KEANU REEVES TALKS ABOUT STARDOM AND AL PACINO
Personality deceptively casual
by Frank Rizzo
Keanu Reeves lifts up his shirt to expose his naked chest to a roomful of reporters. The 33-year-old actor was demonstrating what he sees when he performs with his band Dogstar, and women in the audience try to get his attention. It's one reason Reeves so enjoys playing bass guitar in such rock palaces as San Francisco's Fillmore.
He also speaks with excitement when he's talking about the stage, such as when he starred in a stage production of Hamlet several years ago in his native Canada.
It's when the talk turns to the movies that the actor becomes, well, bored with the frequent and familiar questions about stardom, sex and Speed. His mind wanders, and at times he seems to be in his own private movie.
However, he revs his conversation up a notch and his focus is nearly there when talking about working with Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate. The movie has Reeves playing an ambitious defense lawyer wooed by a powerful and mysterious New York law firm headed by a devilish Pacino.
"Where did I first meet Mr. Pacino?" said Reeves, who has a tendency to repeat every question that he's asked.
"I met him downtown when we were doing camera tests," he said. "He's very gracioius. What did we speak about? He spoke about having lived in the neighborhood.
"When I heard about him taking the part I got lightheaded. I just couldn't believe it. I've enjoyed him and been affected by his performances and his acting.
"He's amazing. He's an incredible actor and he's also very beautiful. I find his grace and his expression beautiful.
"And his craft. And the way he fights for himself to be able to be free so that every take is new and expressive. And the technique that he has. The way he expresses. The intelligence of his choices. The humor.
"I guess the biggest thing I learned from him is to fight for scenes. To not give up. To say, 'Here's another angle. Here's a chance to do it again from this point. Let's do this and let's do that.' It never stops."
When asked to respond to director Taylor Hackford's description of him as "a young man of mystery with a lot of pent-up rage," Reeves answered with a bit of Clint Eastwood deadpan. "Yeah? Depends on the day."
But, after all, doesn't he get scrutinized a little more than most of us on our days of rage?
"Oh," he said dismissively, "sometimes sometimes sometimes sometimes sometimes sometimes."
Reeves hopes to return to the theater soon, especially in a Shakespearean work.
"Reeves is a disciplined and serious artist," said Devil's Advocate executive producer Erwin Stoff who also is a principal partner in 3 Arts Entertainment, which manages Reeves and other young stars. "And whatever it takes, he will do it."
Stoff said Reeves' what-the-heck persona is "deceptively casual" and beneath it is a man who is concerned about his career on every level.
Although Reeves has had a run of hits in Parenthood, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Speed, and some great personal notices for River's Edge, My Own Private Idaho and Little Buddha, his recent movies were box office duds: Chain Reaction, Feeling Minnesota, A Walk in the Clouds and Johnny Mnemonic.
When asked if he feels vindicated for turning down the disappointing Speed 2, the actor became circumspect.
"I haven't seen the film," he said. "However, (the script) I read, well, I just didn't like the premise to begin with: a cruise line. My point of view is that films under water are good, above water are good, but floating on water is death."
His next movie, which he begins filming in March, is Matrix, which he described as a "science fiction kung fu movie", directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski (Bound).