(Translated from Romanian by LucaM, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
by Aniko Navai
If someone were to define the quintessential elusive movie star, one would definitely look to Keanu Reeves. Vulnerable onscreen and highly controversial both in his professional choices as well as his lifestyle, Reeves is one of the truly mysterious Hollywood stars, yet, in spite of this, hugely popular worldwide. If we add to the above the amazing earnings that his movies have registered over the years at the box-office, it becomes very clear why the crticism he used to get has since cooled down. (Yeah, right. - Ani)
Constantly working and strictly diligent, Reeves is careful to choose roles in movies that are as varied as possible: blockbusters (the Matrix series), bold and innovative animations (A Scanner Darkly), comedies (Something’s Gotta Give), romantic thrillers (The Lake House) or fantastical and horror productions (Constantine), and all this while maintaining a strict control over his secrets and personal life, succeeding in carefully hiding under an implacable cloak the things he does not want to be known about him. Born in Beirut, abandoned by a flawed father and raised only by his mother in Australia and then in Canada, Keanu Reeves made his debut in cinema in 1986 with the drama Youngblood, a story that takes place in the world of ice hockey. Recognition came that same year due to River’s Edge, a movie based on a real story. From that moment on, what happened took a natural course, the star imposing his unique presence on this glamorous world, his smile coming to be simply adored by the camera. The fact that he did not finish his studies, and that the course he excelled at in school was ice hockey, does not seem to create any complex in Reeves. What importance could this detail possibly have, when for each movie his marquee value increases by at least 15 million dollars (No it doesn't. - Ani) while he enjoys a success many envy him for? But if on the professional level things are working wonderfully, his personal life is in shatters: he lost his pregnant fiancée, Jennifer Syme, in a horrible car crash, and the sister he deeply loved died of leukemia. (translator’s note: they are obviously misinformed, but for the sake of the text… I leave it like this) After the tragedy there were many rumors about his love life and his presumed partners, but Keanu keeps on showing up alone at each premiere.
Everyone in Hollywood agrees that you are a mysterious person.
Well, to me they are rather enigmatic themselves. Based on one’s existential choices, one ends up being identified with a sort of a messianic character. Well, I consider myself a laicized version of such a hero.
Anyway, you have to agree that you have chosen a difficult path to succeed in your career.
If we are talking, for example, about John Constantine, I was attracted to the role by its dramatic and metaphoric undertones. They were very interesting to me and it was worth all the effort. The searching, the trials, the tribulations, the redemption, all these are stages we can openly talk about. But if we are talking about the messianic character type, I don’t think this is possible any more. I don’t want to play such roles endlessly. Until now, I’ve been lucky to have a diversity of roles in my profession and I think I’ve managed it pretty well. I hope to have a career that goes on.
I thought it was amazing the way that you could portray Constantine so realistically.
First of all, I’d like to thank the director Francis Lawrence and to the meticulosity he put into his work in order to cement his intention of making more than a simple adaptation. I mean he didn’t settle for what the audience expects from the adaptation of a comic book. I think the director saw what I have seen – the humanity and the realism of the story. What I think brought freshness to the comics is the fact that there are truly exotic characters who do unusual things in our world though they move in their world, where everything is relative. Our intention was to make a move with soft horror aspects, which allows the viewer the opportunity to relax while he gets to know Constantine’s personality. Everything is wonderful but, behind that, one can still see the filth and the strength that define the character. The temperature, the humidity, the water and the colors are depicted in an interesting and attractive way, but there are also really frightening scenes.
How did you prepare for this role ?
Well, as you can see, I’m not really blond, and the character is blond. I’m not really English either, but I wanted to look like him, to do things the way he did, to be as close as possible to whom Constantine was. Equally, it seemed important to let through some aspect of my personality in playing the role. Still, I did special research, consulting with experts who managed to reconstitute the hero’s voice. Then, for hours and hours, I practiced, adopting a different voice tonality - lower, and during the shooting, I played with the rhythm. I tried to discover who this crazy character was who was able to jump off the roof and, immediately afterwards, come back with his feet on the ground.
Don’t you find familiar the fact that the hero is always searching for a miracle cure?
Judging by my personal relationship with my sister and considering also the profession, I’d say that the movie Sweet November came closer to the subject. As for finding miracle cures, of course there is no human being who wouldn’t want to find them and benefit from them.
The need for Buddhism means spiritual maturity?
I had the extraordinary chance to be cast in Bertolucci’s Little Buddha, and, on that occasion, I read a few books. I had never meditated before then, ever. And as there is no way I can say I reached Dharma, it can’t be said that I’m a practicing Buddhist.
What meaning do you give to the terms “redemption” and “forgiveness”?
Is redemption entitled? For sure it means forgiveness. I wouldn’t feel sorry to get both (I mean forgiveness and redemption) in my life. And if we talk about awareness, I think that the moment you become aware, you end up responsible for your actions. I think this is, in equal measure, frightening and fantastic. If we consider the journey as going forward, as a development, then we are talking about a chance offered by life, of hope, even.
Regarding the choices you’ve made in life, one can say you’re a guy who likes to take chances.
I like the roles in which I have to take chances and I think in Matrix and in Constantine I was fully given that chance. The heroes enter worlds inaccessible to common people, they travel to the heart of dark forests, discover unknown territories, meet all sorts of exotic creatures and are forever searching for their true nature. They get to go through initiatic journeys like the heroes in the legends, and the myths always end with the main hero’s sacrifice.
Personally you weren’t forced to sacrifice a lot; even if we refer to your music it can’t be a sacrifice.
I’ve abandoned playing, it’s true. I’m not part of any band, anymore. Becky, the band I was in, had some ambitions which I didn’t fully believe in, so I couldn’t support them and, due to the fact that for almost a year I couldn’t join the tours, I had to leave the band.
It probably didn’t bother you much since you’re perceived as a loner.
That's definitely not the case! And one can easily see that if one looks at my professional achievements. I know there can be misunderstandings when the paparazzi are involved and their methods are wanting. But talking about celebrity, I sincerely hope that people enjoy watching the movies I act in. Besides, it motivates me when choosing the next characters to play. For sure, unless I was known, the people at Warner Bros. wouldn’t have cast me in Constantine. What is extremely important for me is when I'm recognized on the street and hear people I’ve never seen before in my life say, “Hi, Keanu! I loved The Devil’s Advocate! After seeing the movie, me and my wife went to a marital counselor and therefore saved our marriage.“ It’s amazing. This makes me happy. When I hear people talking and thinking like this or high school kids starting with The Matrix and ending up in philosophical discussions, I feel like a god. This seems extremely interesting to me. It’s very unpleasant when, in front of the camera, you feel overwhelmed. In that moment, all you wish is to have a gun… luckily there’s not one around!
The last time we saw you, you were just moving into your first house… you already rented the furniture…
It’s true. I haven't bought a machine (probably washing machine ?? - LucaM) yet, either… probably next month. And I still have work to do on the house…
You wanted to take a cooking class …
Yeah, maybe… but it just didn’t happen. Still, my friends are happy each time they come to visit, they say I have a great kitchen. It’s fantastic. They cook, I clean afterwards, but we eat together. If we also have a glass of Bordeaux, then we definitely are talking about a great day.