(Translated from Italian, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
For Constantine, he got in touch with an exorcist. And he kept his phone number. You've got to find this understandable: over his 40 years of life, he's had to cope with a father in prison, a still-born child, a girlfriend who died in an accident, and a sick sister.
Oh, the very mysterious Keanu Reeves. Gay, or not gay. Good actor, or beautiful, hopeless actor who just miraculously managed to pick the right movies, in particular the 'Matrix' trilogy that banked over 1.5 billion dollars worldwide? Unfortunate accumulator of personal tragedies, or extremely reserved because he has nothing to say? Indeed, in a time where good and evil seem to be two sides of the same media-medal, the silence regarding his private life is almost deafening. We met him in Rome, while he was promoting 'Constantine', released in cinemas on Feb. 25th. The movie, directed by Francis Lawrence, is based on a comic book created by Alan Moore in the early 90's. The main character is an exorcist and a heavy smoker suffering from lung cancer. In real life, Keanu is about 1.9 meters tall, has an evasive smile, a warm voice, and manly non-manicured hands. Before the interview, he asked for a 5 minute break to go out and smoke a cigarette. He obliged the new Italian smoking regulations even if it meant making his way through the numerous fans waiting for him at the hotel entrance.
Keanu Reeves, who never talks about himself and is taken for a mysterious guy (as well as cold towards women), said something this time. About his mid-life crisis and how vicious smoking is. And about a certified way to chat up girls.
Constantine is a smoker and you are smoker too. Ever thought about quitting?
I know I should, but I have never tried. I smoke about twelve cigarettes a day. I console myself by thinking it won’t hurt me too much as I started quite late. I was 30, working on Feeling Minnessota. My character smoked. Since then, I have been trapped.
The ‘Actor’s Studio’ method and its extreme consequences. Is it true that you met an exorcist to prepare for this movie?
It’s true. It seems incredible, but in Hollywood there are consultants of every kind. So I went to see this guy, very nice, very intelligent. He was about 55. He taught me the technical gestures, but we didn’t talk about religion or philosophy, only about the practical aspects of exorcism. He told me his job was dangerous, but that it’s a job like any other.
Would you use an exorcist if you needed to?
If someone I knew was possessed, why not? In fact, I still have his card… I’m just kidding.
You are left-handed. There was a time when it was believed to be the devil’s hand. Many children were forced to use their right hand.
How barbaric! I truly hope no one does that anymore. From a neurological point of view, it is said that the creative part of the brain is the left side, but I don’t believe it’s necessarily true. Our mind is much more elastic than scientific assumptions would have it.
And so starts a conversation on the left-handed (even also right-handed) genius of Leonardo da Vinci, and on Dan Brown's best-seller 'Da Vinci Code'. As soon as the book is mentioned, Keanu Reeves straightens on his chair and gives me a 'You don't honestly believe the book is accurate, do you?' look. Is he upset because he wasn't offered a part in the upcoming movie? Or about the Opus Dei? He dodges an answer: 'I was just saying. In fact, I haven't even read the book'.
‘Speed’, ‘Little Buddha’, ‘Matrix’ or even the comedy ‘Something’s Gotta Give’. Is there a character in these movies, although very different from one another, that describes you best?
Every one and none of them. I never play myself. What you see on the screen is the result of a dialogue between myself and the character. But every movie represents a part of my life. It’s about the people you meet, the memories you have. Since ‘Speed’ I’ve maintained a great relationship with Sandra Bullock. We do lunch once a year. And in March we’ll start working on ‘Il Mare’, a movie directed by Alejandro Agresti. On the set of ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ I could admire up close Jack Nicholson’s greatness. It’s incredible that this world has such a wonderful actor! As for Bernardo Bertolucci, we haven’t seen each other in a very very long time but we greet each other through mutual acquaintances. And as I’m here talking to an Italian magazine, I’ll grab the opportunity: Hello Bernardo!
Reeves is cordial but you can't help and look in his face for a trace of doubt or personal torment. And one would be spoilt for choice at how many sad stories there are to tell. A father in jail. A still-born child. An ex-girlfriend, mother of the child, who died in a car crash a year and a half later. A sister who's been suffering from leukeamia for years. It is common knowledge that, for years, he's been giving money to various associations that work on cancer research, but he's never put himself forward as a spokesperson of any kind. 'And I have no intention of doing so either. I don't blame those who do that sort of thing, but I'd rather not talk about my choices'. He is so discreet that he's been at the center of many gossip stories. Like the time when he was rumored to be married to David Geffen, a producer worth millions of dollars. The story was never dismissed, and is still be talked about today. There is no proof of his homosexuality. About the distance he keeps towards women, there are strange clues. Even in 'Constantine', there are no bed scenes involving co-star Rachel Weisz. Just a cold kiss, similar to that shared with Monica Bellucci in the 'Matrix'. A kiss about which an American critic said: 'It's obvious she had to do the job for both of them'.
On September 2nd, you celebrated your 40th birthday. Any crisis?
It’s terrible: I even thought about buying a Ferrari, and I felt really bad. I’ve just come out of it.
Have you given up your bike collection?
No, I’ll never give up my bikes!
But you’re not part of your band ‘Dogstar’ anymore?
No, but I keep on playing bass at home, or jam with friends.
What kind of music do you listen to these days?
The latest Interpol, John Coltrane and the ‘Barry Lyndon’ soundtrack.
There’s a rumor saying you turned down the role of ‘Superman’.
I was never approached for the part, I’m too old for ‘Superman’. Even if the idea could have brought a certain elixir of youth.
At the recent Sundance Festival you refused the latest technological gadgets that were handed as freebies to the stars. Don’t you like being spoilt?
Everyone likes being spoilt! But I’m not interested in the latest technologies. I never had a computer nor a digital camera. I have an iPod but I never use it.
So it is true then that the ‘Matrix’ hero doesn’t like the Playstation but prefers a game of chess?
It is true. I’m a discreet player, but not a regular one. Sometimes I play every day, then I get bored, then I pick it up again.
It’s not easy to find someone to play chess with.
You’d be surprised. There are more than you think. Even amongst women. You just have to ask.
A chat-up line recommended by Keanu Reeves?
Could be. You walk into a bar and ask one of them: ‘Want to come round my house to play chess?’
I’m amazed by your humor. Do you know that there is some sort of mystery theory surrounding you?
It's only because I refuse to talk about my private life. Hardly anyone does it anymore.
Does it bother you when you read that you are a strange and unreadable guy?
Why would it? It could be a lot worse.
The second half of the interview is dedicated to Chiara Caselli who played his lover in 'My Own Private Idaho'. She says that she doesn't remember whether Keanu was a good kisser or not. She only remembers how cold the set was. They hugged a lot while they worked together, not because they were attracted to each other, but because it was so cold. She admits he's got beautiful lips and a very soft skin but says she was never attracted to him. He's one of the most beautiful men she's ever met but he just doesn't do anything for her. Not then, not now. She also said that she celebrated her birthday on the set of 'Idaho', that she went to Gus Van Sant's house and that 'there was a lot of everything' going on. She never heard from Keanu after the film.
"How beautiful it was when Keanu and I hugged each other naked"
It was 1990 and the actress (Chiara Caselli) flirted with him in My Own Private Idaho. She says: “I remember the hugging, especially because it was cold and it kept us warm. And then his skin, so silky. He’s a beautiful boy. But he didn’t turn me on…”
In 2003 on the set of Something's Gotta Give, Diane Keaton kisses Keanu Reeves (then 39) and Jack Nicholson (68). Then she surprisingly declares she felt more comfortable with old Jack.
In 1990 on the set of My Own Private Idaho, cult movie by Gus Van Sant, it was Chiara Caselli who kissed a 21(sic!) 25-year-old Keanu Reeves.
Q: Be honest, how does Keanu kiss?
A: I don’t remember exactly. Of all the love scenes I still have the exact feeling of how terribly freezing it was on the set. We shot in an old country cottage with no heating system. More than the kisses, I remember the hugging: we held each other tightly to keep us warm”.
Q: Nothing else?
A: Honestly no, but it must have been terrific because Keanu has a beautiful mouth.
Q: Just the mouth?
A: I remember his skin. Fantastic.
Q: His skin?
A: Yes. We shot a couple of scenes in the nude, and as I had him handy… He had velvet skin, silky. And the rest as well. Actually, Keanu has a rare beauty. And he’s a good person.
Q: Is it true you had a love affair?
A: No, honestly he’s never turned me on. It's odd, as he is one of the most beautiful boys I’ve ever met. But still now, when I see him on the screen, I don’t find him sexy, as a viewer. He has a strange sexuality. You never know where it is.
Q: What else do you remember about the set?
A: Instead of trailers we had a kind of tiny hovels, like 3sq ft: it was a low-budget film, we had to do as best as we could. And I remember we had a great time: they were all boys, including the technical staff.
Q: How old were you?
A: 21. My birthday was during the shooting, so we threw a bash at Gus’s place.
Q: What was it like?
A: He had this formerly-penniless-director home on Portland’s hills. It was made of wood, huge, with all these people coming and going. Those years, transgression was normality.
Q: Which means…
A: …that parties at Gus’s were extremely entertaining. Plenty of people, music, alcohol…
A: Plenty of everything…