Entertainment, television and culture
by Joey Berlin
Sequel season is upon us. With budgets soaring to $100 million or more for a single movie, trying to follow up a picture that has already worked is the closest thing in Hollywood to a safe bet. And since summer is the busiest season for going to the movies, ''The Lost World,'' ''Speed 2'' and ''Batman & Robin'' have long been virtually assured high rankings on the year's hit list.
For actors, sequels can be both a sure thing and a back-end payoff, because their salaries are always generously increased from the originals. Yet each of the above blockbusters have only one lead actor returning. Stars of ''Jurassic Park'' saw their characters written out of ''The Lost World,'' except for Jeff Goldblum; Val Kilmer felt he was creatively suffocating under Batman's cape and cowl.
But what about Keanu Reeves? After ''Speed'' became his first big hit since ''Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure'' almost a decade ago, how could he refuse to come on board for ''Speed 2?''
''I had the opportunity to act in 'Devil's Advocate,' and hopefully it will be a good picture and do well,'' answers Reeves, adding that he looks forward to seeing ''Speed 2,'' with Jason Patric in the role that could have been his.
''I can't wait,'' Reeves insists. ''I love (director) Jan De Bont's work when it works and I really like Sandra Bullock. I'm a great fan of Jason Patric as an actor.''
Then he breaks into his best Brooklynese to conclude his endorsement. ''So get outta here, 'Speed 2!' It'll be fun!''
While ''Devil's Advocate,'' a ''horror-drama'' in which he plays a hotshot young attorney who neglects wife Charlize Theron while being led astray by a fiendish Al Pacino, won't be out until fall, Reeves does have a supporting role in the new movie, ''The Last Time I Committed Suicide.''
Written and directed by Stephen Kay and starring newcomer Thomas Jane, ''The Last Time I Committed Suicide'' is based on a letter written by Neal Cassady to Jack Kerouac. Kerouac later made Cassady a central figure in his writing and an inspiration for the Beat generation.
Reeves ballooned to more than 200 pounds (from his normal 168) to play Harry, Neal's drinking buddy in ''The Last Time I Committed Suicide.'' He was attracted to the theme of the film, which addresses a common dilemma of our time.
''It's a battle I feel all men and women are familiar with at some points in their lives,'' he says. ''Do I settle down? Am I missing something? Have I lived? I want the ideal, but even the ideal is false in the end. You know how much it takes to have a house and a relationship and kids, but then there's that moment when they laugh and the house is nice and you're with your loved ones and everything's good. But it's still work. It's Neal's tragedy that he can't do it.''
After spending all his adult life as a sexy movie star and a fantasy figure for young women, how does Reeves himself relate to this common dilemma? Is he getting ready to settle down and start his own family?
''It depends on the day,'' he responds. ''Right now, I don't want any kids.''
In fact, right now Reeves is on tour across America with his rock band, Dogstar. In its own way, making music is what keeps him grounded between pictures.
''When it goes good, it's really fun,'' he says. ''We've got some new songs and they're pretty good. The band's pretty tight. The feedback's been good. We toured last summer, we're touring this summer. I'm looking forward to it.''
When Dogstar started it was seen as a vanity project for Reeves, but he's proud of the way it has evolved since then.
''We've been doing it for about four years now and a lot of people have heard the music. So when they come out, they're there for that.''
After the tour ends, Reeves hopes to play a drug dealer for his old ''Bill & Ted'' pal Alex Winter in ''Weed.'' Listening to Reeves discuss his view on drugs in America, it's a good bet that ''Weed'' will be quite controversial, if it does actually get made.
''Drugs. They're all the same, aren't they - They're just *drugs*'' he says sarcastically. ''I don't really think of marijuana as a *scourge* on society. But that's my point of view.''