Keanu Reeves: Doing Hollywood His Way
Tinsel town's most unpredictable super star talks to our own Henrick Vartanian.
What is it about Keanu Reeves? Perhaps there is no answer to this commonly asked question about the most unpredictable star in Hollywood. From Jan De Bont's action-packed "Speed" to Shakespeare's demanding "Hamlet", Keanu sets his own pace, choosing projects that are desirable to him, and no matter what the genre or the character, he manages to win the audience time after time. His attempts to captivate various viewers, his charming personality along with a bankable reputation has made this young actor one of the coolest cats on the block. Last year, much to everyone's surprise, Reeves dropped out of "Speed 2", and took on a smaller film named "The Last Time I Committed Suicide", a film about 50's Beat-Generation writer Jack Kerouac and his friendship with Neil Cassidy. This month, Reeves returns to the screen in Warner Brothers' "Devil's Advocate". But in order for this cat to survive the challenges of this film, nine lives seemed not too many. I asked him to bring us up to date with his recent choices.
Please tell us about "The Last Time I Committed Suicide".
"The film covers a young Neil Cassidy sitting in jail who wrote some letters to Jack Kerouac. It concerns Neil and wanting to have the white, picket fence, getting married, and settling down. When the other aspect of him wanted to just roam and experience life."
The film was on a limited release throughout art-house film theaters and aired on cable TV immediately after its screenings. Keanu's next choice landed him opposite Al Pacino in "Devil's Advocate", directed by Taylor Hackford. In "Devil's Advocate" Reeves plays a young, southern lawyer named Kevin Lomax who comes to the Big Apple in order to work for a giant firm headed by John Milton (portrayed by Al Pacino). The story questions, morality, greed and loyalty. So, what did Keanu find out?
Is there a difference between a lawyer and the Devil?
(Keanu smiles): "There is a difference. There's a huge difference."
Did you gain respect for lawyers and their profession?
"Well, I dealt with criminal law. I don't envy their job. But it was great fun to be in their world for a while."
But you don't envy their job?
(Keanu seriously): "No. I play a defense attorney. Their job...? Is a complicated situation. It involves professional ethics and human morality. Sometimes they come into conflict."
The intense shooting schedule in streets of New York and a budget limited to $57 million (not the kind you set aside for a film containing two of today's hottest actors as Reeves and Pacino), left everyone exhausted. However, the elements must have been strong enough to attract the cast and crew of this caliber.
What attracted you to this film?
"It's a great script. Tony Gilroy (screenwriter) did an amazing job. It's a great story with a great part. I think it makes a more interesting film."
Judging from the brave maneuvers in story-telling techniques for today's Hollywood, and challenging the actors with a refreshing twist in their roles, Keanu says that he's not sure if this project is a film or a movie. However, he was drawn to the characters.
What similarities do you have with your character, Kevin Lomax?
(Keanu stops to think, then smirks like a sinner who got away): "You know what? I'm not going to say."
There were many concerns with casting Keanu against Al Pacino. Director, Taylor Hackford confessed to L.A.'s "Premiere" magazine that the studio's desires and his were somewhat different. Keanu Reeves promised box office and ticket sales. But Hackford was looking for someone who could still play the role. After casting Keanu in the role, he found comfort knowing that the actor works very hard and can hold his own. "He prepares incredibly," claims the director. One must prepare against Al Pacino. So, I asked.
How was it working with Al Pacino?
"He is an incredible actor. I can't say enough. He's present, and original, yet mysterious."
After this film, Keanu seems to be making plans on his other, newly exposed profession; music. His three-piece rock band "Dog Star", has performed different venues (mainly kept small and private) around the U.S.
What are your plans with "Dog Star" now?
"We're looking to get signed. We just toured the states and we've written new songs. We just want to keep playing."
Any chance of touring Europe?
"We would love to tour Europe. I, certainly, hope so."
Three days after its opening, "Devil's Advocate" showed ticket sales of more than $12 million making it this year's wonder hit for Warner Bros.