From Hot to Cold
by Keiji Haka
After several years' absence, the cool Keanu Reeves has returned to the screen with the blockbuster movie The Matrix. Does this mean that he may finally have a serious acting career?
Keanu Reeves was born on September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon to a Hawaiian-Chinese father and an English mother. Keanu actually means "Cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian. After his parents divorced, Keanu and his younger sister moved several times with their mother when she remarried. Finally they settled in Toronto, Canada. In high school, Reeves was a terrible student, and was more interested in playing hockey and acting than in studying.
After changing schools several times, he dropped out to try a full-time acting career and eventually began to get small roles in Canadian TV dramas. Then, he went to Hollywood to try his luck as an actor. After gradually making a name for himself with the movie River's Edge (1986), he got his first big break with 1987's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, which became a teen cult classic. His next break was with the 1991 crime suspense movie Point Break. He then worked on some bigger-budget films with big names like Winona Ryder, Anthony Hopkins (Bram Stoker's Dracula), Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing), and Uma Thurman (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues). In those films, however, he was pushed into the background by even bigger stars.
Finally in 1994, the super-action movie Speed brought him real stardom. His thrilling performance as a brave SWAT member made him one of the hottest names around the world. Unfortunately though, his following films - Johnny Mnemonic, A Walk in the Clouds, and Chain Reaction, were unsuccessful, and in fact, Reeves' performance was dull.
Reeves actually pays little attention to building a successful acting career. Asked if he has a "master plan", he replied: "Who has a master plan? I don't try to model myself after someone. I just try to work. I didn't try to act in bombs." He also confessed he even had sometimes thought about quitting acting. "Sometimes I get frustrated with the process of it;" he said. "When you're trying to do a film and trying to do good work but because of the time limitations you can't." In fact, he turned down a US$$12 million offer to do Speed 2 in 1997 because he wanted to tour with his band, Dogstar, in which he plays bass. "I know it - everyone says I made a mistake and I probably did," he commented about his decision, "Who knows?"
His choice may have been right, though, Speed 2 wasn't as successful as the original, and Sandra Bullock has had bad luck since starting in the film. Then came The Matrix, his latest movie. This sci-fi action film describes the fight of a computer expert (Reeves) who tries to free human beings captured in a world of virtual reality. It features amazing, trendsetting, special effects, exciting kung fu-style action, and "Japanimation." The film has already become a big success for both the studio and Reeves.
Reeves liked the script very much, and was enthusiastic in preparing for his role; taking kung fu training for four months. "I had a really good time doing it," he reported. "The most difficult stuff was probably some of the wire work and some of the kicks. But again, it's one of the fun aspects of the film to try and learn those." To prepare for the role, he went on a strict diet and lost almost 10 kilograms. As a result, he was able to do some difficult stunts, which may give fans the impression that Reeves is finally on his way to becoming a megastar.
Although he looks really cool in The Matrix, his acting still isn't so wonderful. In future films, he needs to prove he can impress the audience with his acting and not depend only on action. Also, there are some problems in his attitude toward filmmaking. When asked if he thinks the violence in The Matrix contributes to the violence in society, he just replied with a bored look: "I don't know." If he thinks more seriously about being an actor and works on his acting skills, Reeves may have a chance to become one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.