The Sunday Telegraph (Aus), October 26, 2003
Keanu the $400 million dollar man
Keanu Reeves doesn't like talking about himself, so it's hardly surprising the heart-throb actor's drone tones become even more measured when the subject turns to money.
Reeves, according to Hollywood industry papers, has become the highest-paid actor in the world.
This follows his reprisal of cassocked hero Neo in two sequels to the 1999 surprise hit The Matrix.
Reloaded, the biggest box-office performer this year, and the all but assured success of next month's Matrix finale, Revolutions, has made Reeves' pay cheque the latest guessing game for the glitterati.
Forget the base salary of £39 million - it's the rumoured 15 per cent of the films' gross that will bump Reeves' bank account by anywhere between $163 million and $467 million.
During interviews last week in Los Angeles to promote the third instalment of the cyber-punk trilogy, the 39-year-old bachelor denied he was Hollywood?s best-paid actor.
"There are plenty of others who earn more," he said.
"$US100 million? I don't think there's anyone getting $US100 million. It's incorrect, sir!"
Maybe Reeves should consult uber-producer and Matrix moneyman Joel Silver.
A few minutes after the star of almost 40 films ended the interview, Silver confirmed what most people already believed.
"Hey, he did fine, everybody did good...they were tied to the success of the movie," he said.
But what about the reports of a minimum $US100 million to $US200 million for Reeves?
"It's probably possible," Silver said, "That wasn't what he was paid to do the movies, but when it's over, who knows?"
"It's going to be up there. These movies are a huge success story."
And that's an unusual understatement from a reigning movie mogul in a town where hyperbole is habit.
Despite mixed review, Reloaded collected nearly $1.5 billion worldwide, proving the original film's surprise take of $900 million was no fluke.
On top of that are the spin-off series of Animatrix short films, computer games (a second is in the works), DVDs and videos.
But The Matrix has been more than just a cash cow for Reeves. After a series of blockbuster movies in the late '80s and early '90s including SPEED and Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, the actor was struggling professionally.
He hadn't made a movie for two years, hadn't scored a hit in five and, no matter how cerebral the script, couldn't shake a reputation as one of Hollywood's most wooden actors.
Ironically, it was the role of the monosyllabic Neo, the possible saviour of the human race from enslavement to machines, that rescued his career.
Now Reeves is not only one of the richest actors (Tom Cruise is a rival with his 20 per cent stake in the Mission Impossible series and the upcoming Last Samurai movies), but now one of the most sought-after.
In the next six months, he will appear in three movies, including the comedy Something's Gotta Give, opposite triple-Oscar winner and living legend Jack Nicholson.
Reeves is reluctant at least publicly, to give The Matrix too much credit for his continuing success, although it was, in his words, "a fantastic experience".
Asked if the series had lent him extra gravitas as an actor Reeves says: "That's in the eye of the beholder.
"As an actor, I've been fortunate enough to continue acting and, through experience in my craft, I've learned a lot.
"Certainly, I've enjoyed the role: the scope and the scale of the material are very rare.
"But there's a formulism in the acting of The Matrix; there's no extraneous movement.
"I'm looking forward to doing some naturalistic work."
Despite those imitations, Reeves says he became passionate about the series and it's multi-layered story of the human race being enslaved within a virtual-reality world.
From the beginning, the series was a cultural, as well as a box-office phenomenon. The costumes, characters and underlying mythology have been analysed on hundreds of websites and in six books.
With a hit like that, the sequels were never going to be an easy experience.
Writer-directors Larry and Andy Wachowski wanted two sequels, not one, shot back to back and with a more detailed plot and action that would surpass the ground-breaking visuals of the original.
Much of the $475 million production came down to Reeves.
Bone-numbing training and 18 months spent away from this LA home shooting at Sydney's Fox Studios took its toll.
"Sometimes, I would fall asleep with my legs cramping up," he says.
Asked about rumours of another sequels, Reeves is uncharacteristically quick and clear in his response. "My work is finished," he says firmly.
In Revolutions, the final battle is fought with the machine army boring its way down into Earth and into the underground sanctuary of the renegade humans who have escaped the clutches of the virtual reality that is The Matrix.
All the while, Neo has to struggle to get his powers back to save Zion after being left in no-man's land between The Matrix and the machine world in Reloaded.
But laying in wait is Agent Smith (played by Hugo Weaving), Neo's nemesis, who has cloned himself by the thousands and is out to destroy everything.
Reeves believes Matrix fans will be happy with the finale and dismisses critics' accusations that the series is too difficult to understand.
"It wasn't too intricate, it was ambitious," his says.
"One of the things I loved about these films is that they made people talk. I loved people asking me questions about the Matrix movies."
Just as long as they don't involve the million-dollar question of how much he was paid.
Matrix the Revolutions opens in cinemas on November 7