Keanu will meet prodigal father
by Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon and John Harlow
THE Hollywood action hero Keanu Reeves has been asked to play the toughest role of his life - as dutiful son after his father's release from prison.
Samuel Nowlin Reeves, 62, who served two years for drug offences, has not seen Keanu since he was a teenager, but is ready to fly around the world to make up for lost time with the star of Speed and The Matrix.
Hollywood is populated with angry children raging at unworthy parents. The Reeves family saga is exotic even by American standards, however - all the more so because Sam Reeves has admitted responsibility for many of the problems.
"I wish I had done things differently for him," said Reeves Sr last week of the son he last saw when he was 13, in his first interview after being freed from a prison near Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. "I think we would find we had a lot in common. He laughs like me, walks like me and holds himself like me."
Reeves Sr, a Hawaiian-Chinese farmer who trained as a geologist, met his Hampshire-born wife in the early 1960s when both were students at the American University in Lebanon. They settled in Beirut, but split up when Keanu, whose name means "cool wind over a mountain", was two years old.
Patricia Reeves took her son and his sister Kim to Canada, where she made a living by designing clothes for rock bands such as Led Zeppelin.
According to friends, Keanu was an insecure, angry child. "He resented the way he felt his father had deserted him," said Shawn Aberle, who delivered papers with him in Toronto in the 1970s. "In an early film, I Love You to Death, Keanu has a line about how fathers are only fathers at the moment of conception, and that was how he felt about Sam."
During this time Reeves Sr was struggling to run his farm. Dragged down by debt and his drug habit, he began importing Mexican heroin and cocaine in the 1990s. He was jailed for 10 years, but freed early for good behaviour.
Leslie Reeves, Keanu's Hawaiian cousin, said the actor was furious when he heard about his father's arrest. "He said, 'Who the hell needs this?' He has nothing but contempt for his father, having been brought up by powerful women who do not have time for drugs, and I do not see him getting over that in a hurry."
Keanu, 36, has rarely spoken about his father. Two years ago, however, he told Rolling Stone magazine: "I feel like I got my father's blood, and I am not that happy about it."
Indeed, he has not entirely escaped his father's self-destructive traits. He broke ribs when he crashed his beloved Norton 850 motorbike while driving without lights at night down a canyon, and in 1993 he was arrested on drink-driving charges. But Reeves calmed down after his friend, the actor River Phoenix, died from a drugs overdose.
His career has continued to thrive. His role as Neo in two sequels to the science fiction hit, The Matrix, for which he will earn '30m, elevates him to Hollywood's A-list.
Reeves Sr, by contrast, is now training as a chef. He hopes to be able to meet his son before Keanu flies to Australia for the new Matrix films, as well as Kim, who is in remission from leukaemia.
Until then, he will have to continue watching from afar. "I loved The Matrix," he said. "It feels so cool to see my son up there on the silver screen."