People go crazy over Keanu... and I can see why
- Rachel Weisz -
by Ivan Waterman
The beautiful British actress reveals what it was like working with the Hollywood hunk on their new film Chain Reaction
She has the dark, mysterious features girls of her age would kill for. But, unlike all those other girls, the beautiful British actress Rachel Weisz has just had heart-throb Keanu Reeves rushing to her rescue.
Imagine racing away with a bachelor boy who cruises the LA freeways on his Harley-Davidson and can, with a click of his fingers, knock over 10 babes at any Sunset Strip watering hole...
Rachel's big brown eyes widen and you'd swear her flawless skin is changing from pale white to embarrassed pink.
It's understandable. Gossip linked them in a torrid on-set affair which resulted in his fans hounding her, convinced she had the keys to his home... and his heart. And although she's obviously smitten by Keanu - joint number one on the Hollywood block with Brad Pitt - she insists their liaison was strictly platonic.
"A love affair with Keanu? No way! We were chasing round all over the place, trying to save our skins. It was very intense but there was no time for anything like that.
"Actually, it was amazing," she suddenly confides. "Girls would hand me baskets of fruit to give to him and I had to say: 'I'm not seeing him... I can't just turn up at his house."'
Arctic conditions in Chicago where Rachel and Keanu filmed the £60 million blockbuster Chain Reaction - out here in October - were chilly enough to cool anybody's romantic assignations. For two months they worked in temperatures that often plunged to -30°C, and she remembers bitter early morning calls.
"There were regular warnings not to go outside because you'd get frostbite. But we had no choice. We got frostbite and windburn which is frightening. It was gruelling, ripping your guts out 18 hours a day, six days a week. I felt as if my body was turning to ice. It didn't matter what you wore, either, you froze in seconds," she says.
But for Rachel, the daughter of a brilliant Hungarian-born engineer, the five months spent in Keanu's company were, barring the weather, a total delight. She was mesmerised by the cool dude with a wild image. They play scientists whose lives are threatened by the villainous Morgan Freeman when they discover a startling new energy source which could ruin some of the world's most powerful corporations.
And off camera, Rachel admits, she could barely take her eyes off Keanu. "He's one of the most intelligent people I've ever met," she says. "He's extraordinary. People think he's forever on a motorbike with all these teenage girls in pursuit, but he's nothing like that. He's very profound.
"He's also brilliant at his craft. To play this physicist he put on lots of weight and grew his hair long and became incredibly unglamorous. He didn't go to the gym to work out once, which must have been tough for him. When you're fit you don't want to lose it."
Rachel is nobody's fool. She read English at Cambridge, where she set up a drama society, Talking Tongues. "I always wanted to act. My parents were dubious, but in the end I got their full support."
Rachel, who looks like a young Sophia Loren with her full lips, high cheek bones and curvaceous figure, showed she was independent at 14 when she turned down the chance to play Richard Gere's daughter in King David.
She told her mum Ruth she didn't want showbusiness to interfere with her studies. Her friends thought she was crazy but Rachel, who was spotted modelling clothes for a magazine, was proved right when the £25 million biblical epic sank without trace.
After university the BBC snapped her up to star with Ewan McGregor - of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting fame - in the TV adaptation of the sexy, Stendhal period classic Scarlet And Black.
Rachel, now 26, won rave reviews for her role as the romantic Mathilde and went on to star in a hugely successful stage revival of Noel Coward's Design For Living, for which she won the Critic's Circle award for Most Promising Newcomer.
That led to a date with the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci in the Tuscan hills where he was shooting his new romantic drama Stealing Beauty - out this month - with Liv Tyler, Jeremy Irons and Sinead Cusack.
Rachel gives a riveting performance as Miranda, the girlfriend from hell, and spends most of the film either bitching about her friends or tormenting her American lover.
But it seems there's no room for romance in Rachel's private life just now. After her long relationship with film producer Dominic Anciano ended, she's concentrating on keeping her career in the fast lane. She's just spent a month in Los Angeles visiting agents and film studios. Then it was back to her newly purchased one-bedroom pad overlooking London's Regent's Park, to sort through fresh stage and screen offers.
"Romance?" she says with a mischievous grin. "The most romantic evening I've ever had was in a dingy basement club in Budapest where they were playing rock 'n' roll. I was on holiday and this tall, beautiful Hungarian came up and, even though I can't jive, we danced until dawn and didn't exchange a word. Then he bowed, kissed my hand and left. I never knew his name. But that was the most romantic thing that's ever happened to me."
Keanu, eat your heart out...