Most Alluring Canadian Awards - Male Actor: Keanu Reeves
Zen and the art of dude maintenance.
by Leah Rumack
Keanu Reeves, movie star, bad lad and object of countless obsessions, once told Seventeen magazine that he was worried that if he died, all they would write on his gravestone was “He played Ted.” Well, he hasn’t had to worry about only being remembered as most excellent air guitarist Theodore - of the honourable Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure - for a long time now. At 37, he has managed to snatch a wide range of roles: from Buddha to dashing romantic lead to cyberpunk messiah in the mind-bending Matrix trilogy. The world likes to paint him as an enigma, a bad boy who is half Zen and string theory (he’s into Buddhism and philosophy) and half motorcycle grease and cigarettes (he’s into vintage motorcycles and, well, cigarettes).
This is what we know from the gallons of ink that have been spilled so far: that his particular beauty is inherited from a Hawaiian-Chinese father and a British mother. That he grew up in Toronto and started acting in his teens, landing a series of small parts in plays, TV shows and low-budget flicks. That he eventually packed his grungy bags, hopped in his crummy car, drove to Hollywood and busted out with a role as an alienated teenager in River’s Edge not long after. A staggering number of movies have followed and Reeves shows no signs of slowing down.
Though audiences adore him, critics have not been kind. His acting has been called, among other things, wooden, awful and stilted. But, “He takes knocks and plaudits with equal grace,” said Kenneth Branagh, who directed him in 1993’s Much Ado About Nothing. “He has the indefinable essence called star quality.” The Observer’s Robert M. Eaves has noted “When he’s on the screen, you watch him.” In 1995, when Reeves performed the title role of Hamlet in Winnipeg, fans flocked from as far away as Australia and Germany to catch a glimpse of him. His rock band, Dogstar, has a following even though its musical attributes are apparently not as golden as those of its bassist, a certain melancholy movie star. “He’s a star because of his presence,” Premiere magazine columnist John H. Richardson once wrote begrudgingly. “The way he is onscreen, the odd formal dignity, the air of decency, the way he cocks his head in puzzlement at the world - that’s how he is in life. Keanu is just Keanu.
Which means being a stand-up guy: Paid between $20 to $30 million to star in the hotly anticipated Matrix sequels, Reeves reportedly handed over profit-sharing points worth millions of dollars to the film’s special-effects and costume-design teams, feeling they were integral to the trilogy’s success.
So if you see him, maybe filming The Matrix in Australia, you might catch him being oh so Keanu - beautiful, surly, silent, a loner tooling off on a motorcycle into the starry night in search of beer, rock and roll and truth. Dude. We hardly knew you.