FiRST (Singapore), November 2003
You say you want a Revolution?
FIRST finds out what to expect from the last instalment of The Matrix from The One himself, Keanu Reeves. What he has to say may not be revolutionary, but who cares? Just look at the man.
by Oliver O'Neal
IN 1999, The Matrix grossed $460 million at the box-office and sold 25 million videos and DVDs. The Wachowski brothers' sci-fi hit film also won four technical Oscars and made its star, Keanu Reeves, an action icon. Last spring's follow up, The Matrix Reloaded, was another commercial hit but regarded as a disappointment by critics and the public alike. Now writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski finish the trilogy with the highly-awaited The Matrix Revolutions, a sequel filmed back-to-back with Reloaded over 18 months in Australia and California. The two sequels cost and incredible $300 million.
For Keanu Reeves - the Beirut-born, Toronto-raised heartthrob whose hits before The Matrix trilogy included Dangerous Liaisons, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, My Own Private Idaho, Much Ado About Nothing, Speed, and Devil's Advocate - making the Matrix series was a blessing as the job kept him working non-stop far away from his Hollywood home. The 39-year-old actor had suffered the devastating losses of first a still-born daughter and then a year later of girlfriend Jennifer in a car accident. The shy, soft-spoken actor has never commented on the deaths and has stayed out of the limelight since.
Recent tabloid stories have described him as depressed and lonely. True to form, the press-shy actor known to be monosyllabic in interviews, didn't reveal much about his private feelings when promoting his new film. Still, this century's Garbo opened up a bit regarding stardom and the reasons he never talks about his private life.
Why do you think the first sequel disappointed?
The second film in a trilogy is always the most difficult to do successfully, especially as in the case of The Matrix where the sequels are one story cut in two parts.
Revolutions offers some spectacular new chase sequences. Were they harder to do than the first film?
The sequels took a much longer time to make than the first movie, so recovering was harder. I had fights interspersed over a long period of time so, in my time off, I was always training and learning another fight.
What is your favourite part of Revolutions?
My favourite aspect of the piece is the love story between Trinity and Neo because I get to love someone and I get to be loved by someone and share that.
How as it working with Carrie-Anne Moss in an intimate way?
My romantic scenes with Carrie-Anne were some of my best days working on that project, just because we loved and trusted each other and enjoyed working together. It was great to feel that. It's great to be able to give over that loving feeling, that kind of respect and appreciation for somebody else.
Moss says that you are incredibly nice, smart and well-read. But because your first hit was Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, many still conceive you to be rather dim.
(laughs) You've got smart people, and you've got dumb people. I just happen to be dumb!
You received $30 million for the Matrix series. What does that pay check meant to you?
That I don't need to think about the money when I accept a movie. I can accept what I like without considering my fee. I can play "Hamlet" in a little theatre in Canada. I also can buy my family stuff.
Reportedly you handed over your profit-sharing points (worth millions of dollars to The Matrix special-effects and costume-design teams. )
I'd rather people didn't know that.
It's already out there.
It's a private event. It's just the way it worked out. It was something at the time I could afford to do. I want to change the subject.
Have you kept up with the Kung Fu?
No, after doing it for so long, I just wanted to rest. I prefer to play baseball and ice hockey and ride horses.
The filming of The Matrix aggravated a neck injury you had from a motorcycle accident and required surgery. Are you now afraid to get hurt filming very physical scenes?
No. There have been plenty of bruises and aches, but I haven't broken anything. Once, during "Replacements," I lost the feeling in my fingers, hands and arms and was rushed to hospital. It was scary for a while but it was okay.
Why do you think The Matrix series has become such a success?
The brothers managed to synthesize the action spectacle and give it an emotional context. So much that I never thought of The Matrix as action pictures, I always thought of them as drama.
Have you been surprised by the success?
I had no expectations. I really didn't know how they were going to be received. When I saw the original, it was better than the film I thought I had made.
You have starred in action films like Point Break, Speed and The Matrix series. Do you consider yourself an action hero?
No, I don't want to be completely defined by being an action hero. I do like the genre, but I also want to do other work. I try to be pretty selective.
You once turned down $12 million of or Speed 2 in order to play Hamlet in a theatre in Canada. Was it worth it?
Yes, because on two nights, I was Hamlet! I adore theatre because movies are increasingly ruled by budgets that limit the number of times scenes can be shot. Take me to Broadway, man! I'll get to do shows in front of people who are listening and who won't go anywhere because they paid too much!
After the 1994 hit Speed, you made more low-budget films (Feeling Minnesota, The Last Time I Committed Suicide etc) than studio pictures (The Devil's Advocate, The Matrix etc). Why didn't you decide to do more big-budget stuff?
I enjoy working on a big studio picture if it's a piece I connect with, but usually, I connect more easily with independent movies because they are more concerned with emotions and relationships.
Still, you haven't always made the wisest choices?
There's a couple of movies I did I wish would disappear (laughs). We're all human, and we all make mistakes.
How do the roles you play differ from the private Keanu?
I'm not similar to the roles I've played. Naturally there are certain things about me that I'm using in my roles, but none of my parts have been similar to me overall.
You once described yourself as clumsy.
I used to be a bit clumsy. I didn't even think I could be convincing in an action film like Speed. I did gymnastics for six weeks to gain more control over my body. After a while I felt more in control, and once I did a few of my own stunts on "Speed", I loved it.
Did you always dream of being an actor?
No, I wanted to be a copy or a fire-fighter as a kid. But I've been acting since I was 14 years old. I did theatre, commercial and television before I got small roles in Hollywood movies that were made in Canada.
At 19, you left for Los Angeles.
I was frustrated that the main parts in the movies I made in Toronto always went to Americans. I would always be playing people on the sidelines. So I drove to L.A. and tried my luck.
What do you feel about people criticising your acting?
I've never felt underestimated by my peers. By critics, sometimes. I try not to read reviews, but I'm just such a sucker for that. As an actor you've got to check in with what's going on around you. It's just the nature of the beast.
What actors would you like to work with?
Many, for example Christopher Walken and Robert DeNiro.
You lead a non-materialistic lifestyle. You ride motorcycles, play bass and lived out of hotels for a decade.
That's the way I like things.
Why do you still tour with your band Dogstar?
Because I find it personally fulfilling. I love playing bass and I love the camaraderie of the band. I toured Australia while making the Matrix pictures there.
Why do we never see you at premieres and parties?
I try to keep a very low profile in my private life. I don't like to be seen out on the town because I don't feel at east when I'm being chased or photographed. So I avoid events that will lead me to be seen.
Who are your friends in Hollywood?
I don't have famous friends. All my friends are people I've known for many years, or people I've met outside of the industry.
Why did you pick Nancy Meyer's upcoming comedy Something's Gotta Give opposite Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton as the follow-up to the Matrix films?
It's one of the best scripts I've read in a long time; it's smart and personal and relevant and funny. I play a doctor in love with the older woman (Keaton).
What is your ambition?
To play different types of characters and to do different kinds of films in style and scope. I guess it's just me wanting to act and not wanting to be one thing.
What if you're only remembered for The Matrix?
I've resigned to the fact, but I hope by the end of my career I'll be defined by five or six films and not just The Matrix pictures.
KRAZY 4 KEANU
Keanu (it means cool breeze over the mountains in Hawaiian) Charles Reeves was born in Beirut, in 1964, to British mom, Patricia, and Hawaiian Chinese dad, Samuel. His mother was a seamstress who made costumes for musicians like Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. His father was a geologist, but ended up in prison after being caught with drugs. The father left the family when Keanu was young and his mother moved with her son and two daughters to Toronto. Keanu loved hockey (his nickname was the Wall as team goalie) but hated school and quit in order to act.
He performed at various Toronto theatres, and in 1984, a critically acclaimed performance in "Wolfboy" lead to a minor role in the Rob Lowe hockey film Youngblood. The rest is history.