The Independents of Keanu Reeves
To paraphrase Mel Brooks, it’s good to be "The One." As everyone who saw last year’s cutting-edge sci-fi smash hit The Matrix knows, Keanu Reeves plays a computer hacker who learns some really cool kung-fu moves and goes on to become The One, the savior of all mankind. That excellent adventure jump-started a Hollywood career that was sputtering: After becoming hunk-of-the-month in 1994 with Speed but before scoring in The Matrix, Reeves starred in a succession of disappointing films, including a lame attempt to duplicate the success of Speed (Chain Reaction) and a picturesque period romance (A Walk in the Clouds).
But that was before he discovered the reality of the Matrix. Currently riding the kind of prolonged wave his character Johnny Utah from Point Break would have really dug, Reeves is happenin’, man. Hollywood, with The Matrix 2 and 3 in the works, can’t get enough of him. But to his credit, Reeves, who turns 36 this month, doesn’t like taking the obvious route to fame or huge box-office grosses. After all, this is the high school dropout who not only turned down a plum role opposite Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat to do Hamlet on a Winnipeg, Canada, stage, but also spurned the sequel to Speed, which would’ve been his biggest payday, to tour instead with his fledgling rock band, Dogstar. Reeves is also prone to working in assuredly nonblockbuster fare with such directors as Kenneth Branagh (Much Ado About Nothing) and Bernardo Bertolucci (Little Buddha).
But perhaps Reeves’ biggest gamble to date comes this month when The Watcher opens. It’s another independent film, this time directed by an old buddy of Reeves’, Joe Charbanic. Reeves, who took a big pay cut to help his friend out, plays a serial killer—the actor’s first starring “bad guy” role—who matches wits with a former FBI agent played by James Spader. Though Reeves is playing against type in an indie flick, don’t expect The Watcher to be relegated to the art-house circuit; Universal snapped it up and will be releasing it, Hollywood-style, in thousands of theaters across the country.Yeah, dude, it’s good to be "The One."