by James Swanwick
The Matrix man on psychics, injuries and hitting people
You play a fella whose job it is to kill demons in your latest flick, Constantine. Your character also smokes and drinks a lot. Seems like an alright chap...
Yes, I like that about him - that he is a flawed character.
You enjoy a chuff on a gasper, don't you?
What's a gasper?
Ah, yes. I enjoy a smoke.
Your character smokes two packs a day and is dying of lung cancer. Has that put you off?
I learned that I shouldn't smoke so much.
How much do you smoke?
Probably too much.
It seemed like you were smoking in every scene.
Yeah, some of those scenes it was like, "Watch Keanu turn green." I smoked so much. It was a lot. I should quit.
Do you believe that people have psychic powers, like in the movie?
Sure. And I don't think that from working on this film. I think that because of my own experiences. I've met people - psychics, card readers - and they have told me things that have happened to me that were very specific and they wouldn't know about.
Have you ever seen something that you didn't have an explanation for?
With my eyes? If you're talking about ghosts, I haven't seen 'em. I've had feelings when I felt like, "Let's get out of here!" But I haven't seen a cup levitate or anything like that.
What's the worst injury you've suffered while making a film?
I was filming The Replacements and ran into someone I shouldn't have and I got a stinger. It's where your neck compresses and you lose feeling in, and the use of, your arms. And I had a general sense of pain. I had a two level fusion where two vertebrae fused in my neck so there was a lot of concern. But I went and had an MRI and was fine. When it first happened I was really scared because I'd never had a stinger before. The sensation was really intense for about 20 minutes and then it took about two hours for the lack of feeling in my limbs to go away.
Did you end up in the hospital?
Yeah, I had to go straight to the hospital. I took a handful of Advil [Ibuprofen] and then when I got to the hospital they gave me the good stuff, before sending me home with some more of the good stuff, plus ice and heat packs. All this fighting and stuff is taking its toll on the body. It's getting harder, man.
Well you're no spring chicken anymore [Keanu's turned 41, readers]. Are you slowing down?
I am making all the noises that a man who's post-40 makes. When I went to the bathroom, I never used to lean against the wall. I am that guy now, ha ha!
What's the hardest thing you've been asked to do in a film?
In The Gift, I had to punch Cate Blanchett in the stomach. I remember we were thinking, "Where can my character, Donnie, hit her? Shall I punch her in the head, shall I slap her?" Then the stunt guy said, "Hit her in the stomach, in the fucking womb." And I was like, "Yeah, that's it, just walk up and punch her in the fucking guts..." And that was really hard... really hard. Cate was saying, "Look, just do it, hit me." And I was like scared, you know. But eventually I did and it was OK. I didn't hurt her.
You were fortunate enough to get naked with Carrie-Anne Moss in The Matrix Reloaded, but how much can you actually enjoy yourself in these situations?
These scenes are often very uncomfortable because you're nude in public, so I spoke with Carrie-Anne just to try to create a comfortable environment. She and I went to the set with the directors and did some shapes and worked it out. We got used to each other.
Ha ha! Yeah, something like that.
Well, were you wearing anything?
I wore something over my genitals and so did she. We were covered. It wasn't Adam and Eve before the apple. Thank God.
Keanu's new film Constantine is out on general release from 18 March.