Memo to: Keanu Reeves
From: Peter Bart
re: life outside "The Matrix"
"Everything that has a beginning has an end."
That's the bleary bromide that appears under the title "Matrix Revolutions," the final piece in the Wachowski brothers' mega-hyped trilogy.
I'm not really sure what it means, Keanu, but I think I know where you end up at the end of this odyssey. According to my calculations, you emerge with the most astonishing take-home pay in the history of the movie industry. Indeed, you may shortly become history's richest actor.
The final two "Matrixes" released this year could together reach a total world gross of $1.5 billion. That means you, Keanu, as a major gross participant could pocket well north of $150 million, and that's not counting the bountiful revenue streams from the first "Matrix."
Indeed, with the third movie opening this past week on 18,000 prints in 96 countries, your piece of the pie from the first weekend alone could exceed Tom Cruise's total upfront paycheck.
Now, I realize you didn't do this just for the money, Keanu.
"These films explore the search for truth, the cost of knowledge and the sacrifices we choose to make," you have said, echoing the "Matrix" mantra. You've endorsed the Wachowskis' perplexing goal of achieving "a synthesis of our finite knowledge of what is with our infinite beliefs of what might be."
I'm not sure I understand this either, but I came out of the movie understanding why Warner Bros. and Joel Silver, your producer, believe in the infinite potential of the "Matrix" money machine.
The worldwide opening of your movie could forever change the structure of film distribution. Surely the most effective way of eliminating piracy is to open everywhere at the same moment in time.
And where does it leave you, Keanu? You're a pretty cool cat, but even you must be pinching yourself.
It's an open secret you were not the first choice for the lead character, Neo. You were, in fact, fifth or sixth on the list.
Neither directors nor critics have characterized your facial features as particularly expressive or your performances as exuding energy and zeal. You got lucky in 1994 loping through "Speed," but your other films were rather forgettable -- "Johnny Mnemonic," "A Walk in the Clouds," "The Watcher," etc.
In your own stolid way, of course, you've made some savvy choices. You agreed to lower your fee to take the third lead in the upcoming Jack Nicholson comedy "Something's Gotta Give" (you don't even get the girl!).
You've done that in the past as well in order to work with filmmakers like Bertolucci, Frears and Branagh, and you willingly surrendered a portion of your points and salary on projects like "Devil's Advocate" and "The Replacements" so you could work alongside stars like Al Pacino and Gene Hackman.
All this has labeled you a good guy, Keanu. But now you're also a rich guy -- Canada's richest 40-year-old actor. The charities will be lined up at your door -- surely, that will keep you occupied.
But how do you follow Neo?
Those close to the Wachowskis believe they may turn away from filmmaking and devote themselves to videogames -- some have argued that "The Matrix" is a videogame in search of a movie.
Some believe they might turn to an entirely different genre of filmmaking and make a sort of post-"Matrix" "Last Tango in Paris."
Meanwhile, Keanu, you already are enmeshed in a big-budget comicbook adaptation for Warner Bros. called "Constantine."
There will no doubt be a veritable tower of offers awaiting you at CAA, and your agent, Kevin Huvane, and manager, Erwin Stoff, are certainly delighted to service your needs -- the old-time agents like Abe Lastfogel could never have imagined paydays of the sort you've generated.
You can do anything you want, Keanu. You can build your own theater. You can buy your own hockey team. You can underwrite some university research into the synthesis of the finite with the infinite.
Or you can simply sit back and ask yourself again and again, how did this happen?
Coincidentally, I was there at the beginning, Keanu. I was producing a film in Toronto some years ago when you tried out for a small part. I thought you seemed eager and had an interesting look, but my director shook his head gravely.
"The kid lacks talent as an actor," the director assured me. "He's got no future in the business." You ended up in my movie, Keanu, but it wasn't a speaking part.
Well, you sure as hell proved that director wrong, along with a lot of other directors. You own the town now, Keanu. You may have had a difficult beginning, but what a spectacular end!
So can I ask you one last question: Do you really understand what the hell the Wachowskis are talking about?