"Most definitely the best film I've done in years"
Keanu Reeves is back to doing what he does best - looking great in a nail-biting action adventure film, The Matrix. He was having a well-earned rest when B caught up with him in LA
Keanu Reeves hasn't always been the happiest movie star in the world. When Speed made him a megastar he was profoundly uncomfortable with his new god-like status. He moved into Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont Hotel - famous for attracting reclusive types - picked what he hoped were 'interesting' film choices and made some curious real-life decisions. He dated Amanda De Cadanet and then, not by choice, found himself something of a tabloid laughing stock when news of his 'wedding' to American media mogul David Geffen spread like wildfire around the globe. In Los Angeles people who'd claimed to have been at the wedding were a dime a dozen, but the story was nothing more than a vicious rumour.
This is the best year Reeves has had personally and professionally for sometime. The Matrix was the year's first official American blockbuster and Reeves is hotter than ever before. He couldn't look happier or more handsome - a little dishevelled, perhaps, but radiant. He's wearing a slightly crumpled black suit with black nail polish, oddly, and his hair is shooting off at all angles. He seems much chattier than the Keanu most journalists normally meet and in the mood to talk about The Matrix. For those of you who haven't been to see it, Keanu has given us a brief rundown...
"I play a man called Thomas Anderson who starts off as a computer nerd but turns into something else while looking for a man named Morpheus, played by Laurence Fishburne. And I'm searching for the answer to a question. The question is: What is the Matrix? My character feels that the answer to this question will somehow make sense of his life."
So what is the Matrix? Well, it's not easily explained. Not by Keanu, nor anyone who's seen the film. You'll just have to see it for yourselves. The Matrix is certainly thought-provoking, futuristic, complex and downright riveting to watch. "Oh yeah, there's some crazy action," laughs Keanu whose role demanded much more physically than any film he's made since Speed. He and the entire cast spent three months training in LA before flying to Sydney where the film was shot. "Before taking this on, I really had to think about the film's physical demands. It was a big commitment," says Keanu who has been known to put on a little weight in between films. For this movie he spent three months training before he even stepped on a film set. Then, even while making it, the cast continued working out. "We filmed five days a week and the sixth day was just training. It was very intense," he says. So he didn't get to see much of Sydney, then? "No. I wish. I love that city. But I only saw a few streets while we were filming. And I went out for dinner twice the whole time we were there."
And when he did get to go out to dinner, he couldn't eat much. I was on a very strict diet of carbohydrates and proteins," he confides. "I had to try and stay away from pastas and breads for a whole year." But it was all worth it as he is "most definitely" pleased with the result.
"There was so much enthusiasm for the film on everyone's part which made the whole experience one of my best ever," he grins. "But then to see the film and have it be so much more than you thought it was going to be when you were making it is something else. I've seen it four times now. It's a film that makes you go, 'Damn, that was beautiful.'
And with the poor reception of so many other recent Hollywood blockbusters it puts him in a great position. But, as an actor, it is upsetting to see so much rubbish being made. "I think once in a while there seems to be a sameness kind of thing going on, or a certain predictability," explains Keanu. "Then again, you get films that people react to once in a while. Lots of people responded to Pulp Fiction because it was different and entertaining. But there are lots of films out there that make you think, 'Why did I just spend two hours of my life here? This hasn't given me anything! It's funny, too, how other people react to the same thing. Other people can see the same thing and go, 'I loooved it. I cried. 'And I'll say 'How could you cry at that drek?"
Would he care to elaborate on which film he's talking about? "No, but I'll tell you two I really liked recently: Bulworth and Happiness". And is he excited about Star Wars: The Phantom Menace? "Um, I'm excited. [He doesn't sound at all excited] OK, I'm not very excited. I would probably have been really thrilled by it eight years ago. I think I have a little too much baggage right now."
If he has personal baggage, it doesn't show. But he's not giving anything away, either. It's been widely reported that Keanu is rather more than the "good friends" he admits to being with Matrix co-star Carrie Ann Moss. And he's no longer leading a hermit-like existence at the Chateau Marmont? "No, I've moved back home with my family."
He'll soon be making another film, but before that he'll be in Britain with his band, Dogstar. "Yeah, we're playing at Glastonbury. It's our first time and I can't wait," he tells me. "And we're recording an album at the moment. We toured Japan a few months ago and we'll be doing an American mini-tour soon!" Yes, but will he be looking as hot as he does in The Matrix? "Well, I'm not on a diet anymore, I can tell you that. I'm just living my life now!"