Failed ice hockey player Keanu Reeves began his film career on the minimum wage but is now worth £236million
Matrix Evolution from drop-out to Hollywood icon
by Jane Clinton
For a high school drop-out and failed ice hockey player, actor Keanu Reeves has certainly done well for himself.
Indeed, the brooding star who over the years has garnered less-than-favorable reviews for his wooden screen performances, is worth £236million.
The 39-year-old who has starred in more than 40 films generated more than a billion dollars and is in cinemas in the latest Matrix offering - Matrix: Revolutions - is without doubt one of Hollywood's most bankable stars.
But according to BBC3's Liquid Assets: Keanu's Millions, to be shown tonight, in the early days the young Reeves earned an actor's minimum wage for £204 [US$326] a day for his first film River's Edge in 1986. Now, however it is a different story with Reeves up there with the top Hollywood Earners including Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson.
The road to extraordinary riches was not entirely straightforward for the son of a Hawaiian-Chinese father and British mother.
After enrolling in and leaving four different schools, Reeves eventually left education at 17 and was invited to try out for the professional ice hockey team the Windsor Spitfire in his home town of Yorkville, Toronto, but in a move that will probably end up being the best decision of his life, Reeves rejected the ice rink for a life on screen.
The teenager worked at a local ice rink sharpening skates for £4.50 an hour to pay his acting school fees of £60 for eight weeks tuition. According to Hollywood casting agent Carrie Frazier, the woman who got him his first role, the young Reeves didn't exactly dress to impress for his first audition but that was part of his charm.
"He walked in with those workmen boots unlaced, baggy pants, baggy t-shirt, hair long, and there was something so appealing about him and authentic," says Frazier in the programme. "At that time his name was KC Reeves, Keanu they thought was too exotic I guess."
Following River's Edge came some TV work including £90 for advertisements but his big break came with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in 1989 which landed him a £30,000 pay cheque and the attention of Hollywood executives.
As his earning increased, the young Keanu was able to indulge in his love of motorcycles which to date has cost him £200,000, including £10,000 for his first bike a 1972 Norton.
But proving he is not a spoilt Hollywood star he spent an estimated £150,000 on 12 customized motorcycles for the stuntmen of the Matrix films for all their hard work.
Chief stuntman Chad Stahelski says: "In front of the crew, a big trailer pulls up and one by one they unloaded 12 new Harleys, one for each of the guys. Pretty funny - you saw some of the toughest stunt guys with tears in their eyes."
His incredibly generous nature also came to light when he shared the first spoils of his Matrix £6million flat fee which was thought to have risen to £26.9million against a 10 per cent take of the box office.
The star spent £500,000 entertaining 28 of his closest friends, including Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, for 10 days at Double Island off Australia's Queensland coast.
This included a bill of £18,000 for a fireworks display, the hire of MGs for everybody and the charter of a Boeing 727 to fly one friend there and back to LA, but this figure is nothing when one considers how the actor has lived for most of his acting life - out of hotels, latterly paying £2,000 a week to stay at one of his favorite haunts, the Chateau Marmont hotel in Los Angeles.
Now, however, he has settle down in a des res to match his huge pay cheques. Situated round the corner from Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire, his 5,000 sq ft glass-walled property set him back £3million.
That pales into insignificance when the star's donations to charity are taken into account. Reeves is thought to have helped contribute £10million to charity and has shown he has clearly not forgotten his family ties.
The actor remodeled his house into a hospital for his sister Kim who is fighting leukaemia and is a regular support of, among others, The National Breast Cancer Foundation.
And ever the mercurial character, Reeves has proved he is not solely driven by the dollar.
He stunned Hollywood by turning down the chance to appear opposite heavy-weights Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat in 1995, choosing instead to appear in a 789-seat theatre in Winnipeg, Canada, in a production of Hamlet.
For that he took a huge pay cut to earn an estimated £3,500, although judging by his total estimated earnings for the Matrix trilogy - £170million - that would not have been too much of a worry for him.
Luckily, the actor wisely did not spend too much time concentrating on his music career. To date the money earned from his band Dogstar is but a trifle - a £200,000.