Now (UK), September 20, 2000
I Love Being Homeless And Free
Keanu Reeves has a star status that can command $15 million per movie and he admits it's made him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But Keanu, 36, who's set to add another $20 million dollars to his bank balance for two sequels to the smash hit film The Matrix, is a rarity among the Hollywood elite in that he completely shuns the trappings of fame - so much so that he's effectively homeless.
While other movie idols spend their huge pay cheques on luxury mansions, expensive cars and private jets, Keanu has no fixed address and prefers to live out of a suitcase in hotel rooms around the world, wherever he happens to be making a film or touring with his band Dogstar.
"I could live for the next few centuries on the money I've already made," he says, "but I won't let money complicate my life. I have people who look after it well, invest it, and I make sure my family lives well. But most of it just goes straight into the bank.
"I'd like to have a home with all my belongings in it., but I work a lot, so I don't have need for a house. And it's nice not to have to worry about the rent or paying the house bills. When I travel, I travel light - no entourage, no private jet, no bodygaurds. Usually it is just me and my trusty suitcase against the world, but with enough money to buy a bottle of fine Bordeaux wine.
"There's something about me that enjoys the fact that I can move around freely and not have material things to tie me down. I think if I bought a huge house, I'd feel guilty in some way. It wouldn't seem like me. "One day I'll get a place, but I'd have to feel a need to have a home, to have a sense of permanence. But I don't need that right now. I guess you could say I'm a guy with a destination."
So determined is Keanu to live a normal, uncluttered life that, during the filming of The Replacements - released in the UK later this year - he actually turned down an enormous luxury trailer which the studio had provided for his comfort.
"I like to keep things simple," he explains. "I spoke to the producers and they took the big trailer away and gave me one the same size as all the other actors. I don't need a lot of space or comfort. Just give me a couch, a table, a few bottles of mineral water and some fruit and I'll be fine." "Money isn't the thing that drives me. Of course, I want my films to do well and make a lot of money, because that's going to get me a lot of great roles to choose from. Sure, your salary goes up, but it's the last thing I think about."
In The Replacements, Keanu plays a football quarterback who was never good enough to make it to the big leagues until a players' strike forces them to recruit replacement players. Based on America's 1987 National Football League players' strike, this immensely likeable comedy co-stars Gene Hackman as a veteran footbal coach who comes out of retirement to make a team out of the rag-bag group of would be football stars. To get in shape for his role, Keanu packed nearly 25lb on to his 6ft 1in frame and underwent a two-mount training regime during which he learned to throw the football properly. In its own way, the training was just as tough as it was for The Matrix.
"With The Matrix, I had no experience in martial arts, so when I went to kung fu bootcamp, I had to learn everything from scratch. My body ached all over from having to repeatedly train myself to perform arm thrusts and leg kicks.
"At least I knew how to throw a football for this film, but the training was still a killer. My entire body ached and I had six icepacks in my freezer that I alternated using on my shoulders and knees."
It's on his motorbike that Keanu has suffered some really bad injuries. But he still finds heading for the open road alone on his bike is the perfect antidote to the pressure of making a film. "There's a great sense of freedom that comes with riding a motorbike," he says.
"The speed is pretty intoxicating and many times I've told myself to slow down. I'm a lot more careful these days when I'm working on a film. I take the responsibility seriously enough not to ruin a film by getting smashed up in a traffic accident."
"On a motorbike I'm always alone and, growing up, I always felt a bit alone and isolated from others. I did a lot of pretending as a child. It was my way of coping with the fact that I didn't really fit in." "I had a lot of trouble reading [he suffers from dyslexia], so I wasn't a good student at all. Eventually I got fed up and didn't bother to finish high school. But when I was 15, I started acting and got hocked because it allowed me to be someone different."
He admits: "Some days I still feel different. I used to spend a lot of time worrying about how to fit into the world and what I wanted to do with my life. But these days I don't go looking for "big answers" any more. I've learned you're better off just living your life and letting the answers come to you."
Keanu's reputation for being disconnected from the world isn't lost on his co-stars. Jon Favreau, who appears with im in The Replacements, says: "When we went out at night, it was next to impossible to get him to do anything social because he doesn't enjoy being mobbed. He just loves to act and the whole itinerant lifestyle of the actor. He's just a regular guy, but he's been famous for half his life and he'd rather be anonymous."