Handsome and Damned
(Translated from Italian by keanugirl76)
Cynical, nihilist, egoist. A real bastard, but with a heart of gold. Keanu Reeves is Constantine in the new horror movie based on the comics edited by Vertigo.
by Adriano Barone
The table is covered with bottles of alcoholic drinks. Collapsed on it there's a drunk man, not shaved, his sleeves rolled up. His name is John Constantine, a plain-looking wizard, exorcist, detective of the supernatural, drunkard, compulsive smoker: this is Keanu Reeves' latest character, taken from the Hellblazer comics edited by Vertigo, the "adult" division of DC Comics. The movie, a hard boiled horror, deals with John facing a series of supernatural events, but above all a bad surprise: he suffers from lung cancer. "This is a fellow in a difficult relationship with God. He hates the Devil. He fights with the most disgusting demons and yet he can't quit his bad habits, like smoking, which is killing him," explains the scriptwriter Frank Capello. "To sum up he's just a man who tries to save himself, not the world."
This is the first movie by Francis Lawrence, a director who shot a wide range of music videos for singers like Britney Spears, Will Smith and Aerosmith. Lawrence gave his heart and soul to the project, studying carefully and preparing by himself some preparatory sketches, besides suggesting ideas which proved to be fundamental to the location of the movie. "I immediately got enthusiastic with his idea, that paradise and hell coincide with our world," affirms the producer Goldsman. "According to this particular geography, if you cross the passage which separates our world from the others, you'll find yourself exactly in the same place... but in hell!"
The movie is slightly different from the comics version of the character, who is inspired by Sting and appeared for the first time in the 80's on the pages of Swamp Thing during the very famous series written by Alan Moore (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and the upcoming Watchmen): the action is no longer located in London and the character of Constantine owns a series of gadgets very similar to the horror video games (like the cross-shaped gun) completely absent in the original stories. Moreover, in order to better highlight John's loneliness, the character of Ellie, half-demon and half- human, has been eliminated, however the director has promised that all these scenes will be re-inserted in the DVD edition.
In spite of these differences the movie is based directly on one of the cycles of the regular series, Dangerous Habits, written by the Irish scriptwriter Garth Ennis (who is currently working at the script of his comic Preacher), where John discovers that he will die from lung cancer.
In order to define the genre of the movie, Lawrence's answer is illuminating. "The movie has noir features coming from the character's tune, the structure of the story and Constantine's way of interacting with people and the world around him", he explains. "What makes this movie interesting, and makes me particularly proud, is that it doesn't belong to a specific genre. It's not a supernatural thriller. It's not a horror movie. It doesn't deal with four boys in a van who are murdered by a serial killer. It's not only fantasy. It's a weird mix of all these features."
Not at all worried about being relegated to action roles after playing the new Messiah, expert in kung fu, in The Matrix trilogy, the American actor born in Beirut is now shooting other leading roles in every kind of movies: from the novel-inspired A Scanner Darkly (by Philip K. Dick), to the thriller The Night Watchman, Spike Lee's next movie, to the delicate love story in the upcoming Il Mare by Alejandro Agresti. Best Movie met him in Rome when promoting Constantine.
I: You worked in several movies where reality is put in discussion. Are you interested particularly in this topic?
K.R.: And who wouldn't be interested in it? It's a very important topic and a classical way of telling a story in a captivating way. This sort of movie shows how we imagine the future, our hopes and our dreams.
I: How did you prepare yourself for the role?
K.R.: I read the script even before reading the comic and I loved Constantine very much. Then, once the movie was in pre-production, I started reading the stories in order to try to understand the character's behavior.
I: How was working on set?
K.R.: The director Francis Lawrence has been very available and he also allowed me to give my contribution to the script. While shooting we talked a lot about the making of several scenes.
I: What is, in your opinion, the central point of the movie?
K.R.: A lot of people concentrate above all on angels and demons, but the basic message is being aware of our actions, knowing what is right and what is wrong and understanding what our place in the world is.
I: Are you interested in comics?
K.R: I was above all between 17 and 22. At that time I used to read several comics, but my favorite ones were those by Frank Miller, as Dark Knight Returns.
I: Are you thinking about a sequel?
K.R.: If the first is successful, why not? Constantine is a character I loved very much and I'd like to meet him again.