Matrix Guru Sets Keanu Straight
by Pete Trujillo
Devastated by the deaths of his baby girl and her mother, Keanu Reeves was drowning his grief in booze and babes and racing along in the fast lane - until his Matrix co-star put the brakes on his self-destructive spree, pals reveal.
"When Keanu came to Australia to shoot the two Matrix sequels, he was still in pain," says an insider. "But Laurence Fishburne stepped in and has been like a rock for him. He's a real father figure, even though they're almost the same age."
As our exclusive photos show, it was tough for Reeves, 37, to say goodbye to Fishburne, 40, who'd finished filming his scenes and was heading back to the States to plan his wedding to actress Gina Torres.
"Keanu and Larry hugged and got misty-eyed," says an eyewitness. "After this year-long adventure making the Matrix movies, they were both clearly moved as they said goodbye."
Industry sources say that the producers of the sequels, Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, spread the shooting out over 14 months to give the actors plenty of downtime between tough days on the set. But the free time proved to be a curse for Reeves, who was still wallowing in pain from the double tragedy.
In January 2000, he and the love of his life, Jennifer Syme, buried their stillborn baby girl, Ava. Then, in April 2001, just days before filming of the sequels began, Syme, 29, was killed in a horrific North Hollywood car accident.
"Keanu was a complete basket case when he started making these movies," confides a pal of the star. "He was in shock and agony, refusing to believe Jennifer's death was real."
Sources on the set say it looked like the actor tried to kill his pain by drinking whiskey and vodka and weaving his Harley-Davidson motorcycle or black Porsche Carrera in and out of Sydney traffic.
"On a typical night, he'd warm up with dinner and wine at his favorite restaurant, Otto," reveals the insider. "Then he'd party at Tatler, a well-known hot spot. He'd follow that up with drinks in the wee hours at Hemisphere, another super-hip Sydney bar. And he had a different girl with him every night of the week."
Fishburne finally intervened and urged him to slow down for his own good.
"Larry took Keanu under his wing, talking him through his sadness over Jennifer and the baby," says the pal. "And that was good because Keanu needed some fatherly guidance after all the hell he'd been through.
"Larry had a tremendous calming influence on Keanu. He told him, 'Your can't let yourself burn out. You'll be headed for an early grave.' To drive home the point, he reminded Keanu of all the people who loved his pal River Phoenix, who died of a drug overdose, and still miss him everyday."
And Reeves seems to have heeded Fishburne's advice. In the last few months, he's eased up considerably on his club-hopping and boozing, say sources, and spends a lot more time relaxing at his hotel.
"Even though Larry is just three years older than Keanu, he's way wiser and more mature and they both recognize that fact," says the pal. "In the Matrix movies, Larry plays Keanu's guru. And it's the same in real life."