One of Hollywood’s most successful onscreen pairings, the Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock partnership has been ripe for renewal since the two stars helped Speed to almost US$300 million ($475 million) in worldwide box office earnings in 1994
When the couple walked the red carpet together at last year’s Academy Awards, Hollywood was abuzz with speculation that the two were an item.
It turned to be a publicity stunt for their second collaboration, The Lake House, which opens in Singapore cinemas on Thursday.
In fact, the marketing campaign has played up the fact that the movie - which was adapted from the South Korean hit Il Mare - marks Reeves’ and Bullock’s first joint effort in more than a decade.
But despite long-standing tabloid speculation that the two might be partners both on and offscreen - Bullock is, in fact, married to Jesse James, the tattooed host of TV’s Monster Garage - the stars themselves insisted their relationship is more akin to that of a brother and sister.
During a recent press conference in Los Angeles to promote The Lake House, Bullock - who turned 42 on Wednesday - said of her romantic pairing with Reeves, 41, in the film: “If you think of it as kissing your brother, there’s a process of mouth-washing after filming the love scenes.”
But reminded of their temperature-raising snog in Speed, for which they won an MTV award for best kiss, Bullock promptly told the assembled journalists with a laugh - “I don’t kiss for the masses.”
Added Reeves, however: “Well, the kiss we did in The Lake House was definitely right up there for me!”
FULL SPEED TO STARDOM
Reeves and Bullock met at the auditions for what was soon to be the runaway movie success story of 1994.
Little known prior to their marquee roles in Speed, director Jan de Bont’s film about a booby-trapped runaway bus made superstars of them both.
In the years since, their careers have gone in different directions, with Bullock focusing primarily on fluffy comedies such as While You Were Sleeping (1995), Miss Congeniality (2000) and Two Weeks Notice (2002), and Reeves doing a mix of romantic dramas (A Walk in the Clouds (1995), Sweet November (2001)) sports-themed films (The Replacements (2000), Hard Ball (2001)) and, of course, the hugely influential and money spinning Matrix trilogy starting in 1999.
Although the two actors noted that they had met for dinners and written letters to each other over the years (Reeves claims not to own a computer), for some reason the idea of doing another project together didn’t arise until the script for The Lake House came their way.
To their mutual surprise, picking up where they left off was not that hard.
“I think it helped that we’ve kept in contact over the years and we’ve liked each other,” said Reeves. “And so there’s that instant repartee when we come back together again.”
There had been the opportunity for Reeves to reunite with his Speed co-star for the 1997 sequel to that film, which Bullock said: “He very cleverly turned down.”
“Keanu was smart then,” she said with a grin, throwing sideglances at Reeves and alluding to one of the many swipes taken at the critically-savaged Speed 2: Cruise Control. “He had friends who told him: ‘Ship going at 10 nautical miles per hour and crashing into shore! Not a good idea!’”
As Reeves continued to smile to himself and stay mum, Bullock took a tongue-in-cheek swipe of her own.
“And you know what, he never called me to say don’t do it! I would tell you, by the way, not to do Constantine 2,” she said, referring to Reeve’s poorly received 2005 film about a demonhunter.
“As a friend, I would tell you these things!”
A FRIEND IN NEED ...
Sibling-like spats aside, it is clear that Reeves and Bullock have feelings for one another that run deep.
Bullock not only completes his sentences occasionally - much like a dutiful wife - she even prods him to expand on his answers to the questions tossed at him by the assembled journalists.
They are signs of a rapport that can also be seen onscreen.
In The Lake House, Bullock plays a lonely doctor who exchanges love letters with Reeves’ character despite the fact that they are separated in time, living two years apart.
Because of the movie’s science fiction-like wrinkle in time, the two spent only two weeks filming together. But during that period, Bullock noted, her co-star - a veteran of not just the Matrix films but the similarly futuristic Johnny Mnemonic (1995) and this year’s A Scanner Darkly - tried to offer her some pointers.
“He did try to help me with the science fiction aspect of it, the time travel and all,” said Bullock. “But to me acting in the movie is just reacting to life, and to me that’s the real science fiction of the movie.”
Puncturing the media-created illusion that she and Reeves are made for each other, Bullock said: “The problem with me is that I’m a rational person and I dissect things a lot. Keanu, he just dives into it, he has no problem with stuff like that.”
Playing the part of brooding wannabe lovers stuck in the ultimate disjointed relationship, however, was something both took to readily.
“I think every human being has a level of melancholy,” said Reeves. “I think Sandra really liked that part of the character, the introspection and the waiting for someone.”
READY TO GO INSTANT MIX
If Reeves and Bullock have their way, there won’t be any more waiting to do either for them or their fans.
As they freely admitted, the experience of working together for a second time was a good one and they would have no hesitation about teaming up again in the near future.
“We’re actively thinking about it now, rather than just waiting for it to happen haphazardly,” she said. “The partnership and chemistry between us, we’re like Nescafe, add water and you’ve got us!”
Pressed for more details, all Bullock would say was: “Maybe (we’ll do another film). Does it matter? Let go of time. Have you seen this film? Let go of time and your preconceived notions of time and just be!”
After waiting a long moment, during which the reporters in the room seemed to be mulling over whether to take her remarks seriously, Bullock laughed and added: “If you write that literally, and don’t say that I said it sarcastically, I’ll be the first to come to your home and destroy your landscaping.”