Keanu Reeves gets serious, dude!
by Louis B. Hobson
BEVERLY HILLS -- Even a cool breeze can occasionally become a raging storm.
In Hawaiian, Keanu Reeves' first name means "cool breeze over the mountains."
For most of his 31 years -- and particularly his 10 years in Hollywood -- Reeves has been a cool wind, or at least one cool dude.
Through movies like Parenthood, I Love You To Death, Prince Of Pennsylvania and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Reeves perpetuated the image of the spaced-out Valley boy.
Even in this first half of his film career, there were the stormy periods.
There was his motorcycle accident in L.A.'s Topanga Canyon, which ruptured his spleen and left an ugly snaking scar on his belly.
There were his bouts with alcohol and drugs and his surly interview sessions at which he reveled in being uncouth and dishevelled.
After the death of his friend River Phoenix in 1993, Reeves suddenly became solemn and revamped his image. He joined a small alternative rock band called Dogstar, in which he plays bass.
With the 1994 release of the action thriller Speed, Reeves became a box-office superstar.
This form of celebrity was something he had never pursued -- and he continues to rage against it.
"All I have ever wanted is to be accepted as a serious actor or a serious musician or a serious something.
"Instead, there is this frenzy for autographs and pictures. It has nothing to do with my ability to act, and for that reason it's demeaning," says Reeves.
"I've been with the band for three-and-a-half years, and in that time, we have never got a real review.
"It's all about what I'm wearing. It can be very demoralizing for the other (band) members."
Reeves is now on the road with Dogstar in Japan. It's the second leg of a tour which saw the band do 12 European gigs in 10 days.
"It's even nuttier in Japan than in America," he says.
In Japan, Reeves' rabid fans number in the tens of thousands. They take turns forming groups and flying to wherever his band is playing or where they might glimpse him in person.
When Reeves starred in Hamlet last year in Winnipeg, a group of 50 Japanese women bought theatre seats for every night of the run.
These fans call him their love god.
"Dogstar is releasing its first CD in September. Maybe then we'll get some of the respect we're after."
Reeves is also looking for respect from the world film community. That, he says, is the reason he turned down a $11.5-million US payday for Speed 2.
"I just finished doing Chain Reaction. It was a big action picture and I didn't want to go through that again."
In Chain Reaction -- which opens Friday -- Reeves plays a lab technician accused of sabotaging a government-run plant. He becomes a fugitive not knowing exactly who is pursuing him and why.
Morgan Freeman co-stars, with Andrew (The Fugitive) Davis directing.
"It wasn't a great experience," admits Reeves. "We were making this expensive summer movie and we had these 10 writers on the set every day making it up as we went along."
Reeves also says that Davis "loves to work in chaos. He says it inspires him. But I found it nuts, especially since we were forced to work such insane hours."
Instead of Speed 2, Reeves will star in The Devil's Advocate. He plays the assistant to a lawyer who is really Lucifer.
"I thought they were talking to Al Pacino about playing the devil, but I also hear Dustin Hoffman might be doing it."
Reeves is still limping these days from a second motorcycle accident he had in May. He was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when a car pulled away from the curb.
Reeves swerved and struck another vehicle.
"My two Norton motorcycles are my prized possessions. I could never think of not riding them again. I don't know if I'm getting better at riding them but I definitely know I'm getting better at crashing."
Jokingly, Reeves says his work on Speed and Chain Reaction may have helped save his life.
"Chain Reaction taught me how to fall and bounce.
"Speed gave me the agility to get up and hobble away before somebody could run over me.
"Neither of them prepared me for dodging cars."
Reeves says the worst thing about doing action movies like Speed and Chain Reaction "is when something goes wrong in the stunt. The best thing is when everything goes right. I mean it's all about the stunts isn't it? It's not about acting."