Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves on The Lake House
The film might be woeful, but will Ian Winterton be won over by a Hollywood charm offensive?
Not only has time-travelling romance The Lake House been savaged by critics in the States - which, for once, translated into poor box office - but the film looks set to flop in Europe too. As the continent's movie hacks patiently await stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock in the Orchid Suite of London's prestigious Dorchester Hotel, they seem united not by a common language, but by a hatred of the movie.
Which makes it all the harder when our stars do arrive. They are, you see, so damned nice.
"Hi! How are you all doing?" asks Bullock, boasting a healthy tan and hair that looks so good one imagines hair technicians were snipping away at it right up to the second she walked in. Reeves is more laid back in a T-shirt, jeans and jacket. And, yes, he is a handsome devil in the flesh. The pair are thoroughly charming, exhibiting a rapport and chemistry which singularly failed to show up on screen. Reeves, though in a good mood, seems to hate this side of the job.
"Do you believe in waiting for the right person and do you believe in choice?" a journalist from Spain wants to know, referring to the movie's central premise that has Reeves, in 2004, writing love letters to Bullock, who lives two years in his future. (Yes, it is all a bit 'Star Trek').
"No," and a cheeky, lop-sided grin is his answer.
"That's all you're gonna say?" hoots Bullock.
"Yeah," says Reeves before attempting, sullenly, to expand on his answer. "Waiting, waiting. Yeah, sure. But as a belief system, I don't know what that means."
Luckily for Europe's press, Bullock is more than happy to pick up her co-star's slack.
"I think on one hand, we're expected to hurry up and achieve something. I think you hit a certain age and everybody goes, 'Why don't you have this? What if you haven't found somebody you want to be married to? Or what if you don't want to be married or have that sort of goal? I think that we lose a lot of what life has to offer by someone else's timeline, so whether it's waiting or whether it's just going with your own rhythm on your own schedule, which might mean you have something like that 10 years down the line rather than only half of it only immediately..."
And so on, bless her, for several minutes.
But Keanu still can't escape. Does he believe in fate, someone wants to know. He slumps visibly.
"Choice, I guess," he ventures.
They're not letting him off that easy: he guesses. "I choose," he says, barely hiding his irritation, "to believe in choice."
Reeves and Bullock last worked together 12 years ago in a film that launched Bullock's career and reinvented Reeves, forging the action-hero persona that would eventually lead to The Matrix trilogy and Constantine. How did they come to be reunited in a romantic movie?
"A romance, originally told. We both just responded to the material," is all Reeves can muster. Again, Bullock is considerably more effusive.
"Like most good things it appeared out of nowhere. I wasn't ready to work and I read it and another director, Paul Haggis, who directed Crash, said I should read it. I was looking for a love story, I've always wanted to do one and I read it and as soon as I read it, it was like, you know those novels that you read when you were younger and you were absolutely lost in that scenario. I met with the director and he suggested Keanu. That's when I said, 'That's the movie I want to make. It was just one of those fated things."
"That we chose to do," Reeves adds, archly, getting a laugh.
Reeves squirms when asked that interview standard: what was his co-star like to work with? Wearing an expression that says, 'Can't you people see she's sitting right next to me?', Reeves goes through the motions. The process is made less tortuous by Bullock, who hilariously acts the part of vain superstar.
"Come on," she says, "lay it on me."
"Sandra's always been able to do anything," Reeves says, completely deadpan. "It's just nice that we're getting the chance to see more and more of her doing different things."
With The Lake House containing excerpts from Hitchcock's classic love-story thriller Notorious starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman, the conference inevitably turns to the subject of romantic movies. What are their favourites?
"I seem to be stuck on Cinema Paradiso," says Bullock, before running off at the mouth once more. "I tend to love bittersweet moments and longing. Cinema Paradiso has waiting in it as well - the history of love, what have we lost, what have we not grasped when we should have? Also, love of friendship, of tutors, loss of life... it's one of the most beautiful love stories. It consistently moves me no end."
Reeves sighs and shrugs, physically indicating how many thousands of times he must have been asked this question while doing press for Lake House.
"Today," he decides, "I'll pick Wings Of Desire by Wim Wenders."
Just don't expect him to explain why.