Keanu's got game
(Previously published on September 14 as a longer version entitled 'Keanu just a 'big kid'")
Matrix star happy playing Hardball
by Louis B. Hobson
TORONTO — Keanu Reeves is jetlagged, tired, testy and sore. He’s flown in from Australia where he’s filming the two Matrix sequels to do two days of interviews to promote his feel-good, sports movie Hardball that opened Sept. 14.
But he still manages to appear jovial, cracking jokes and deflecting a few made at his expense.
In Hardball, Reeves plays Connor O’Neill, a compulsive gambler who agrees to coach a Chicago inner-city little league baseball team to help pay off a gambling debt.
Many of Reeves’ pint-sized costars in Hardball are actual little league ball players. In their interviews, Michael Perkins, DeWayne Warren, and Bryan Hearne claim baseball is not Reeves’ forte and that he’s just a big kid himself.
"KIDS LOVE TO LIE AND TEASE"
Before he can even sit down, Reeves learns how the kids have evaluated him.
“You know kids love to lie and tease.”
He doesn’t comment on his ‘big kid’ status, but later director Brian Robbins sheds some light on the origin of these observations.
“At every opportunity they could, the kids would get Keanu to talk about The Matrix,” recalls Robbins.
“They couldn’t hear enough.”
Reeves met with the same kind of prying persistance from the journalists who had ostensibly come to chat about Hardball but had a Matrix agenda.
“If you want specifics, I’ll tell you what I told the kids: No comment, no comment, no comment.”
What Reeves was willing to devulge is that “I’ll be filming until January. We’re shooting both sequels simultaneously.”
He says the training for these new films “is more physically demanding than it was for the original movie.
"Trust me, you wouldn’t want to be my knees in the morning before I start limbering up.”
Exhausting as his daily eight-hour training sessions might be, they haven’t yet proved to be as harrowing as a few of the days Reeves spent filming Hardball last year in Chicago.
Hardball is based on Daniel Coyle’s book about his experiences coaching a youth baseball team in Chicago’s notorious Cabrini-Green Housing Project before it was shut down for redevelopment.
Hardball was shot in the ALBA Housing Project, which has earned a reputation for gang activity.
"HEARD SHOTS BEING FIRED"
“One night we had to shut down production and go home because we heard shots being fired just 50 yards away from our set,” recalls Reeves.
Reeves says he was attracted to Hardball because he has always known how important sports can be in a young person’s life.
“I was raised in Toronto from the time I was six years old.
"I learned very quickly that if you don’t know how to play hockey in Canada, your peers can make life miserable for you.
"It’s a lesson I’m grateful for.”
FIRST JOB WAS GOALIE IN FILM
He was a struggling 20-year-old actor in Toronto when the film Youngblood was being shot.
The producers sent out word they needed actors who could play hockey.
Reeves was a good goalie and won the role of a goalie in the film.
Youngblood wrapped up its Canadian shoot and headed back to L.A.
Reeves packed up his car and followed suit.
Within months he nabbed a role in the gritty teen drama River’s Edge, which lead to his breakout role in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Thanks to blockbuster films like Speed and The Matrix, Reeves has been enjoying his own excellent adventure.
“I know I’ll always be known for these Matrix movies, but hopefully I’ll have five or six more parts that I’ll be identified with before my career is over".