FilmMonthly (US), November 30, 2003
Keanu Plays Doctor in New Romantic Comedy
One easily forgets that there is more to Keanu Reeves than The Matrix, as is proven by his charmingly romantic turn in Something's Gotta Give, in which he plays a doctor smitten by the older Diane Keaton. In an affable mod when chatting to the press in a New York hotel room, Keanu talks romance and movies with Paul Fischer.
Paul: The doctor is in?
Keanu: The doctor is in, what seems to be the problem?
Paul: Is it fun to come back from blue screens?
Keanu: And sentinels? I thought that I was playing a human being before. No, if you're speaking about going from 'The Matrix' to this film, 'Something's Gotta Give', I would speak about it going from kind of a formalism of 'The Matrix' to the naturalism of this piece and for me, trying to do different kinds of roles. It was a wonderful opportunity, really, just to do something different and of course to work with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton and work with a wonderful, beautiful script and directed by Nancy Meyers, was really for me a dream come true.
Paul: It didn't matter that it wasn't the lead like you've been playing for the last ten years?
Keanu: Well, I don't know about that. I mean, I played a supporting role in Sam Raimi's 'The Gift'. Yes, it was good fun, and for me, I hope to be able to lay different kinds of roles whether it's a leading role or a supporting role or a character role. For me, hopefully, you get to play differently, and do different kinds of acting and so, in this case, it was a great role, I think.
Paul: Did Nancy come to you or send this to your people?
Keanu: I was looking for a job. You laugh, but it's true, and I read the script. It was a beautiful script and then, I went in to meet on it and I auditioned for the role.
Paul: You audition still?
Keanu: Yeah, sure.
Paul: What scene did you do and did you do it with Diane?
Keanu: The first scene I auditioned with Diane Keaton first, yeah.
Paul: Are you as impulsive as this character seems to be?
Keanu: Sometimes, sometimes, yeah. I tend to live impulsively.
Paul: Would you say that intimacy is the real issue of this film and that it's a universal theme for men and women?
Keanu: Yes, I would say that. Some people speak of this film as being age oriented, but I would say that it's ageless oriented, personally. Yeah, I think that it's about taking a risk, opening up and somehow it seems so terrifying to open oneself up to another, and I think that we see these two beautiful, brave people in this film, Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson, just kind of open up to each other. We get to enjoy it and see it on screen.
Paul: Your character intuitively sort of knows the emotions of this woman. Do you think that people don't have that in real life?
Keanu: I played a character that I feel had a lot of life experience and playing a doctor, I think that he's had an objective point of view of people and I think that that informed who he was and he's a sensitive guy. I think that if you pay attention to someone that you love, you're going to get them.
Paul: Do you think that he told her that?
Keanu: I mean, he has a line. He says, 'Isn't it great that I'm not intimidated by your brilliance?' No, it's 'How great is it for you that I'm not intimidated by your brilliance?' He gets her, and in that line, he's saying, 'I recognize that this must be hard for you, that other people might be intimidated by your brilliance and I see that it's isolating for you,' and he's like, 'Baby, you ain't alone because I love how brilliant you are.' So, I think that he is telling her that he gets her.
Paul: Do you feel that age plays a role in relationships?
Keanu: I think that you're naive if you think that it doesn't, but I think that it doesn't matter at the same time. It's like one of those kinds of interpersonal things, and I think that if you're are connecting with someone, it's like, 'Don't you know that I'm,' and they're like, 'Yeah.'
Paul: Can you talk about Diane Keaton? She said she was scared about your love scene, and that you helped her?
Keanu: She's great. I guess that in terms of playing the role and being there that it's okay. 'Yeah, we're going to be okay.' I mean, it's nerve racking. Kissing someone is pretty intimate, actually, very intimate and your heart always kind of skips a beat before you do that, but with my character, it was okay. My character kind of takes her and asks her. He kind of puts his hand on her and says, 'Do you want to kiss because it's going to be alright.'
Paul: What did you think of how Jack and Diane worked and behaved?
Keanu: Behaved. 'How are you behaving today, Jack?' 'Well, Keanu, however I want.' [Laughter] That was a good lesson to learn. They're both professionally and personally gracious and wonderful people and unique and in terms of speaking of differences, I think that I'll speak about what's the same. There's not beating [around the bush]. It's just cutting to the chase. They're consummate professionals, incredibly awesome at what they do and any moment that I got to share with them, I felt lucky to be there because they were just great people and really talented artists.
Paul: How does it feel to be on the cover of 'Mad' magazine?
Keanu: Am I on the cover of 'Mad' magazine? Do you have one, right now? You don't have one?
Paul: They're satirizing you and Al Pacino.
Keanu: Oh, fantastic! That's awesome, awesome. I remember that they satirized 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' and I remember speaking with Alex Winter who I performed with in that, and we were like, 'Yeah!' That's awesome.
Paul: Do you feel the same about 'Newsweek'?
Keanu: Well, it depends on what level you're talking about.
Paul: What about the fallout from 'The Matrix' now that it's over?
Keanu: Fallout? Where's the shelter?
Paul: Are you glad it's over like Ewan McGregor was talking about he's glad he did it, but also glad that the eight years of work have come to an end?
Keanu: How many years, eight years? Good God, maybe he and I can go to the hotel bar and reminisce about being in trilogies. 'Oh my God, can you believe?' 'I know, it's mad, isn't it? We're so lucky it's mad.'
Paul: Do you think that it was a dangerous thing to go and do a trilogy?
Keanu: Not at all. I think that they're wonderful films and I'll speak about them until I croak and I loved them. I had a great experience.
Paul: What do you think about the comments that the third and second films were not as well received as the first?
Keanu: They weren't? I disagree, I disagree. I think that they were embraced differently. Sometimes, you have a morning hug, an afternoon hug, you get a goodnight hug. I think that these films, I mean, if you remember way back when in '99 when the first 'Matrix' came out, it took awhile. It was not a critically acclaimed film and it was a kind of underground cult film that became popular and I think that 'Reloaded' and 'Revolutions' kind of continue on in that tradition. Critically, they were not embraced. Though, when you tend to speak to people who have seen them a couple of times, and later on go, 'I saw Reloaded again, it's really good,' or not, but my experience has been that if you spend some time with the films, and time goes by, you kind of feel differently. I mean, if you didn't get it or if you didn't feel like you enjoyed it, sometimes that experience can change.
Paul: How do you feel about the aspect of you being portrayed as something you don't feel that you are?
Keanu: I'm not a great fan of speaking about myself, but I love speaking about the films that I act in especially if I enjoy them.
Paul: How do you deal with a society that doesn't believe in the private life of any actor?
Keanu: I try to do it graciously.
Paul: Have you seen the biography that they did on you?
Keanu: I haven't, I haven't.
Paul: What do you think about it?
Keanu: I was told that they were doing a biography on 'Biography' and you hope that it's done in good taste, and you hope that it's good. I have no hope for it, actually. I don't really care. I don't care, whatever. That's something that's kind of orbital and something that kind of exists outside of what I do, and I'm not going to get hired or not hired, or my relationship with a director or another actor isn't going to be based on, 'I was going to work with you, but I saw your biography, and kid, I just don't' Hopefully, those kinds of things, you hope that people aren't climbing your walls to take a picture of you walking to your kitchen, and that's the only thing that you hope, that people conduct themselves in respectful manner in the world.
Paul: People have done that to you, haven't they?
Keanu: (Sarcastically) Oh yeah, they've climbed walls.
Paul: Were you committed to Constantine a long time ago?
Keanu: No, I was working in Australia and working on 'The Matrix' films and just trying to develop work for afterwards and this script came and worked on the script and worked with Warner Brothers and some of the execs there, and writers, Akiva Goldsman came on as one of the producers and so, he's done some writing and it took about a year, and right now, we're about six weeks in.
Paul: Is it a comic book?
Keanu: Yes, it's coming from a comic book series, from a character from Allen Moore. I think that it was introduced in 'Swamp Thing'.
Paul: What's the take on the character?
Keanu: His relationship to God. I guess that it's ultimately it's his relationship to the world. It's a guy who's got anger and ambivalence. There's a line in it, 'God has a plan for all of us, and some people like it, some people don't.' That's kind of a Constantinian take on it. Some people like it and John Constantine doesn't like it, but he likes it.
Paul: Do you think that it's going to be commercial because that's a dark comic series?
Keanu: Well, I mean, we have a character. We're hoping to make a PG-13 film, but it's also a character who after he goes to Gabriel and finds out that there's no way. I'm playing a character who's damned and he's trying to escape hell and he goes to Gabriel and he's like, 'Come on, I'm taking demons out of little girls. Who's that for?' Gabriel is saying, 'Well, you don't believe.' I go, 'I believe for Christ sake.' He goes, 'No, you know. You don't have faith.'
Paul: He's an ex-priest?
Keanu: I don't know. It depends on what story you’re telling. In this one, he wasn't and after that, he goes and you see my character with scratches on his back and he's drinking some whiskey and he's just made love to the demon. So, you know, we're trying for PG-13. My feet are on the floor of the bed, he's under the covers.
Paul: So, that's not exactly like making love to Diane Keaton in this movie?
Keanu: No comment.
Paul: What do you think are some of the cons about getting involved with another franchise?
Keanu: I don't know about cons. I don't know about that. I mean the business side of it and the storytelling side of it; if we're fortunate enough and it all comes together and we make an interesting, enjoyable film, I'll be really happy. I'm having a really positive experience right now. I'm working with some incredible artists. We have a remarkable DP. I'm working with Francis Lawrence who's very talented, has a fresh vision, a great storyteller. I'm doing a script with Akiva Goldsman, an Oscar award winner. He's one of the best writers in town. I'm working with Rachel Weisz and Tilda Swinton is acting in it. We've got some incredible set direction and we've got one of the best crews that I've ever worked with. We're telling a righteous story and something that I think is cool about adjusting one's place in the world and if we're lucky enough to entertain folks and that they dig it and whoever says, 'Keanu, do you want to do that again,' we'll see. Whether that turns into a franchise, and lunch boxes, I doubt it, but hopefully, if we can make a good film, I don't know.
Paul: How is it to come to a decision to make a film as an actor at this point? Do you agonize over it?
Keanu: Often, you have a gut reaction. I have a gut reaction to the material that I'm dealing with and if there's something, like, with this, 'Something's Gotta Give', when I read this script, I was like, 'This is one of the best scripts that I've ever read, period.' In terms of working with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton, there was the role of Dr. Mercer and I was like, 'Call someone,' and I got to meet on it. So, the script and the story and the character and your feeling, I guess.
Paul: Are you often in the position of looking for work or are the scripts piled up for you?
Keanu: Yeah, you're always looking for good material. I mean, I love acting. So, look at Jack Nicholson. He's sixty six years old, I think, and he's making movies. He's doing his thing. Does Jack Nicholson have to go and make a movie? That's what we do. I guess that's our life.
Paul: Did you get to talk with Jack much or get any advice from him about the business?
Keanu: Actually, last night, it was great. Nancy Meyers had a dinner and Jack was there, and I was speaking, we were speaking about the film and the process and Nancy Meyers tends to, she likes to let the camera roll and I was speaking to Jack about that, and he was like, 'Yeah, even when I was starting out,' he said, 'I would always tell the operator, Give him a slow cut,' because sometimes, the directors will say, 'Cut,' or the first A.D. will say cut, and the operator because of the cost of film will just flip the switch and so, what Nicholson was saying was that because some things happen at the end of the take, that is the thing, and so, he was like, 'I always asked for a slow cut,' and I got that because sometimes, you know, that's experience. That's someone who's like, 'If you give them a slow cut, I like do that thing,' and he was saying that you get to express something off, more of that other thing, you get to express something that might not be on the page, but that might be a part of the character, and I was thinking about that, and I was like, 'He's right again.'
Paul: Would you ever audition for Stratford again?
Keanu: I auditioned for Stratford like four years in a row.
Paul: But that's when you were known?
Keanu: No, that's when I was young. I was like sixteen. Yes, I mean, I hope that that's something in my life, actually. I like that production too. It was good, straight ahead 'Hamlet', I thought.
Paul: Is it possible at this point in your career to sit back and be a couch potato or do you feel compelled to honour your temple, so to speak?
Keanu: I feel honoured to honour the temple of my body. I mean, yes and no. It's something that won't do the training that I did for that film. I'm kind of making it up as I go along.
Paul: Do you believe in true love and soul mates and all of that?
Keanu: Sure. Yeah, I agree.
Paul: Are you a hopeless romantic?
Keanu: I don't know. Am I a hopeless romantic? It's fun to be hopelessly in love. It's dangerous, but it's fun.
Paul: When you were in Paris, was it romantic?
Keanu: It is indeed.
Paul: Had you been there before?
Keanu: I had worked there before. I worked there on 'Dangerous Liaisons'.
Paul: Do people know you when you're there?
Keanu: Sometimes, once in a while. I get recognized once in a while, but not that often.
Something's Gotta Give opens on December 12