E! Online (US), September 9, 2000
Keanu Reeves, Reticent "Watcher"
Keanu Reeves has a movie opening this weekend, but he doesn't want you to know about it.
In The Watcher, Reeves makes his first foray into villainy, playing a cunning serial killer who toys with an obsessed detective (James Spader).
Coming on the heels of Reeves' superstar turn in The Matrix, you figure Universal would be publicizing the heck out of the actor's involvement--however, Keanu is virtually MIA from the movie's trailer and advertising (where he ranks--gasp!--below Spader, who's better known for indie fare like sex, lies and videotape). And he hasn't done any interviews to hype the project.
According to Inside.com, the reason Reeves is so reticent about Watcher is because he thought his part would be substantially smaller.
The history of the movie goes back about a decade, Inside reports, to a verbal agreement Reeves made with the film's director, Joe Charbanic (then a fledgling music video producer), during a street hockey game in Santa Monica.
When Charbanic approached the budding actor with a screenplay, Reeves gave it a read and agreed (without consulting his agents) to play a small part to help him get financing. Little did Reeves know what was in store.
Having Reeves on board was a coup for the film's producers, who were able to raise more money. The budget soared to approximately $30 million, and the script was reworked to gives Reeves, now a marquee star, a more visible role.
"The script did change," Charbanic, now 34, and making his feature directing debut with The Watcher, tells Inside.com. "It got bigger than [Reeves] wanted. He wanted it to be a little boutique film."
Boutique, it was not. When he discovered his cameo role had ballooned into a headlining role, Reeves reportedly threatened to drop out before filming began in Chicago last fall.
However, his attorneys recommended the actor not back out of his commitment to The Watcher. They cited Kim Basinger's disastrous court case in which she was ordered to pay $8 million to filmmakers for backing out of a verbal agreement to star in the indie flick Boxing Helena.
So Reeves became The Watcher's reluctant star. Inside.com reports there was tension on the set, especially once Reeves, who was working for scale, found out Spader and costar Marisa Tomei each nabbed $1 million for their participation.
Not wanting to tick off an A-lister like Reeves, Universal tried to make nice--and make Keanu virtually disappear from all the marketing. The studio reportedly agreed to feature the actor in no more than 30 percent of the trailer or other ads on the condition he laid off from publicly lambasting the film.
No immediate comment from Reeves' publicist on report.
If the reviews are any indication, Reeves was right in distancing himself from Watcher.
"The acting is terrible. After The Matrix, we somehow imagined Keanu Reeves had taken his skill to another level. But The Watcher reminds us that Pinocchio is less wooden." (ABCNews.com)
"The Watcher is a meticulously crafted but resolutely routine serial killer suspense thriller...neither acutely suspenseful nor particularly thrilling but instead mainly numbing." (Los Angeles Times)
"A crass mechanical attempt at a thriller that should have gone straight to video." (New York Post)
"Reeves deserves credit for tackling an offbeat role. But his performance seldom rises above the level of a good try." (Daily Variety)
At least Keanu has something to fall back on: He is due to begin working on not one but two new sequels to The Matrix.