots of times when I feel like a "transfer student". And I certainly don't have the power to give a project the green light? Actually, I'm not much interested in getting that kind of power anyway.

Q: How did the success of "Speed" change your career?

A: Well, I'm still looking for work. In other words there is no difference between the old days, the present, and the future... in terms of jobs in acting, at least. I get a role, I prepare the part, and this gives me satisfaction. This relationship with acting is always the same. I figured it out speaking to Anthony Quinn, who I appeared with in "A Walk in the Clouds"---the essence of the acting profession has changed frighteningly little since his generation.

Q: You chose to do "A Walk in the Clouds" immediately after "Speed". Was that because you wanted to do a romance, something the complete opposite of an action film?

A: That's not it at all. The reason is that I met the director of "A Walk in the Clouds", Alphonso Arau during the filming of "Speed". I make it a point to look for my next job while still at work. I guess that's the fate of an actor. I liked the script and had my agent set up a meeting with Arau. And then I read the scenario a few times. It was around this point, it seems, that the director and studio decided to have me appear in the movie. Even before this I had been thinking that I would like to do a love story, and I really liked the nature of the story, the human relationships and especially the character of Paul Sutton (Keanu's role).

Q: This Paul has a burning desire to settle down with a family. Is this something you have in common with him?

A: Of course. Although Paul has led a life very different from mine, I share his longing to have a family. A house, a wife, children, a dog running around the backyard. Paul's dream is my dream. And I believe that someday it will come true.

Q: Are you a Romantic?

A: Yep, at times. Romance is one of the most important things in life. Even I could be a good lover.

Q: When you have a family, someday in the future, what will be important to you?

A: Respect, love, and caring.


Q: What did you learn by appearing with a veteran actor like Anthony Quinn?

A: He performs so joyously, and in such a relaxed manner, that his acting is just like making love. When I was feeling anxious about my acting he advised me to "not think so much about it, to just play the role". I was also lucky enough to hear all kinds of stories from his life during the breaks in filming. Those were a gift from him to me."

Q: Your partner in the film is the Spanish actress Aitana Sanchez-Gijon. Did you find it tough to perform with an actress from a different culture and background?

A: There were absolutely no problems, because we had, in fact a lot of things in common. Aitana has appeared in many more movies than me, and her stage experience is also rich. These points gave us a certain mutual understanding.

Q: What kind of advice did the director, Arau, give you in shaping the role?

A: I'm not really sure how much of the role I shaped myself and how much of it came out of the director's advice. Arau, the director, had it all set up and had everything ready to proceed in a good direction. We didn't have a single disagreement on artistic interpretation. It was really wonderful. I depended on him completely---I am an actor that worries a lot. So the director had to keep telling "Everything is fine. Everything is fine".

Q: What did this film teach you about Mexico and Latin-American culture?

A: Let's see. I guess I learned the most about their music. All year long they play mariachi. Remember the musicians in the movie? Even when they weren't on camera they were playing. When we'd be filming at night, the sounds of their singing would echo through the night. It was a super romantic experience. I sing a serenade on film, too--in a perfectly naturally, tone-deaf way.

Q: You're a musician yourself, right? You play the bass with a four member folk band, right?

A: Yep, Playing off the name of the band, "Dogstar", we did a tour called "The Dog Days of Summer". We play music strictly for fun. We have no contract to put out a record, and I don't see performing taking the place of acting. But just recently we did a concert in Tokyo. For the five friends who went along, it was first trip to Japan and they were really happy about that. We're set to go to Europe next.

Q: You're tremendously popular in Japan. What do you think about your Japanese fans?

A: The Japanese have a rich spiritual life, and they're very kind. Having a chance to play in Tokyo was a great experience. They treated us like royalty. Being able to perform and travel with my friends was fantastic.

Q: Did you dream of becoming a rock or movie star as a kid?

A: I never dreamt about it even once. I didn't think I wanted to be a rock star or movie actor, and I never worshipped actors until I became one myself. I didn't start playing the bass until I was in my twenties. it started because I liked the way the instrument sounded, and then I learned the pleasure of performing. That's when I formed the band with my friends and made music my hobby.


Q: How do you feel about the fact that "Johnny Mnemonic", the movie you made before "A Walk in the Clouds", never really took off?

A: Oh my gosh! That movie was a major flop! But I think that it's unfair to call that a personal failure. After all, the piece released was not the one I made. That was the product of compromises made in the editing. For example, I spent three and a half months portraying Johnny as a certain kind of person. He had no desire to regain his memory but, as the story progressed, he starts to awaken to this desire. Now, in the re-filming six months later, they added the line "I want to recover my memory". And would you believe it? They dropped this line right in the very beginning of the movie? The last scene got changed a lot, too. In the original version Johnny and Jane were going to pay a great price in personal sacrifice in order to save the world. And this got switched to them slipping into a virtual world with the help of the dolphin. The idea of having Johnny hack his way into the virtual reality inside his head is an interesting one, and I realize that the movie took on a positive element because of its inclusion, but the movie that William Gibson (author of the original novel), director Robert Longo and I wanted to make was very different from this.

Q: How do you feel about the studio changing the intentions of the makers of the film?

A: I'm angry about it, and disappointed, too. Trying to turn it into an action movie, the studio ended up with something half-baked, and they disappointed the audiences who came looking for what the movie originally set out to do. I don't think science fiction movies like "Johnny Mnemonic" are meant to be released in the summer, where everybody is looking for that big hit. It just couldn't be sold as an action film.

Q: Do you think there is anything you can do as a actor to make sure that nothing like the "Johnny Mnemonic" incident happens again?

A: Own the studio myself, and do my own directing. That way I can make the movie my way! (laughs). Seriously speaking, though, I don't seem to have much recourse. I can just hope that the studio takes a good close look at the script before they take on the project. That's why they started grasping at straws to recover the initial investment---they didn't believe in the story itself.

Q: Do you have any plans to move on to directing?

A: If I'm going to direct, first I'll do some stage acting. I don't have much background in movies so I've got to learn more and acquire some more experience.

Q: What are your thought on having done "Hamlet" on stage?

A: Opening night was a nightmare! I was exhausted and it seemed like the 160 hours of rehearsal were all for nothing. But as the performances continued I reached a point where I thought I was portraying a pretty damn good "Hamlet". More than a tragedy, our interpretation gave it more of the nature of a revenge. It was a good production.

Q: Did you meet Ralph Finnes, who did "Hamlet" on Broadway?

A: When I saw him perform, I thought I wanted to meet him. I don't know why it is, but people who play Hamlet want to meet other people who have played Hamlet. Finnes would make five straight appearances, and he did the monologue non-stop. As for me, I had to take hits off the oxygen tank between scenes.

Q: What's the attraction in performing Shakespeare?

A: For one thing, I've always been interested in performing Shakespeare. I did Mercutio in "Romeo and Juliet" in high school. It was great---I remember the lines being just wonderful. There is a joy in performing Shakespeare plays, and there's a lot to learn from it. Of course it's not easy stuff but, compared to the old days, I think I'm now able to perform it a little better. I've learned the importance of process.

Q: Do you want to do more stage acting? Or are you afraid of the critic?

A: I'm used to the criticism. I don't act for the purpose if making the critics happy, I just do my best on stage. Some people like the way I act, and others don't. I really don't care one way or the other. Of course I'd like to do more Shakespeare. I'd like to do "Hamlet" again, and I'd like to do Edmond, Edgar, or Prince Hal from "Henry IV, Part II". My dream is to appear in a public theater in New York.


Q: What kind of movie is your latest, "Feeling Minnesota"?

A: It is really tough to explain the story line. It's kind of a romantic, black-comedy sort of movie. The script and the cast are both great! I've long been a fan of Vincent D'Onofrio, who's in the movie as well, and he's the greatest actor I've ever worked with. All you can say about his acting is that it's fantastic. We're cast as brothers in the movie, and Vincent, who is the older brother, plays and accountant for the mob. Cameron Diaz, who has tried to steal money from the mob, is being forced to marry ham. But she gets deeply involved with me, who has just gotten out of prison and returned home. We get stuck being chased by the gang.

Q: What does the "Feeling" in the title "Feeling Minnesota" mean?

A: Love, I guess. An inner emotion, a desire different from some romantic love. When Diaz asks me to take her away, I say something like this: "I can't do it. There would be nothing but darkness ahead of us. Isn't that right? After all, we're just too happy now for it to be any other way."

Q: Are action pictures easier to do that love stories?

A: I guess the action pics are easier to do. What is being portrayed is on the surface, and they're not looking for the expression of some deep emotion. In action movies the emotion is straightforward, and simplified to stuff like "anger" and "bliss". So sometimes the actor has to square off against the devil inside him.

Q: There's Aitana, Cameron, and Sandra Bullock from "Speed". Which one is most your type?

A: I don't really have "type". If I had to come up with something, I'd say it's a "woman who doesn't shut the door in my face". What's important is communication. But things in real life never go as smoothly as they do in the movies.

Q: Do you think that in the future you'd rather act in small-scale, independent projects like "Feeling Minnesota" than in commercial movies?

A: As long as I've got the leisure to choose, and don't have to work for the money, that's what I'd like to do.

Q: How far have the plans for "Dead Drop", with Andrew Davis as director, progressed?

A: It's still at the idea stage, and the script hasn't been finished yet. But the cast and the staff has been decided upon---that's the wonder of Hollywood. Anyway, at the moment they are still looking for a screenwriter.

Q: What are your favorites among the movies you've appeared in?

A: Well, there are some which I like as completed works, and others which I liked the making of. "River's Edge", "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure", "I Love You So Much I Could Kill You", "My Own Private Idaho" "Speed", "Love in Radio Town", "Heart Blue" these are all movies which I feel were successful artistically. But I don't personally really have a preference for a certain type of movie. It all depends on the mood of the individual at the time."

Q: What about directors whom you respect?

A: Beruna Herzog (?), Martin Scorcese. And Howard Hawkes. The worlds they've built, the dialogues, the spirit---all of it is just great.

Q: Do you watch a lot of old movies?

A: No, I'm no movie fanatic. I'm a movie fan, but not a student of movies.

Q: What are some actors you respect?

A: Gena Rowlands, Christopher Walken, Robert DeNiro, Vincent Price, and Vincent D'Onofrio and Dan Aykroyd, who I just worked with, Viggo Mortensen is also a great actor, and I'm a big fan of his. Oh, and Sean Penn.

Q: Are you continuing the ascetic/spiritual practices which you started during the filming of "The Little Buddha"?

A: I wasn't into any spiritual training even when I was filming "The Little Buddha". I did meditate and read, though, and did discover some truths as a result.

Q: Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?

A: What do you mean by that? Do you mean hanging quartz around my neck, or something? Do you mean being into some religion? The answer is "no"!

Q: Do you believe in the zodiac?

A: I'm a Virgo, you know: self-analytical, reserved, and a perfectionist with a love of order. And, to top it all off, I'm left-handed. A left-handed Virgo---the pits, eh?


Johnny Mnemonic , A Walk in the Clouds , Hamlet , Fake Geffen Marriage and Related, The , Speed , Dogstar , Romeo & Juliet , Feeling Minnesota , Chain Reaction , River's Edge , Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure , I Love You to Death , My Own Private Idaho , Tune in Tomorrow... , Point Break , Little Buddha

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