Matrix exclusive: We go face-to-face with Keanu Reeves – Hollywood’s kick-ass action hero
How I crashed into the big time
by James Moore
Sex symbol and icon of cool for a generation, Keanu Reeves is set to burst back on to the big screen in the The Matrix Reloaded.
And the all-action sequel will propel the 38-year-old back to mega-stardom, netting him £60million into the bargain.
But while Keanu tries to save the world in dramatic fights scenes as the movie's steely kung-fu character, in real life he's faced much tougher battles.
In 1999 his daughter Eve was stillborn and shortly afterwards he broke up with girlfriend Jennifer Syme. Then, in 2001, Jennifer was killed in a car crash. To top it all, it was revealed that his sister Kim was suffering from leukaemia. In an effort to get over his grief he threw himself into filming The Matrix Reloaded and the third movie in the series, The Matrix Revolutions, back-to-back.
He said: "I started in October 2000 and have devoted my entire life to these films ever since." Despite his personal tragedies the Beirut-born actor, whose name means cool mountain breeze, has come a long way since the goofy role that made him famous in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Since then he starred in films such as The Gift, Point Break and Speed.
But it was playing Neo in the huge hit The Matrix that was his greatest role and he believes the long-awaited sequels that make up the Matrix trilogy will be seen as his greatest achievement.
Keanu said: "We were all aware that we were involved in making movie history.
"It's f***ing kick ass but there's a lot of kissing in this second one, too. We don't think anyone will be disappointed".
The movies continue the story of the hacker-turned-superhero as he battles against the computers who have imprisoned the human race.
The action picks up six months after the first film with Neo trying to save mankind's last fortress Zion and facing some tough choices.
It also develops his relationship with leather-clad heroine Trinity and features an array of special effects that will make the first movie look tame.
Keanu added: "We have invented new technologies for this film. It will be an even wilder ride.
"The first film was about birth, the second is about life and the third is about death. The look of the sequels is more sophisticated and demanding.
"Instead of one-on-one fighting, I fight one against many. There are some cool new weapons as well.
"I've been trained in new martial arts skills. I have surprised even myself in some of the scenes."
Keanu had to go on a strict diet and put in hours of gruelling physical training for the part. The star, who broke his ankle during filming, said: "People don't understand how physically taxing this work is."
But Keanu has always suffered for his love of action - and has crashed his motorbike eight times.
He said: "I loved being forced into a position where I had to go to the limit in terms of physical endurance and strength. I always try to push myself one level further."
In one amazing scene Keanu has to fight 100 clones of his enemy Agent Smith.
Reloaded hits our cinemas on May 23 but we will have to wait to see The Matrix Revolutions. For Keanu, it was hard filming the sequels in quick succession. He explained: "Doing two films back-to-back like this is an art in itself, because you're often doing scenes out of order and from different parts of the film and that means you can't relax for a minute."
The troubled actor has devoted so much of his life to work, as well as looking after his sick 35-year-old sister, that he's been labelled a reclusive loner.
He admitted: "The loss of privacy is so frustrating because I'm so private."
He is estranged from his father Samuel, who walked out on his British-born mother Patricia when Keanu was a toddler, and has described his dad, who was convicted for drug offences, as a "goofball".
Keanu shuns the limelight, doesn't have a permanent home and despite his huge earnings, reckons money can only buy so much.
"It's nice not to have to worry about the rent or paying your bills but money doesn't buy you happiness though it does buy you the freedom to live your life the way you want to.
"Something about me enjoys not having any material things to tie me down. I think if I bought a huge house I would feel guilty in some way.
"I like room service. I'm used to it. I've led pretty much a nomad lifestyle." And although he's snogged some of Hollywood's hottest babes, he isn't your classic romantic.
He said: "It would be great to marry and have a family, but this work means I'm on the road a lot. When I'm working, I think only about the work. Girls have got close very rarely."
But, as his Matrix character discovers more about himself, Keanu's life may also be about to turn a corner.
While filming The Matrix in Australia, the 6ft 1in actor had a fling with British girl Rachael Jones and, having dated some of world's most beautiful women - including co-star Carrie-Anne Moss - he's unlikely to remain single long.