The Arizona Republic (US), May 9, 2003

'Matrix' is love story, according to Reeves

by Bill Muller

HOLLYWOOD -- Keanu Reeves wants to understand The Matrix. More importantly, he wants you to understand.

Some of it, anyway. He can't give away too much.

"It's kind of cool what happens later on," says the star of The Matrix Reloaded, rubbing his hands together with a mischievous grin.

Come on, Keanu, let us in on the secret.

"It sounds really goofy," he says, "but it's about love."

OK, but what about all the heavy German philosophy, the religious allegory, the chitchat about cause and effect, fate and choices?

"That's the question," he says. "I think that's one of those, 'Is it a wave, is it a particle?' It's hard to know. It's like the Möbius strip."


If anybody has the answers, it's Reeves, who spent nine months in California and Australia making the last two chapters in the Matrix trilogy - Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which comes out in November - about a dystopian Earth where people live in a computer-generated dream world.

The slick, special-effects-laden sci-fi movies, known for hidden meanings and futuristic kung fu, are the handiwork of Andy and Larry Wachowski, reclusive filmmakers who rarely give interviews.

Explanations are left to Reeves, who's having fun playfully dodging the questions, and other cast members.

Sitting in a mock-up Matrix set on the Warner Bros. lot, Reeves, 38, looks relaxed in slightly tattered jeans, a maroon T-shirt and a blue sports jacket. He is loose-limbed, quiet. When faced with a perplexing question, he squeezes his eyes shut, ducks his head and runs his hands through his hair, a scrunched up, surfer-dude version of Rodan's Thinker.

He apparently spent a lot of time thinking about The Matrix.

"It's about the search for identity, the struggle of life, trying to find out the mythical themes of the messiah, of the lovers, of the teacher, of the shaman," Reeves says. "It's such a great platform for how we can sometimes think about our own lives.

"I tried to understand the whole tapestry of this piece. I felt it was important so I could do my role."

To accomplish that, Reeves dipped into the philosophy embraced by the Wachowskis - universally referred to as "the Brothers" by the cast - but he didn't get too far.

"I got a little bit into Schopenhauer, but with Schopenhauer, you have to just keep going backwards," Reeves says wearily.

"Then I've got to go back to Wagner, and . . . Who does he kill? He hates Hegel. So then he goes into Kant, so then you've got to start reading Kant. (I'm like), 'OK, I've got to do some stretching and some kicking.' "

Along with the deep thinking, the physical load was heavier this time around for Reeves, who plays Neo, the world's would-be savior, who's ably assisted by true believer Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and love interest Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss).

In Reloaded, Neo and his compatriots struggle to defend the human stronghold of Zion against the burrowing machines that run the planet. Meanwhile, his relationship with Trinity has deepened, and more clues are revealed about his true nature.

"Recovering and stuff was a little harder," Reeves says of the martial-arts work. "And this one was over a much longer time. So I had fights interspersed over a long time. So {ellipsis} in my time off, it was oftentimes training and learning another fight.

"I've got five fights in the second one, and I have more moves in the fight with the Smiths (the much anticipated "Burly Brawl" pitting Neo against ever-multiplying copies of his nemesis, Agent Smith, played by Hugo Weaving) than I did in the whole first movie."

Reeves is so skillful at what he calls "movie kung fu" that Matrix producer Joel Silver caused a stir by suggesting his star could outfight action star Jet Li, who was courted for a part in the film.

"I wouldn't screw with him (Reeves) in an alley," Silver says.

After some 40 Hollywood films, Reeves is definitely formidable on- and off-screen. After first gaining attention as a dopey high school student in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, he's atop the Hollywood hierarchy, playing small, well-received parts (The Gift) as well as anchoring big commercial projects (The Replacements).

"I didn't really have a destination except that I wanted to work in Hollywood," Reeves says of his early career goals. "And I was hoping as a young actor to work here. And I feel grateful for the experiences that I've had. But also, it's something that you have to keep working at to get great roles, hopefully to make worthwhile films."

Reeves was a bit of perfectionist, he says, especially when he felt he didn't quite nail a scene.

"Laurence (Fishburne) was really great about saying to me, 'Hey man, give yourself a break,' " Reeves says. "And Laurence also says, 'You know, there's not really the right way to do something, there are different ways,' and that was really a good lesson for me."

At this point, it's hard to tell whether Reeves is comfortable with fame. At times, he seems just as surprised as everyone else.

"I've gotten more comfortable with meeting strangers, definitely," he says. "When it first started to happen, I wasn't used to it. I wasn't used to people coming up to me on the street, saying my name, who I didn't know."

Behind his boyish countenance, it seems as if Reeves is just in on the joke. In the middle of unraveling the complex philosophy of the movie, he makes a subtle crack.

"You could implement fashion as icon," he says. "What do you dress yourself in and why?"

Later, when a questioner botches the plot from the first film, Reeves explains, then stops.

"Oh," he says with laughter in his voice. "You didn't get that? OK."

He is somehow both earnest and swaggering, as he admits he doesn't quite buy the predestination subtext of the Matrix movies.

"What's that sentence? There's a reason for everything? . . . I tend to go toward you can get a reason out of anything happening."

Perhaps, as with The Matrix, finding the final answer isn't the point.

"Will it (the third film) answer all the questions? No," Reeves says. "Will it ask more? Yeah."

Article Focus:

Matrix Reloaded, The , Matrix Revolutions, The


Matrix, The , Matrix Reloaded, The , Matrix Revolutions, The , Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure , Gift, The , Replacements, The

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