Interview with Sam Raimi
by Christopher Allan Smith
(snipped for Keanu content)
DR: Why did you want to cast Keanu Reeves against type as wife-beater Donnie Barksdale?
Raimi: What happened was when they said he was interested, I said, "You must be crazy." Then, they said, "He wants to meet you." I said "Yeah, but I don't want to meet him and then say no. It'll make it worse." They said, "Let him meet you," so I went to this meeting dreading it. He came in, and I found out that I had been fooled like everybody is fooled by movie actors. You know, you watch Kevin Costner, and you think he's a swell guy. But in this case, I just thought he was that kid from Bill and Ted's, but he turned out to be this very intelligent young man, very dedicated to the craft of acting. Then I was reminded that he was in A Walk in the Clouds which I really liked, his performance as a young romantic lead. Then I thought about Matrix which I had only seen a little bit of, actually, but I remember he had a very different character in that.
I started to look back over his work and realized that yes, they had typed him into this one part, and sometimes he was miscast, but he actually had a very deep understanding of this role. Then he slipped into the part in little bits and pieces. Suddenly I saw in that moment that Donnie Barksdale could be this sexual animal also. That became a very new and exciting idea to me. I suddenly thought, "Yes. That makes sense that he is a sexual creature." I wanted to know why this woman is attracted to him. The stuff about cycle of abuse is about weakness, and I never believe in a cycle of abuse. Suddenly it was interesting -- she finds him to be this sexy, powerful animal and yes, she's weak and trapped, but there's an admission of, and it's not a pretty thing to say, but she likes Donnie. She finds him attractive. I realized that attractive quality could help me there.