(Translated from Spanish by Anakin McFly, who knows no Spanish but is a good guesser. And online Spanish-to-English dictionaries are always helpful.)
The Age of Maturity
The Matrix trilogy earned him 206 million dollars. Now, he has the luxury to alternate between independent films and mega blockbusters like Constantine, his latest work.
He is the best paid actor in Hollywood and also one of his generation's most enigmatic. At 40, he faces life after The Matrix. In the Mexican capital to promote his latest film, Constantine, he gives an exclusive interview on the film, his maturity, and his next project under Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti.
by Maria Noel Alvarez
"Although I'm 40, I still feel like a kid."
Keanu is cold. His nose is red, his eyes feverish, and he is of terrible humour. It is 12:19 on Thursday, the 24th of February, we are four minutes into the Constantine press conference, and the atmosphere is tense; as though the very air of the city of Mexico - where the red carpet was rolled out for last night's premiere - were bowed in the presence of the Matrix trilogy actor. As journalists pose their questions, he yawns and chugs on his cigarette, his gaze not fixed on anybody, taking any chance he can to evade a question and leave the burden of answering it to the film's director, Francis Lawrence. "Take it, pal," he says to him. He is dressed in a black suit and a dark grey shirt without a tie. He takes a few seconds to answer each question, often providing sparse responses. Everything that has been said about him seems to be true. Over the years he has refused to speak about his private life; he is a terrible interviewee, and the publication of his personal details in the past has distressed him.
But today he has an excuse. This morning in his suite at the Four Seasons hotel, his temperature read in at 39 degrees. "I want to go home and see a doctor," he said to one of his colleagues. The same colleague said that Reeves had been interested in visiting the Museum of Anthropology, but now with his cold and chills, he preferred to remain in his room, to work, and then to return home as quickly as possible. And for Keanu Reeves, home is not a Beverly Hills mansion, but a humble refuge in Toronto, Canada. Amongst his other eccentricities, it seems that he has never become a US citizen, since Keanu (which means 'cool breeze over the mountain' in Hawaiian) was born in Lebanon on the 2nd of September 1964. He knew little of his father, geologist Samuel Nowlin Reeves, who spent a long time in prison for drug smuggling. With his mother, Patricia, he and his sister soon migrated to New York and then to Toronto, where Keanu lived until he was a teenager. At school, he was an ice hockey goaltender. Until one of his first film performances, in the cult comedy Bill & Ted (1989), made him famous. But it led to the first time as an actor that he had to overcome a typecast - that of the airhead who repeatedly exclaimed, "Excellent!" He played the late River Phoenix's lover in My Own Private Idaho (1991), then acted in Dracula (1992), the Shakespeare adaptation Much Ado About Nothing (1993), and achieved success and fame with Speed (1994). Modest movies followed until he reached the second and strongest milestone of his career, which turned him into a multimillionaire: The Matrix (1999), The Matrix Reloaded (2003) and The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
Now, perhaps it's all about what comes next in the life of this incredibly handsome actor. And his latest work, the film adaptation of the Hellblazer comics, is about the only thing the most guarded actor in Hollywood wants to talk about. We join him in Room 233 of the Four Seasons hotel, where he sits down to chat with GENTE, greeting us with a "Good afternoon", in English, without a handshake or a kiss. He is unshaven, and looks good. The famous scar on his stomach, relic of a motorcycle accident from years past (he crashed into a stone wall, resulting in several broken ribs and the removal of his spleen (seems to be a mistake; Keanu claims his spleen is still in him. Then again, what does he know? -Ani)), is hidden under his suit. He is accompanied by his representative, an elegant, blonde, icy woman. Keanu takes only mineral water. "My biggest challenge was in capturing the spirit of this antihero: his cynicism, black humour, the struggle for his personal salvation..."
"I'll be making a film with the director of Valentin"
The director Alejandro Agresti, who directed Bueno Aires Vice Versa, El viento se llevó lo qué and Valentin, was hired by Warner Bros. to direct the remake of the Korean film Siworae (2000), called The Lake House. This romantic drama begins shooting in mid-March in Chicago, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, who previously appeared together in Speed. About Agresti, Reeves said: "I thought that Valentin was a beautiful movie. I think that Agresti is a man who is totally dedicated to his art and extremely talented. I can't wait to start filming."
"I feel older and wiser, but it would be a lie to say that I'm delighted at reaching forty."
"They say this is the age at which one matures, so if I'm lucky, I might even start a family."
Was your greatest challenge leaving Neo, the hero of The Matrix?
- Leaving Neo? For me it was somewhat difficult. When I finish a film, I rest, spend some time with friends, and then I get into another character. All I can do is keep making movies and hope that people like what I do. To me, Constantine and Neo are so different from each other, but I can't control what the audience thinks.
Do you feel mature now that you're forty?
- Firstly, I'll be lying if I said I'm happy at being forty. I'm not.
Do you feel like a mature actor?
- No, I consider myself a mature young actor. I feel older and wiser, yet I still have that grand sense of wonder and curiosity. At forty, I still feel like a kid. They say this is the age at which one matures, so if I'm lucky, I might even start a family.
The topic of family is a triple taboo for Reeves. Articles say that he never met his father, his mother divorced four times, and that he spends most of his free time caring for his younger sister, Kim, who has been fighting leukemia for years. In 2002, Reeves even left the filming of the Matrix sequel when he learnt that Kim's condition had worsened, and took her to Hawaii to help her recovery. (Note: he has totally met his father, and he took Kim to Capri, not Hawaii. - Ani) But there's more. The child he had been going to have with his girlfriend Jennifer Syme did not survive the birth, and a year later, Syme died in a traffic accident in Los Angeles. Since then, Keanu's romantic partners have remained unknown. Until now, for the international media just reported that he has recently committed to a relationship with a novice actress (Autumn Macintosh). Will there be another smokescreen protecting their privacy? Keanu takes another sip of water, exposing his ring-free hand, and allows the conversation to continue for a little more.
What inspires you?
- Over time I've learnt to admire actors like Peter O'Toole, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino... I read a lot. Now I'm reading the fourth book in the series In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust.
Which movies can you watch over and over again without getting bored?
- There are many: Wings of Desire, Singing in the Rain, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Lawrence of Arabia...
They said that you were thinking of retiring after you were done with Matrix. Was that really your plan?
- They said that? No, I hope to work for many more years. Acting is all I really want to do.