Keanu Reeves interview
by Smiliin' Jack Ruby
God, everybody fucking hates this movie. Yeah, Knowles and the AICN crew hated the movie before they saw it, but there've been a lot of other sites that disparaged the hell out of it, too. Oh, well. It's tiring, I don't give a shit anymore, the movie is going to make $125 million or so by Monday and it'll be a gargantuan hit whether or not people can wrap their heads around it or not. All I know is this - when I saw The Phantom Menace the first time, I hated it. When I saw it a second time, I hated it then, too. When I saw The Matrix Reloaded the first time, I had a lot of problems with it. When I saw it the second time, I absolutely loved it.
But, maybe that's just me. Who the fuck cares, I've got too much work to do, I'm ready to move on to the next movie (saw Down With Love and chuckled throughout, but my girlfriend and just about everyone else on the planet just hated the thing and called it boring as hell), and I just hate it when people piss on a movie before it even hits because of personal bias (though I am guilty of that with Freddy Vs. Jason as the Kane Hodder-thing still bugs me). Whatever. Here's Keanu. I'll review Reloaded tomorrow, more than likely, unless I'm just swamped as fuck again (I really wanted to get an article in about how much I fucking love The Animatrix - particularly the two Second Renaissance pieces and Beyond, but oh, well).
I've met Keanu Reeves a few times before and can honestly say, I like the guy. He's kind of distant, kind of reserved and doesn't really go in for the usual hype bullshit, but he seems like a pretty down-to-earth fellow despite all the weird stuff around him that makes it into the gossip pages (like the fact that he lives sparse-as-hell and Really Takes Acting Seriously). Anyway, here he is showing up at the Reloaded roundtables a pair of weeks ago talking up the pic.
The first question came up about the money Keanu put back on the movie in order for it to better come under budget. "What I did was I put part of what was given in my contract to create a pool, so that other people who don't usually do profit participation could see some money," Reeves replied succinctly. So, why did you do this? "Because I wanted to."
And there you go. That's such a perfect example of the way Reeves talks, even down in Sydney at the big Matrix press conference. It's great (and easy as fuck to transcribe). Read on...
Next up, somebody asked Reeves how he decides which sequels to do and not do. "How I feel and the scripts," Reeves said. "The material. Like for Speed 2, if there had been a really good script and I had been in a place to do it, I would have done it, but at that time it wasn't something that I wanted to do. But in terms of these, the scripts were great and I had such a great experience and faith and believe in Andrew and Larry Wachowski, the writers and directors that I just said yes." So, what was it like when those scripts showed up? "I was in Chicago and I got the two scripts, sat down and read them and thought they were very moving and exciting and original and I thought they had done such an incredible job," Reeves added. "There are some really great surprises in there."
As with most of the cast folks, we asked Reeves about whether or not he fully understands all the philosophy in the movies. "You know, I can't!" exclaimed Reeves. "I don't understand it in the sense that I can take you all the way to the end to a finite position and 'Here's your answer. There's one person who knows the whole thing.' Maybe Larry and Andrew do. I know they certainly feel they do. But I don't think there are things that have an end in these pieces. The analogy I use is that it is like a Moebius strip. There are more launch points. There are more things that I feel if you do take something from it, if you want to talk about cause and effect and its relationship to fate. The aspects of those kinds of things, it's fun and intriguing and something that I think is beneficial to think about."
As Jada told us that Keanu was all cool and gave his burly brawl stuntmen a bunch of Harleys as presents, we asked him about that (which has already made it into the personality pages). "That was it," Reeves said. "There is a fight where Neo confronts Smith and Smith confronts Neo. Actually, it's Smith confronts Neo. And I worked basically with 12 stuntmen for about three weeks intensely, going through the fight. Then we filmed for almost a month every day. And these guys just fucking 'go' every time I said lets do it again. There is this one scene where Neo gets grabbed by two agents and I do a back flip and kick two guys in the head, and flip back and then the two guys get thrown back. Well those guys got pulled into the floor 21 times. And every time I said I would like to do it again, I was like, 'Tim, you okay?' He's like, 'Yeah, man. Let's go!' And we would just go through the fight every day, the three stages of the fight, and everyone was so supportive and helpful. You know, we were doing that sequence, and oftentimes in the first part of that sequence, it's a Steadicam. It was doing a 180 degree turn and I've got in some of those sequences 30 moves, 25 moves, one, two, three, four, five six and I'm hitting eight guys. So they all had to be in the right spot to sell every hit. They'd come here and then go there. We all had to adjust. So we were all in this thing for like three months and we were training together beforehand. So I just wanted to somehow - besides just saying 'thank you' - something, a bigger thank you to all those guys who helped me make this one of the great movie fights in the history of cinema. So I worked it out and I had them bring up a truck and I got to give 'them all a Harley! That made me smile for fucking months! I'd be in bed and be like 'Ha-ha-ha-ha!'"
As Fishburne had mentioned what a hard-ass Reeves was on himself (which took Keanu a little by surprise that Fishburne would go on the record with that), we asked him why. "Well, just because it's important," Reeves replied simply. "It was my job to do whatever the brothers asked me to do. So, I'm just trying to do that." You don't think you're hard on yourself? "I can be," Reeves admitted. "But you know, I don't think I need any therapy or anything. I am not so out of my mind. But it is an aspect of the piece that as well as why we work so hard to try to get the emotional aspects right. In those scenes, in those sequences, there is something about symmetry and having those scenes so that you believe it. If I do something and I don't hit it right or it doesn't look right, you instantly feel it and see it and you go, 'Aw...' You don't want that. You want it to be perfect."
When you see The Matrix Reloaded, you'll see that there's just tons of fighting in the movie, but also a lot of dialogue bits. We asked Reeves about the differences in the fights one movie to the next. "There is much more dialogue in Reloaded," Reeves replied. "What I think is one of the unique things that the brothers have found a way to do is they will give you such an intense scene of dialogue, say between Neo and the architect, that's a pretty dense scene - then they'll give you a fight scene. Then they'll give you maybe the scene with Lambert, the Merovingian talking about the power of why and cause and effect, and then they'll give you a 13 minute car chase. Andrew Wachowski would say, 'Oftentimes with movies, you can sit through bad dialogue to see the spectacle, so you can sit through good dialogue, too!' Which I agree with. It's a very ambitious film Reloaded. But I think the brothers pull it off."
On the set, Jada and Laurence told us all about how beat up Keanu got and how many ice baths he used to soak himself in. Naturally, we asked him how much tougher it was to make this one than the last one. "This one was much harder," Reeves said. "It took more time. There was much more involved. It demanded a lot more. In the first one I could do most of it. In the second one, if you take out the CGI aspect of my fight with Smith, I am doing probably 92% of my fighting. Not the landings, not the wall shit and crashes, but the fighting. But there was a lot of stuff with the weapons, I was like 'I wish I could have been better. I wish I could have done this move!' - because the more I would get, the more that Wo Ping and the brothers would go, 'Well, how about this?' But it was harder to get, it was harder to do and it was harder to come back. Some days, you'd finish a fight and then get new choreography and fighting on weekends so that you could film on Tuesday."
After all that, we asked Keanu if he was sick of fighting by the end or couldn't wait to get back into it. "You know, I didn't like that when I was doing it," said Reeves. "I just kept thinking this is what I have to do. Once I threw my last kick and my last punch it was like, 'Okay, we did it. I hope I did it well enough.'" And that's when you reached for the Scotch bottle? "I had a bottle of Scotch in my trailer every day," joked Reeves. "It was actually symbolic. I swear to God I had a bottle of McClelland's right there." Okay, so what was that for? "Because it was just there!" Reeves enthused. "And there were some Fridays when you would finish work and just a glass of Scotch after some filming and some fighting is really good. You know what I mean? It's like that beer after you've been lifting shit. You know what I mean?" (S.J.R. note: As I sit here typing this with a bottle Ballantine's at my side [yes, trying a new brand], I can definitely understand where he's coming from.)
As Keanu is Canadian and we'd been joking about Reloaded having some stuff in common with Rush's 2112 album (sort of), we asked Keanu if he'd reprised what he'd done on the last film and listened to a lot of Rush while prepping for this movie. "No," Reeves laughed. "I didn't do any Rush this time! But I just read a great book about punk rock. Have you read Please Kill Me?" Yep - and you guys can check it out as well, edited by Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain. Full title: Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk. "Is that a great book?" Reeves enthused. "It's awesome, it's inspiring - a great book. I highly recommend it."
So, finally, we asked Keanu what he's learned from Neo and what from him has rubbed off on Neo. "It's not an easy question," Reeves admitted. "That's like asking, 'What has your mother learned from you and what have you learned from your mother?' It's one of those thing that's, to make it - I really find that Neo is a beautiful man. His ethics and his morals and his search for his authentic life and how he deals with people and he deals with himself, I really admire." Have you brought anything out of him into your daily life? "Yeah," Reeves admitted. "It's like, can you live up to that? Can you live up to the best part of yourself every day? - which I think is a really great question. Can you live to the best part of yourself all the time? It's hard. I try, but I think that that aspect is something the film is actually also asking."
And that's Keanu Reeves from the junket for The Matrix Reloaded. The movie opens on May 15th officially, but in midnight screenings across the country Wednesday night.
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