How to rope in Keanu
by Marion Ross
When your latest films are called The Last Time I Committed Suicide and Weed, a controversial quote isn't far away
Keanu Reeves likes to take risks, and he's taken one of the biggest gambles of his career, turning down the starring role in Speed 2. Instead he chose to play an alcoholic in the independent film The Last Time I Committed Suicide - the tale of Beat figure Neal Cassady, who inspired Jack Kerouac's classic novel On The Road. Keanu says the choices he makes in his life and in his career about quality, first and foremost. But he also believes in variety, moving forward and taking on new challenges.
TVW: Why did you take a supporting role in The Last Time I Committed Suicide? It was a bit of a surprise to see you pop up in a small film like this.
TVW: Because most in your box-office category ...
KEANU: Hang on a second! I have a very wide box-office category range. I was fortunate enough to be acting in a film that had the success of Speed, but I also had the fortune of acting in a film that had the success of Feeling Minnesota.
TVW: For your role as Harry in Suicide you had to play fat and drunk. How did you prepare?
KEANU: I drank. It's really the most fun I've had preparing for a film in a long time.
TVW: Lots of research?
KEANU: Yeah, all the research. No, I just would drink beer, scotch and wine.
TVW: You put on some weight for the film, how long did it take you to lose "fat and drunk"?
KEANU: About 11 weeks.
TVW: How heavy were you?
KEANU: About 200 pounds (90kg).
TVW: How much did you gain?
KEANU: I don't know. I guess I was about 168 pounds (75kg). I really enjoy the physical aspects of acting, so I try to change for each part.
TVW: Your next film is Alex Winter's Last Harvest, which is about drugs. If drinking was the research for Suicide, what's the research for that?
KEANU: I know it (the film) as Weed. I get to play a cocaine dealer, kind of a pot dealer. A guy named Kirby. I don't know what I'll do for that. I'll probably just have to speed up my metabolism, and my whole mental thing.
TVW: It's an interesting topic. It's trying to humanize something that's a scourge on society.
KEANU: What's a scourge on society?
KEANU: Drugs. They're all the same, aren't they? They're just drugs. I don't really think of marijuana as a scourge on society. That's my point of view. But for some people it is. And in the film, humanizing it - I don't know.
Alex has not really taken a political stance. I think he's doing the history of marijuana as a cash crop in the U.S., in the early days. And he follows this family that's kind of followed the cash-crop tradition of it. As moonshining became legalized, marijuana didn't make the jump. And now it's become quite criminal.
He's on the fence about it. He doesn't want the film to be like, "Yeah, pot!" He's trying to show both sides. And also, just showing the kind of accident that it is. It's almost a condition of circumstance that's beyond any kind of intent.
TVW: You seem to be on a mission to play a variety of roles. What makes you accept a film role?
KEANU: Generally the script, and the character. Something I'm attracted to, or just respond to.
TVW: You've just finished Devil's Advocate with Al Pacino (scheduled for a December release in Australia). What is the film about?
KEANU: I play a young lawyer from Gainesville, who has never lost a case and defends a man accused of child molestation. Halfway through the case I feel he's guilty, but I get him off. I destroy this little girl. And from that, I get recruited by a firm in New York City to come and pick a jury. As I get this success, I see less and less of my wife. I have to compromise more and more of what I truly think and feel in order to succeed.
TVW: What is Al Pacino like to work with?
KEANU: He's the man. He's a wonderful, incredible actor. His technique, his inventiveness and his knowledge of the camera. And his fight for doing the work, making sure we get the scenes. He prepares intellectually and emotionally. And when the camera rolls he just tries stuff. He's just there. He's not afraid. He's beautiful.
TVW: Did passing on Speed 2 (scheduled for release in Australia on September 25) have an effect on how you're perceived?
KEANU: We'll see. I have no idea. I had the opportunity to act in Devil's Advocate, and hopefully it will be a good picture and do well.
TVW: Will you see Speed 2?
KEANU: Of course. I can't wait. I love Jan DeBont's work, when it works. I really like Sandra Bullock. And I'm a great fan of Jason Patric as an actor. So get outta here - Speed 2, it'll be fun.