Keanu's Excellent Adventure
In the past four months, a lot has happened to Keanu Reeves. His good friend and Matrix co-star Carrie-Ann Moss gave birth to a healthy baby boy. His new movie with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is getting a favourable buzz. He's been seen riding his Harley on the streets of L.A. unrecognisable under his safety helmet. He's disbanded his band Dogstar. He's bought an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. But at his press conference for Matrix Revolutions, he's still the shy, private and uncomfortable Keanu we've always known.
Very little is known about his personal life, even his philanthropy, and that's the way he likes it. At his last press conference, for example, when I asked him if it were true that he had given his ancillary income from the two Matrix sequels (worth US$40 million) to the films' crew, he snapped at me, "I'd rather people didn't know that. It was just a private event. It was something I could afford to do. It's a worthwhile thing to do."
This time, surprisingly, when I ask him, he's happy to admit that he gave each of the stuntmen on The Matrix a Harley Davidson. He says, "We did the fight sequence in Reloaded, the one involving Smith and myself. It took about six weeks. I worked with these 12 stuntmen and at the end I gave them Harleys because they really supported me. When you fight 12 hours a day and you have people trying to help you, going through all that stuff for me, never complaining. It was never, 'You sure you want to do it again, Keanu?' I just wanted to give them something."
In Matrix Revolutions Neo has completed his journey. Can you talk about that?
He's gone from a solitary isolated figure to the classical saviour. That journey is one of self-discovery. In the third film when Morpheus asks him, 'Is that what the Oracle told you?' Neo says, 'No'. He has found his voice. He's the only character who had contact with all the entities. So by the end of the film, he has seen the beauty of each of them. For him, it's like a birth of compassion.
Has he become wiser?
I wouldn't say wiser. After all, at the end, what is his answer? 'Because I choose to.' [Then recreating the scene from the movie, in which Agent Smith confronts him] 'Is it for love, Mr. Anderson? Is it for peace? What are you fighting for? These are all illusions like the Matrix itself. Why do you keep fighting Mr. Anderson, why?' 'Because I choose to.' It's remarkable, and I thought that was beautiful.
Would you say Neo is a lot like you?
He's a better man than me but I try to live up to his values.
What qualities of his do you particularly admire?
He was a beautiful man to play. I thought his love for Trinity was so pure. I really identified with it. I really loved that. Also I loved his search for answers. He's a strong positive, moral and ethical man doing the best he can.
What was it like working with Carrie-Ann Moss?
It was lovely. She really found her voice over the three films. And then in real life she ended up having a baby. We've spent five years together. She's such a brave person, such a giving person. Acting with her was always a good day, going to work and being with her. When she wasn't around, I really missed her.
And the feeling is mutual. I asked Carrie-Ann, because Keanu seems to be such a lonely person, did she ever think of fixing him up with a possible soul mate. She seemed embarrassed by the question, but it doesn't diminish her affection for him.
I remind him that the logo of the movie is, Everything That Has A Beginning Has An End. Here he is at the halfway point in his career, he's been working for 20 years, he's made 40 movies, he's done everything from Shakespeare to Speed.
Where do you see your career going in the next 20 years?
[He shrugs his shoulders.] I'd love to see it keep going.
In what direction?
I guess, doing interesting roles and interesting films. I am working on a film called Constantine [in which he brings John Constantine, the anti-hero from the Hellblazer comics who goes against the devil, to life] who right now and in the past couple of months I got to work with Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and (director) Nancy Meyers in a romantic comedy and then I worked on an independent film with Mike Mills called Thumbsucker. So for me, it was just great to get the opportunity to act in these films where the scripts were great, and I hope I will continue to do that.
Would you be interested in initiating projects?
I'm trying to. I have some ideas, I want to do an American In London, kind of a chef film. I have an idea for that, and I have a couple of other ideas so I'm trying to find writers and producers and things like that.
The last time we spoke, it seemed the Wachowski Brothers had placed a gag order on you?
They did? I didn't get that phone call, 'Stop telling them what it means.' I didn't get that call.
How do you interpret Neo's journey now that it's completed?
The thing that I've been kind of thinking about recently is the title of the film, Revolutions, and Neo asking for peace. In connecting revolutions and peace, it's really beautiful - where this isolated character Thomas A. Anderson comes to this place at the end of the third film and the idea of revolution and peace together I thought was awesome.
Obviously you like the juxtaposition of 'Peace' and 'Revolution'. Are you a pacifist?
Because revolution is always connoted with violence, I felt that it was interesting when the character comes to the end and asks for peace so it's a new kind of revolution. I feel that anything that's asking for peace or amelioration or any kind of dialogue other than violent conflict, I am all for.
Will you be returning fur a fourth Matrix?
Oh, no! No, No No. Not for me.
Did you hold on to any of the costumes?
I have no swag. I have no Matrix swag. I don't have the cassock, I don't have any glasses. Only my scripts. I have the scripts. Yes, nice.
Playing John Constantine is quite a switch. What's your relationship to the occult?
I'm scared of all that so I don't want any hubu jubu for Constantine in the sense of magic or anything like that. I read some of the comics and stuff and looked at the graphic novels and researched the character. But that's it.
Will you ever direct?
Oh, my God no. I don't have that feeling.
Would you consider a sequel to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure?
You know, I asked Alex (Winters, his co-star and friend) about that, and it's not going to happen.
A big part of the movie [The Matrix] is the love story. What does love mean to you personally?
You mean romantic love? You know, I'm the lonely guy. I don't have anyone in my life, but I think it's one of those situations that if it does occur, it's a moment in your life for sharing the best part of yourself, your hopes, what you enjoy in life and hopefully what you respect and love in the other person, so hopefully it'll happen for me.
European publications have printed stories suggesting that because of you personal tragedies, you were considering retiring from acting. Any truth to that?
You seem to live an ascetic life. Do you have any luxuries in your life?
Oh, yeah, yeah, sure. I bought a home recently, which was lovely. So that was great. I feel very grateful to have been a part of all this, to have the chance to work on something that I love, to act and to be a part of this film. Oftentimes when you do a film, it doesn't come out the way you hope, but when you get to act in something that not only meets but goes beyond your expectations that's nice. It's a good day.
In Something's Got To Give you have a relationship with an older woman played by Diane Keaton. What is your take on younger men and older women?
My character has strong feelings for Diane Keaton in the film and not only is he physically attracted to her, he's attracted to what she's created and to who she is or who he thinks she is. But in terms of older-younger, you know, I don't feel that young. I'm 39 but, in terms of the differences or anything like that, I think it just depends on your feelings for someone. As I get older, things change. What I imagined at 17 is certainly not what I imagined at 39. 39 is good. But 17 was good too. They're just different, I guess.
So age doesn't mean anything?
If both people decide that, then it doesn't.
How come you disbanded Dogstar and formed a new group?
I don't know. I'm the bass player in this band called Becky. We have a really remarkable lead singer, Rebecca Lord, the same drummer from Dogstar, and a guy named Pauly Costas playing guitar. We've been together for about 11 months. We've been playing in and around Los Angeles. We've made a couple of demos and stuff and KLOS, a (L.A.) rock station is going to play some of our demos, which is great.
I don't know if we broke up or just kind of came to a place where we just couldn't write music and play music. I don't quite understand it yet.
How exhausting was it working five years on one project. Did you ever feel satiated?
[Jokingly he answers] Day 200 was a really heavy day. [But then seriously he continues] When we got to Day 200 it felt like we were in the middle of the ocean and there was no wind and your sails were falling and yet there was such commitment from everyone. We had basically 26 sound stages going for a year on the Fox lot and on the day that we wrapped, I got to meet some of the guys who worked nights for six months. After we would wrap, these guys would come in and change the lights on different sets. They had worked nights for six months and I got to hang out and drink some champers, as they say in Australia, with them. And from those people, from everyone involved in the project, there seemed to be a real dedication and belief in the work. I haven't experienced that involvement in all aspects of these projects as we had there and I found that very moving.
How has The Matrix changed your life?
I don't know. I mean, I'm really excited that Revolutions is coming out, and I hope people dig it. I think it's extraordinary. I think that what the Wachowskis and everyone involved put on the screen is so extraordinary, so unbelievable. Have you ever seen a movie like that? Whether you react to it or not, I mean the effort and what they've done in terms of the cinema, the world that they've created is to me remarkable.
Your image is that of a loner. Is that something you cultivate?
My image? I don't concern myself with it that much. I'm an actor, so in terms of what you're talking about, I have no answer.
What did you gain from the experience of making The Matrix?
I got to work with some people that I really loved. I got to work with Carrie-Ann Moss-Roy, Larry and Andrew Wachowski. Hugo Weaving, Laurence Fishburne, Kim Barrett, Bill Pope. R.A. Rondell, Wu Ping. Carrie-Ann is so emotionally brave and talented, Laurence is so intelligent, and Larry and Andrew are so considerate. And Hugo is so gentle and dangerous. I got to work with people that were so giving. Being in Sydney for a couple of years was just extraordinary and just as Neo loves Trinity, it's great when you get to work on something that you love. It's the best feeling.
So after living in hotels for so many years, what's it like living in a house?
You know, it was weird. I started Constantine and for the first two weeks I wanted to check back into a hotel. I wasn't used to working in my home. I was like, you know, how do I eat? What do I do?