Keanu's philosophy of life
From Bill and Ted's slacker, to finding love on a lake, Keanu Reeves keeps it low-key, writes Claire Sutherland
KEANU Reeves: Matrix hero, stoner icon, A-list actor, babysitter. As unlikely as it sounds, it's the final title Reeves is giving his attention to right now.
After finishing a busy round of promotion for his latest film The Lake House he's now looking after the 14-year-old daughter of a friend for 10 days in New York.
"We've been having a nice time," he says. "We've been going to the movies, lunch. She's been summer vacationing here, she's been hanging out with friends, seen some plays. Lots to do. I've had to figure dinner out."
A relaxing few weeks playing New York tour guide is typical of the low-key way Reeves is said to live his life.
He spent two years in Sydney shooting The Matrix. In his time off he'd take off on his motorbike, unencumbered by minders or entourage.
"I guess you call more attention to yourself if you're a party of six than if you're a party of one," he says. "I've had minders once in a while. It's nice to have someone watching your back in certain social situations.
"But in general on the street I like to be able to live it out normal.
"I had lunch today and there was a couple of photographers which was a pain in the ass.
"You're eating lunch and someone's got a camera in a bush, so I'm like 'Dude, let me eat lunch and I'll see you after', but otherwise no one cares, you can walk the street, live your life."
Reeves has always been something of an enigma. He shot to fame with his exemplary use of the word "dude" in the slacker hit Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and followed it with some big movies including Speed and The Matrix trilogy.
But he's never been a red-carpet back-slapper and people-pleaser. His love life has always remained mysterious and his family life out of bounds.
Widely reported has been his sister's long battle with leukemia and the death of his former fiancee in a car crash, but the only statement Reeves has ever made on that matter was: "I'm grieving in private."
When he doesn't want to answer a question he has a disarming habit of seeming to answer it, without actually providing anything concrete.
Take the story of him taking a pay cut to ensure the sequels to The Matrix were made.
"No," he says.
Adding, when pressed for details: "Maybe. Those films were going to get made."
Asked if he is one of the few people in the world who can boast a full understanding of the tangled web that was the plot of The Matrix and he laughs: "What I don't understand I had a point of view about."
Almost as tangled as The Matrix is The Lake House, a romantic drama in two dimensions co-starring Sandra Bullock. A remake of a Korean film, it follows two people living in the same house two years apart.
In an unexplained quirk, they can write letters to one another and gradually fall in love.
Reeves says he was happier to accept the script at face value than his co-star, who was more keen to search for a solution.
"Sandra especially did a lot of that. I think her character was really trying to figure it out and my character was more being accepting," he says.
"Ultimately, it can't make sense in a literal way, but in a figurative sense, of two people getting together and something happening that's unexplained, the mystery how people are attracted, the mysteries of love, in a fable way, I think is what is really going on."
The couple fall in love through the written word. Letter writing is a habit Reeves says he keeps up. "I've always enjoyed writing and I like writing letters," he says. "I think there's something very nice about receiving a letter. It's a pleasure I hope doesn't go by the wayside.
"They're objects that are independent of batteries and you can smell them and read them and touch them and the imprint of the other person is literally on you."
The Lake House was the first English-language film by Argentinian director Alejandro Agresti, who adopted a studio-baiting policy of shooting only the bare minimum.
"He didn't shoot in the traditional sense of master, medium and close-ups," Reeves says.
"He would just know that this scene just needed a master with a moving camera, or just a couple of close-ups. He was editing in the camera. He didn't just shoot general coverage. I think in the early days with them kind of getting to know him they were hoping they would have some extra material that they could use if it didn't work out ? but he was shooting his movie, the film that he saw in his head."
Bullock and Reeves first met when they co-starred in Speed and remained friends - even as Bullock was persuaded to sign for the dud sequel and Reeves resisted.
Asked if Bullock wishes he'd talked her into making the same wise decision he made, and he laughs again: "It wouldn't have mattered what I said."
Producers threw money at Reeves to get his name on the bill, but money isn't his motivation. He negotiated a lucrative share-of-the-profits deal for his participation in the second and third Matrix films, which earned him a reported $196 million, and promptly handed $122 million of it back to the films' costume and special effects departments, after buying each of his stunt men a motorbike.
The scripts he's working on include one he's writing himself, but he has no plans to follow Bullock into film production.
Instead, he adopts a simple acting philosophy.
"Play the role, work with the director, keep your fingers crossed."
The Lake House opens next Thursday.