'Replacements' star Keanu Reeves scrambles
by Donna Freydkin
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Don't blame Keanu Reeves for looking just a tad wiped out.
The star of "The Matrix" flew to New York from London just a few days before, expressly to hype his new movie "The Replacements." This time around, Reeves dons a helmet and jersey to play a has-been quarterback with one last shot at glory as a replacement football player.
But on this bright and early Manhattan morning, glory is the furthest thing from Reeves' mind. Unshaven, with mussed hair standing on end and clad in a slightly rumpled black suit and beat-up shoes, he seems to be trying his best just to stay awake. Turns out that the star had zipped into New York on the Concorde, just mere days after the fatal Air France crash of the supersonic jet.
And while Reeves, 36, may specialize in playing smoothly superhuman characters on the big screen -- think of the explosives expert he portrayed in "Speed" (1994) or his slick computer geek in "The Matrix" (1999) -- he does 'fess up to some very human fears. He's actually afraid of flying.
"I try not to be," he says. "If anything ever seems to be going wrong, No. 1, I always think I can survive. I make plans. I'll jump out of the plane or I'll jump out and find a hill and try to roll down the hill. It's completely ridiculous."
The same word could describe the schedule Reeves keeps. The actor essentially lives out of a suitcase and leaps from one film to the next. Just this year, Reeves has four films hitting theaters: "Sweet November," "The Replacements," "The Gift" and "The Watcher."
But he insists the hours he keeps aren't a big deal.
"Well, after 'The Matrix,' I didn't work for like seven, eight months," he says. "So that was a pretty long time. And after 'Devil's Advocate,' (1997) I didn't do 'The Matrix' for almost 11 months."
Keanu's excellent adventure
Reeves is something of an enigma. The Lebanese-born actor, who grew up in Toronto, cut his teeth in such "serious" flicks as the dark murder saga "River's Edge" (1987) and the diabolical society drama "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988).
Yet Reeves broke through not as Mercutio in a stage production of "Romeo and Juliet," but as the sweetly dense Ted in the goofy kiddie time-travel comedy "Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989). Unfortunately, the bumbling Ted persona stuck to Reeves for years.
But the laconic actor, who once elevated the exclamation "duuuuude!" to a national mantra, is anything but a dummy in person. He's the antithesis of Ted: thoughtful and low-key.
And he's pursued roles that would, in theory, help establish him as a respected actor.
"I've felt like acting more and I wanted to act as much as I could and so I've been lucky to be able to get a chance to do it," he says.
But he admits that the career took a toll on his personal life.
"Other parts of my life -- you know, sometimes it's hard to maintain," he says. "I maintain friendships, but you can talk about what you've done but it's sometimes nice to have shared experiences and I've kinda missed out on that sometimes."
Still, Reeves says, he fears that every job will be his last.
"But that's what keeps you going in a way too, I think," he muses. "It's that whole ambition-wanna-work engine."
For now, Reeves will have little time to call his own. He just wrapped "The Gift," which has him playing the wife-beating hubby of Oscar-winner Hilary Swank. And in late March or April of next year, he starts filming the highly anticipated sequels to "The Matrix," two physically taxing films that should keep him busy for months.
"I'm really excited by (writer/director Andy and Larry Wachowski's) ambition and by their scope and by their storytelling and their ambition for the ideas that they want to communicate and for the cinema that they want to create," he says.
Aside from his acting career, Reeves is also a member of the band Dogstar, which he formed in 1993 with two buddies. So far, Dogstar has released three albums, but hasn't exactly invaded the Billboard charts.
But if Reeves could have either the No. 1 album or movie in the country, he says the choice is no-brainer.
"I'm an actor, and so I would pick the movie," he says. "I hate it because I love them both. But I am an actor, so I'll make that distinction. But that's all I'll say. I love to play music."