Father opens his family photo album and reveals
Keanu's dream Aussie childhood
by Leon Wagener
...or was it a nightmare?
Although Samuel Reeves paints a rosy picture of his son's Aussie upbringing, Keanu tells a different story.
"The story of me and my father is pretty heavy stuff," the star of Feeling Minnesota says.
"I knew him up until I was six. Then I saw him occasionally when I would go to Hawaii on holidays."
Keanu still cannot forgive his father for abandoning him and his mother, Patricia, and rejects Sam's pleas for a reconciliation.
"I think a lot of who I am is a reaction against his actions," Keanu says. "My father is nothing but a Sixties deadbeat reject."
Keanu Reeves' father has talked for the first time about raising the actor and his sisters in Sydney and of the star's life-long love of Australia.
"The years we spent in Australia were the happiest of Keanu's childhood," Samuel Reeves says.
"We moved to Sydney from Lebanon in the mid-Sixties because things were getting dangerous. There was shooting, shelling and kidnapping all the time.
"Sydney was absolutety heaven for us. When we arrived, Keanu was four or five and my wife, Pattie, was pregnant with our second child, Kim.
"Our first home in Watson's Bay had a beautiful view of the harbor, which made my wife and I fall in love for it. Our plan was to live there forever, but unfortunately that wasn't to be.
"We had a wonderful time while we were there. I worked at a film lab and spent all the time I could playing with Keanu and teaching him things. As he got older, we went to Bondi Beach, all the time.
"One day the seas were pretty rough. He got swept under a wave and swallowed a lot of water before I could fish him out. It gave us both a pretty bad scare. He was only about five.
"The next day he wanted to go back to the beach and learn to swim. We went back and the weather was better. He found some smooth water and taught himself to swim. That was the moment I knew he was going to do something special with his life. It was obvious he had a spark that was going to take him places.
"The other thing Keanu loved as a kid was riding on my motorcycle. I had a Norton Commando bike I used to work on. Keanu always begged me to give him a ride on it. As soon as I thought he was old enough I got him a helmet and let him ride on the back.
"Scared he would get hurt, I drove slow, with Keanu shouting into the wind, 'Faster dad, please go faster'. He was a speed demon from the start. It was terrific to see a kid that thrilled.
"After he hit Hollywood and got to be a star, Keanu bought his own 1974 Norton Commando black and red motorcycle, just like mine. I was proud of him but scared because I knew how much of a daredevil he is. I almost died when I heard he had smashed his bike and gotten hurt. But he's a smart kid and I trust he'll take care of himself."
As bright as Keanu was, he had difficulty learning to read, which baffled his parents.
"We knew he was smart and couldn't figure out why he was having such a hard time with school. As a little kid he could put the most complicated models together and do puzzles his mum and I couldn't get," Sam says.
"Finally we got him to an education therepist who discovered he was dyslexic, meaning he saw words reversed on the page.
"It was a real challenge for a youngster. But with hard work he was able to overcome the problem and became a good reader. I think that struggle led to his being such a good actor. He learned to give a hundred per cent effort to everything he did. He developed that intensity as a young boy."
By the time Keanu was into his teens Sam, now 50, and Patricia were divorced. She took Keanu and his two sisters and moved to Toronto. An expert seamstress, Patricia supported her family making strange costumes for performers including Dolly Parton and Alice Cooper. Rocker Cooper became a friend and encouraged young Keanu to try acting.
His first professional role was a gay-themed play in Toronto requiring Keanu to wear a pair of skin-tight shorts on stage and do push-ups with oil all over his body. A poster of a kissing scene became a sensation in Toronto's gay community.
"If I had been there he would has passed on that role," Sam says, laughing.
Eventually Sam moved to his native Hawaii. Over the years Sam saw Keanu, now 32, fairly often at holidays when he came to the islands to visit his cousins and grandmother. But they grow apart. It didn't help that Patricia had grown bitter towards Sam and had little good to say about him.
Both parents went through a hippie phase and had, by all admissions, dabbled in marijuana and other things.
Keanu's cousin, Leslie Reeves, says: "There were fights about Sam's drug-taking. My aunt grew out of the hippie phase. My uncle didn't. He refused. In fact, he couldn't give up drugs."
In 1992 Sam was arrested by Hawaiian police with a quantity of heroin. It didn't help that he refused drug rehabilitation and told the court drugs should be legalised. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and served nearly two years.
"I've done my time and don't plan to get in trouble again," Sam says. "I'm sorry I caused Keanu embarrassment just when he had become an international star. But we all have our faults.
"Now I just wish he would forgive me and we could have a relationship again.
"He told me one of the last times we talked that he would love to go back to Australia again and ride around Sydney on our bikes just like when he was a kid. He remembers Sydney as fondly as I do. Maybe some day that will happen."