Real (UK), April 2001
Away with the fairies?
He lives like a hermit, dresses like a charity shop case and is vaguer than Phoebe from Friends. Keanu Reeves has been a huge star for years, but is he dumb or just very, very deep?
by Sophie Rena
Just what is it with Keanu Reeves? He's one of the best-looking men in Hollywood, but he doesn't appear to have dated anyone for more than a few months. He's one of the best-paid actors in Hollywood, but he's never even rented, let alone bought, one of those sprawling mansions in Beverly Hills that every other star seems to have.
And why does he always look so scruffy? Keanu is constantly snapped wearing dirty jeans or ill-fitting suits that look as though they came from a charity shop. There's something about him that makes you want to give him a bath, a shave and some clean clothes - only he always looks so remote, so distant, you wouldn't dare try.
Keanu's not like other celebs. Despite a career including more than 40 film, he refuses to play the fame game. In fact, few people can make him out at all. Is he dumb or smart? Lucky or talented? His image is a mass of ambiguities; he's masculine and feminine; decisive and waffling; focused and goofy.
Just don't expect that talking to him will enlighten you. He repeatedly replies 'yes', 'no' and 'mmmm, maybe' to the same question, more often concluding 'I dunno, really'. And some subjects are just plain out of bounds. He refuses to discuss his father, who served six years in jail for cocaine possession, or the loss of his child - 15 months ago, ex-girlfriend Jennifer Syme had a stillborn baby.
Nor will he reveal much about his famously mysterious love life, except for: 'I'm not in love, and there has been no one special in may life for some time.'
And he insists: 'I don't feel I have any obligation to share my private life with people. For me, fame is just someone coming up to you on the street and saying: "hi". Hopefully, you're famous because people like your work.'
In his latest film, Sweet November (out on 11 May), Kenau plays a workaholic executive, who is too busy to find love and so strikes a deal with a beautiful woman, played by Charlize Theron. They agree to have an affair for a month, then walk away. He admits he was drawn to the part because of his own inhibitions.
'My character gets to love someone and through that discovers the bounty of life, as opposed to being closed off', he says. 'He's working so hard, he doesn't know he's lonely. Once he meets this woman, it's revealed to him who he really is.' And like the character, 36-year-old Keanu has a reputation for immersing himself in his work at the expense of his private life. His film commitments take him to hotels around the world, where he seems happy to stay without the usual entourage of publicists and managers.
'Money isn't the thing that drives me'. says Keanu. 'When I look at a project, I'm not thinking about the pay cheque. I only look at the character I would play, the script, and whether I think it could work out to be a good film.'
In fact, Keanu's lack of sophistication and scruffy dress sense have caused him problems in the past. One such time was at the London Hilton.
'I was walking across the lobby when I hear this voice: "Excuse me, sir, are you staying in this hotel?" recalls Keanu. "Yes," I said. "May I see your key?" he insisted, until I took it out and held it up for his inspection. The funny part was when I got into the elevator, there was a woman who was obviously a prostitute and asked me if I wanted to party with her. I thought that was kind of ironic.'
Physically, Keanu is beautiful, there's no doubt about that. The tall, slim frame, golden skin and brown eyes make an alluring package. Yet there is a curious detachment about him. Even sharing a sofa with Keanu, inches away from him, you never quite feel he is in the same room, if indeed the same planet.
Some have described the actor as 'permanently stoned'. One can understand why people would say that. Keanu really is away the fairies. When he can't think of anything to say, he resorts to much pacing, um-ing and ah-ing - characteristics which he has brought him a reputation for being, well, a little 'wooden'.
'Some people like what I do, some don't', he mumbles. 'There's not much I can do about it. I'm not the best actor in the world. But I'm trying.'
Those who know him well say the detachment is down to his shyness, although his Speed co-star Sandra Bullock goes one step further: 'I Believe he's gone through harder times than he's willing to admit. Sometimes there's a sadness in his eyes that makes you want to go, "What is it?" But he keeps to himself, and that makes you want to know even more about him. Before I met him I was expecting him to be some kind of stud muffin, but he's the sweetest, most sensitive guy.'
Which brings us back to his love life. He has in the past been accused of being celibate, of proposing to former wild child Amanda De Cadenet and having entered into a homosexual marriage with music and movie mogul David Geffen. 'Hey, there's nothing wrong with being gay, so to deny those rumours is to make a judgement', he says. 'There's no real mystery to my love life. There's just not a lot going on in that department.
'I haven't been in a relationship for five years now. I mean, I've gone out and stuff but I haven't been in a relationship.'
This is all very puzzling, given that he was presumably a partner - of sorts - to Jennifer. Or at least their union must have meant something given that she was prepared to have his child.
In fact, very little is known about Jennifer, except that she had a small part in David Lynch's Lost Highway. Even less is known about the events surrounding the death of their daughter, Ava, or their relationship.
Keanu's wandering spirit can probably be explained by his upbringing. Born in Beirut of British mother Patricia (from Essex) and Hawaiin-Chinese father Samuel Nowlin Reeves, he grew up in Australia and Canada. His parents split up when he was two and he was raised by his mother and various stepfathers.
While he adores his mum (he has no contact with his father at the moment), it is his younger sister Kim who remains his closest family ally. Currently in remission from cancer, she has a stable of show horses paid for by Keanu. When he is in LA he stays with her.
'I work a lot so I don't have that much need for a house,' he says. 'I enjoy the fact I can move around freely. Sometimes I need to escape, so I sit on a couch and read or play chess. I also get to do that with Dogstar, the band I play bass in. We've been on the road for the past couple of summers. That's really doing it - playing music, drinking, going out for laughs.
'I didn't plan on living this way. One day, I'll get a place, but I'd have to feel a need to have a home, a sense of permanence. Right now, I guess you could say I'm a guy with no fixed destination.'