Hollywood’s Biggest Moneymaker Walks Softly
Keanu Reeves Scans His Occupation With Cole Smithey
by Cole Smithey
Keanu Reeves became the highest paid actor to date in Hollywood based on the two Matrix sequels for which he received $206 million from a 15 percentage of the box office takings, and untold revenues from the Matrix video game, DVDs and eventual TV sales. So, while most people would never guess that Keanu Reeves eclipsed Tom Cruise’s bankable status, the enigmatic Canadian has run circles around Hollywood.
Far removed from early films, like "River’s Edge," "Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure," and "My Own Private Idaho," that kick started his vast career, the strangely stilted actor continues to tilt between far-out futuristic polemics like "A Scanner Darkly" and more personal if ethereal romance stories like "The Lake House."
Keanu joined "Scanner" director Richard Linklater and co-star Robert Downey Jr. at the Cannes Film Festival to talk about the film’s future world where America’s war on drugs is manufactured by the government as a method of enslaving its citizens in a mindless paranoid cycle. Underneath Linklater’s brilliant use of Rotoscope animation, Keanu inhabits the splintered soul of an embattled split personality. It’s a role that the ever-serene actor executes with trademark accuracy and wry humor.
CS: What did you like about Philip K. Dick’s political satire?
KR: I like the theme of government and business colluding in a way that creates a situation of loss of control for people. There’s a carnivore aspect where governments don’t care about people. There’s the exploitation of these characters who in their paranoia are saying, "Look at what’s happening." I like the idea of the surveillance where everything is being watched by other entities that are acting as judge and jury. And I like the idea that with all of the surveillance, my character says, "I hope the scanner can see clearly or darkly because I can no longer." But he’s still searching to see.
CS: Who is your character Bob Arctor in the story?
KR: He’s a sacrificial lamb. Bob Arctor is a man who works for the Orange County Police Department as an undercover narcotics agent. He gets addicted to an illegal substance called Substance D. In his role as a narcotics agent he has a personality named Fred, and through his drug addiction looses the ability of the two hemispheres of his brain to communicate, leading to a catastrophic loss of identity and self. He’s manipulated by outside forces for their own ends.
CS: How did you view your place as the main protagonist in this strange story?
KR: This is an ensemble piece. "A Scanner Darkly" is ultimately a Richard Linklater film, and we [the actors] got to go along for the ride.
CS: Other than the obvious competition element of the Cannes Film Festival, how is it important for you and "A Scanner Darkly"?
KR: The tradition of the Cannes Film Festival is in the fabric of cinema’s roots. To have a film in Cannes, in my work, is a big deal. And it’s great to rub shoulders with other artists. All film festivals are great that way because you get to rub shoulders with your peers.
CS: There’s also the European aspect of Cannes, and you have some British heritage.
KR: The English side of my family has been estranged, but I like Europe a lot. I don’t know if that was passed on to me genetically, but I like it.
CS: What has the enormous success of the "Matrix" films done for your career overall?
KR: It has afforded me situations where I could afford to say no. It’s nice to have that situation, because I’ve been in situations where I couldn’t.
CS: You have another new movie, "The Lake House" with your old friend Sandra Bullock. How did you come to work with her again?
KR: Someone had the idea call Sandra Bullock, and she said yes. It happened really quick. I met with the director a couple of times and on the second time he said, "What about Sandra?" I said, "Absolutely" and we were off and running.
CS: What is your guiding philosophy artistically?
KR: Artistically, I hope to be able to make films that entertain, but also have redemptive qualities that the we, the viewer, can take in and be affected by in a positive way.
CS: Are you still playing music?
KR: No, the band that I was playing in wanted to go on tour and do some things that I was kind of in the way of with acting.
CS: Would you ever consider directing a movie?
KR: I don’t know. That’s been floating around. I know it’s going to be really hard, but I like that. I can’t say yes, I can’t say no.
CS: Do you think you’ll do more stage work?
KR: I haven’t done that for ten years. I’d like to, yeah. I want to see if I can find a modern play. It would either be Shakespeare or a new play.
CS: What kinds of things do you like to do in your down time?
KR: I really enjoy riding the motorcycles and reading. I just finished reading Thomas Pynchon’s "Vineland." It was nice to read that while doing this film because he speaks about characters who were kind of around Philip K. Dick’s time – fighting the good fight of socialism. The novel for this film was written in 1977, so it was cool to hear almost Philip K. Dick’s peer’s voices. I’ve also been reading some Graham Greene. I just read "The Quiet American" and "A Burnt-Out Case." I did some Fitzgerald – "This Side of Paradise," "Tender Is The Night," and "The Pat Hobby Stories" – that book is great.
CS: What kind of books did you read as a kid?
KR: "Brave New World" and "Animal Farm." I never finished "Huckleberry Finn" – I couldn’t bear it. I know it’s a great work, but I didn’t like that one at the time. And, of course "Romeo and Juliet."
CS: Do you keep up with Ice Hockey’s World Cup?
KR: Yeah, Sweden just won the championships I think.
CS: For a long time, you lived like a gypsy. Are you still without a stable place of residence?
KR: No, I’ve got a home. The last couple of years have changed in that regard. After searching for a long time I found a house that I love. (In a Jewish accent) Oy, you get older and you want to settle down sometimes.