Keanu's enjoying a hell of a good role
Keanu Reeves suits up in his new movie for a serious comic role. Nick Papps in Los Angeles reports.
It's becoming a tried and tested way to make money - find a comic book character and turn him into a blockbuster movie hero.
We've seen it from Superman to Spiderman and now it's time for audiences to meet the latest name to make the transition from comic to the big screen - John Constantine.
Based on the DC comic's Hellblazer series, Constantine is the new Keanu Reeves film with the Hollywood star playing a supernatural detective who battles demons, monsters and the devil in a bid to find his way into heaven.
The film is full of dazzling special effects and supernatural horror scenes and, as he sits down here on a hotel couch, Reeves confesses he rather enjoyed his stint playing the dark, chain-smoking Constantine.
"I loved the character," Reeves says.
"I thought the premise was great, the humour, the scares, the journey of the characters and I thought it was a very original entertaining piece.
"The guy is condemned to hell and trying to find a way out.
"It's fun to play characters that are trapped and world-weary and cynical."
He found the inspiration, he says, through a combination of good script, good clothes and... a visit to an exorcist. "I'm lucky enough to have a script to follow and a costume to wear and some words to say," Reeves explains.
"They certainly help. When I work on a role, identification is important.
"You have to find a way to identify with a character but the character is also teaching you something, so it's a give and take.
"After that, you do the best you can."
And then there was that visit to an exorcist to learn how to play the demon-fighting Constantine.
"I was like: 'So what do you do?'" Reeves says about his conversation with the real life exorcist.
"I got some tips... how to hold on to people, how to direct your voice, how to use your eyes.
"If I am going to play a welder I would like to learn how to weld - you want to be as familiar with the world because it's going to teach you something."
He does admit to being a little relieved no supernatural forces plagued the movie set.
"There were no paranormal events that took place on the film - that I know of - thank God!"
John Constantine is just the latest character in the diverse career of Keanu Reeves who first found fame in 1989's Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, as a somewhat mentally-challenged slacker.
He's been an action hero in the 1994 blockbuster Speed, a computer hacker in the hugely successful Matrix sci-fi series and more recently a romantic doctor in the comedy Something's Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson.
"I have been really fortunate to do different kinds of films," Reeves says. "And that's important to me, sometimes you don't want to play the hero.
"It's something I have been trying to do. There's a certain joy in the diversity of roles, it's something I like to do if I can.
"Acting is what I love."
The Lebanese-born Reeves grew up in Toronto and says he always loved acting. He would accompany his stepfather, director Paul Aaron to plays-and from the age of 15, after seeing a troupe perform at his school decided: "I want to do that".
"When I was 15 years old I went up to my mother and said: 'I'm an actor'," Reeves says.
"She said: 'Whatever you want dear', and three weeks later I was enrolled in an acting class."
Now at the age of 40 Reeves has appeared in 40 films himself and with another three projects on the go, his output is showing no signs of slowing down. One of those new films, Il Mare, will see Reeves reunited with his old costar from Speed, Sandra Bullock.
Reeves made the shrewd decision not to take part in Speed 2 with Bullock. The film flopped and Reeves says if he is ever going to do sequels "it needs to fit" and "Speed 2 didn't work for me".
A Constantine 2 though, does seem a real possibility with Reeves saying "he (Constantine) is such a fantastic character, I would love to play him again".
Mother by his side he was greatly chuffed to become one of Tinseltown's most notable - gaining a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame recently.
He says: "It was a great honour for me. I just hope to be able to continue the journey and continue to make films that I am interested in and that people like."
Constantine opens on February 24.