Keanu Reeves Interview
(Translated from German by Makee, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
by Richard Blair
Gay or not, strong and vulnerable, adventurer and couch potato - the man is a cluster of contrasts. With "The Matrix", Keanu Reeves became an actor of cult status, and now the fan community is waiting for the next hype.
Penthouse: What does 'Keanu' mean?
Reeves: In Hawaii, Keanu is a cool breeze that comes from the mountains. My father was Hawaiian with Chinese blood in his veins, but primarily he was an American. And after the United States clearly sided with the Israelis during the war, the climate became a little uncomfortable for our family. So we moved to Australia, then to New York.
Penthouse: Which turned out to be the beginning of the end.
Reeves: Right. My father moved back to Hawaii and divorced my mother. My mother despises New York, but there she was able to work in her profession and support us all. That's where she met the director Paul Aaron, who worked on Broadway and in Hollywood. They married in 1970.
Penthouse: Did you miss your father?
Reeves: Paul, our stepfather, was pretty cool. My sister Kim and I actually liked him. But like all puberty-laden teenagers, we thought that the world would be much better if we could be with our biological father. That was only possible during school vacations.
Penthouse: Then your father suddenly disappeared.
Reeves: I spent my last vacation with him when I was 13 years old. On our last day we sat on the veranda and stared at the dark sky. He hardly said anything that evening. The next day he brought us to the airport. Then we didn't hear anything from him for 10 years. No calls, no letters, nothing.
Penthouse: Did you search for him?
Reeves: We were on the other side of the planet. But neither the police nor hospitals were able to find Dad. As if the earth swallowed him. Simply disappeared.
Penthouse: When did your father reappear?
Reeves: About 10 years later, but we no longer had any contact with one another. And in July 1994, we found out that my father was convicted to 10 years of prison for possession of cocaine. So much to this subject.
Penthouse: Have you had any contacts with drugs?
Reeves: Beginning in the eighth grade, we occasionally smoked pot. Occasionally we got hold of some hash. Of course there was LSD, but that was pretty rare. I was too interested in a hockey career to get involved in a career as a druggie.
Penthouse: While you were a teenager, you had house guests such as Alice Cooper and David Bowie?
Reeves: My mother loved music at the time. When she sat at her sewing machine, there was always some kind of record spinning in the background on her record player. She also began designing stage costumes for Dolly Parton and rockers like David Bowie and Alice Cooper. Our little brick house turned into a pass through house for glam rockers who wanted to look good on their tours. Alice Cooper was always ready for some kind of joke. For instance, fake puke or dog shit was strategically placed on the sofa to drive our cleaning lady crazy. It doesn't get any cooler than that. My home turned into a giant playground, on which even the adults played.
Penthouse: How did that affect the development of your personality?
Reeves: First came the theater. I was fascinated by the possibility of becoming someone else on the stage. We had a theater group in my school. When they produced a performance of "The Crucible" (Arthur Miller), I simply auditioned.
Penthouse: Were you aware at the time that your life would change completely?
Reeves: Of course not. It was one of the many crazy ideas that teenagers have. Most of them don't come true; otherwise, we would have too many firemen and astronauts. But on the stage, I first felt the strength that can emanate when you do and say the right things within the right context.
Penthouse: So, then you auditioned at the Toronto High School for Performing Arts?
Reeves: I really didn'thave a chance as a beginner. Think about it. I was a damned hockey player. But the teachers must have seen enough potential to give me a chance. And suddenly I didn't do anything else. It was as though I finally found my place in this world, I finally knew who I was. I had the key to my identity in my hand. There is nothing more important for a teenager going through puberty.
Penthouse: At 16 you had your first commercial spot.
Reeves: For Coca Cola, which was shown throughout North America. The spot was about a bike race, nothing special really, but it was a big step for me. I got a bunch of small parts in Canadian TV, such as "Night Heat" and slowly but surely got better.
Penthouse: One article mentions you lacked bodily hygiene at the time.
Reeves: I think my body odor must have sometimes been really difficult for some of my colleagues. But at the time, it really wasn't important to me. You can always take a shower; but talent, you either have it or not.
Penthouse: Sounds pretty arrogant.
Reeves: But it's not meant like that. Even if you constantly play by our society's rules, you're still not guaranteed any success. I’m sticking with it. There are more important things in life than deodorant.
Penthouse: I hope you took a shower today.
Reeves: I did it just for you.
Penthouse: Your breakthrough came with "Youngblood".
Reeves: I wouldn't call it a breakthrough, because we all expected more from this movie. Otherwise I wouldn't have stood on skates again. Pretty ironic. I drive 4,000 miles to change my life and suddenly I’m just the hockey player. Rob Lowe was the star.
Penthouse: "River's Edge" was your first major film and said a lot about American youth.
Reeves: The age group that advertising strategies termed Generation X was so dulled that not even death was able to tear them out of their lethargy. It was a dark, almost nihilistic statement that no one then had made until that time.
Penthouse: Your next movie "Permanent Record" was about suicide.
Reeves: I believe that books, theater plays and films that confront death, in which the audience is forced to think about death, belong to the most important statements every artist can make. Comedies are nice. You make good money with action. But when all is said and done, only one question remains: where do we go when we are done?
Penthouse: Don't tell me you have an answer to that.
Reeves: For me, yes. But I don't know if my answer has any validity for you. I believe that everyone has to search for and find his or her own answer. Art can be helpful. Not the way world religions present the answers and they just have to be accepted. But by the way artists get on a stage and confront the audience with questions. Questions that help you find the right answer for yourself.
Penthouse: Pretty deep for an actor that found fame with brainless comedies and mindless action spectacles.
Reeves: At the time, I wasn't that far myself. And whether "Bill and Ted" was really so brainless or "Speed" was really that mindless... well we can discuss that in more detail later.
Penthouse: "The Night Before" was the first time you simulated sex in front of a camera.
Reeves: That wasn't easy. As a man you never know whether you need to apologize to your partner because you have an erection or because you don't have one.
Penthouse: How do you handle that?
Reeves: There are some funny suggestions. Some actors masturbate beforehand to be able to approach the scene in a relaxed manner. Others have a drink to lose their inhibitions. Some read porn.
Penthouse: And you?
Reeves: I throw a mint in my mouth and hope that my ass is well lit. No, seriously. I don't have a special technique. If you already know the actress like Charlie (Charlize Theron), it's easier. As an actor, you just get through it. After all, that's what you get paid for.
Penthouse: With "Bill and Ted" came stardom.
Reeves: No one was able to predict the success of "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure". I always wanted to play a really silly comedy. Something without any deep meaning. I wanted two hours of film fun, in the tradition of Blues Brothers, Animal House or the Marx Brothers. But I was really surprised when phrases from our movie became part of the American verbal culture.
Penthouse: During the following movie "I Love You to Death" you met River Phoenix.
Reeves: Until that point, I had practically no friends in the film scene because I hadn't met anyone that I wanted to hang out with privately. It's easier for me to separate my private life from my business. River Phoenix's childhood was even more curious than mine. He was also interested in acting for its sake. For him, it wasn't about a career, it was about his work. I can't stand this vain behavior among actors where they constantly talk about their agents, their deals and their salaries. It simply bores me.
Penthouse: Gus Van Sant, who not only outed himself years ago but is also a gay political activitist, was criticized because he casted two heterosexual actors as the main characters.
Reeves: I think that we are much further than that today. Rupert Everett acts beside Julia Roberts and openly admits his sexual orientation. Anne Heche works with Harrison Ford and the film does well, although the moral majority on all continents claim the opposite. Tom Selleck plays a gay reporter that shows Kevin Kline what he really is.
Penthouse: How did you research your role as a gay prostitute?
Reeves: I spent many nights with the street kids of Portland in back alleys, dark street corners and abandoned houses. I watched how male hookers finished off their customers behind dumpsters and how they shot up bad heroin.
Penthouse: In "Interview Magazine" you were quoted as saying: "I'm not gay, but ya never know." What did you mean?
Reeves: The way I said it. I'm not gay, but who knows the things that can still happen in my life. I don't want to be nailed to a particular life style. I like to live in hotels, but it's possible that I may buy a house someday. I can't say today how I will live tomorrow.
Penthouse: In 1995, a French magazine printed a story which stated that you secretly married David Geffen.
Reeves: I don't know what David Geffen thought about the article, since we have never met. But I thought it was very funny. The same year, I was named one of the 50 most beautiful people (People Magazine). Neither can be taken seriously.
Penthouse: Why didn't you take any legal action against the magazine?
Reeves: Because it's absolutely OK to be gay. If I publicly defended myself against such slander, it would appear that I had something against homosexuals. And I don't want that. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm not married. Not to a woman or to a man.
Penthouse: Then came "The Matrix" The film became a cult. Does that surprise you?
Reeves: Yea, somewhat. I want to make something clear. I am not Jesus. I am also no prophet or lone fighter that will save the world. I find it frightening how many people believe that being acquainted with me would solve their personal problems. That's simply not so. But I'm still participating in the next two Matrix films with enthusiasm.
Penthouse: Of course you are not allowed to reveal anything about the plot. Then tell me something about the affairs during the shoots.
Reeves: They happen.