Keanu Reeves - A Scanner Darkly
by Sam Kent
Keanu has slipped into a distorted dimension once again - playing a government spy in futuristic thriller 'A Scanner Darkly'. The stylised adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel contains dark and mysterious plot twists on a par with the 'Matrix', but is also peppered with black humour.
How do you cope with being adored by women all over the world?
KEANU: This whole aspect of being an adored Hollywood celebrity, is a myth for me. It doesn't seem real. I can see how people can get confused with celebrity? because when you're on the outside everything you see is a fantasy.
When you see an actor on the screen it can be mesmerising, but it's not who they really are. Very few people know who I really am. But saying that, I am flattered by the attention from fans.
You have been living in hotel rooms for much of you life. What made you decide to finally buy a house?
KEANU: I have pretty much lived a nomadic lifestyle since I was young. I lived in hotels until a few years ago. Acting was always my home. There is something about me that enjoys not having any material things to tie me down, there is a bit of the gypsy in me. It must be in my blood, the urge to wander.
I did try to buy a house but I never found one I liked or could afford. I always felt guilty about living in a huge house on my own and I never felt at home anywhere. Then I turned 40. That was a tough birthday. It felt like the right time to buy my first house. I got some rented furniture and bought a bed. It was great. I finally wanted a home.
Can you see yourself getting married?
KEANU: I do want to marry one day, I want a home and a family. I'm trying not to be alone so much - but it's hard! I have such a busy career and I'm away a lot. When I work that's all I can think about, which wouldn't be fair if I had children who were missing me. There have been some girls who I have fallen for but women rarely get close to me. I am a rootless person - that's how I grew up. My father left when I was a baby and my mother moved us from New York to Toronto. But kids are at the top of the list. Give me some time, I will get there.
Do you believe in true love?
KEANU: I wear my heart on my sleeve and that can hurt. To be vulnerable is an enriching way to live, but when it goes wrong it can be agonising. But if you don't open your heart to people, you end up being excluded from the rest of the world.
How did you cope with the tragedies of losing so many people you loved?
KEANU: I still haven't coped with all the people I have loved and lost. Grief mutates but never evaporates. When the people I loved died, a little bit of me died. I still miss them and I wish they could have been part of my life. Even now I wonder what things would have been like if they were still alive. I grieve for all the things that will never be and for all the happy times we could have had.
Do you like playing the hero in movies?
KEANU: I've been really fortunate to be able to do different kinds of films in different scales - different genres, different kinds of roles. That's important to me. Sometimes, you don't want to play the hero. You want to play another kind of character in another genre. It's been something I've been trying to do if I can in my career so far, and it's something I hope to continue because it's interesting. I like getting to do different things as an actor, diversity is joyful.
Does acting still inspire you?
KEANU: I really love it, it's my craft. When I was 15, I went up to my mother and said, 'Is it okay if I'm an actor?' She was like, 'Sure, whatever you want, dear'. Three weeks later I began acting classes. As for acting itself, well I think of it as kind of like - and I've heard Anthony Hopkins say this - you learn about doing it, and it's like painting, I would imagine. The craft and skill of it, the way that you work the paint, it's similar to creating a masterpiece on canvas. The more you do it, the more you know it. A good day's shoot is a hoot.
Have you always loved watching movies?
KEANU: Yeah, I have. Sometimes instead of school. I hated school, but I loved my mother. She surrounded us with culture and art, so we learnt to love ideas, even if we hated school. I always skipped school to go to the Toronto Film Festival. The first year I went was in 1983 and I remember I wrote down all the films I saw that year. I think it was like 76 films. I recall summer nights riding my bike to a movie, any movie; I didn't care what it was!
Did you like the relationship between your character and Winona's in 'A Scanner Darkly'?
KEANU: Yes, it was deliciously painful with all that yearning and unrequited love. It's part of the tragedy. It's one of the great things about this work. But this is a comedy as well - it's kind of silly and it's kind of a tragedy. It's a very ambitious work.
How was it working with Winona? She said she found the script challenging.
KEANU: Well, she was playing multiple roles. There were things that she was going through, conceptual things, and I had the benefit of hanging out with the material. I heard she said I helped her with the role but she was capable of putting in an amazing performance all by herself. I didn't do anything.
You asked for a lot less money than you usually get to star in this film. Why?
KEANU: It is a great story. A great role for me and an important story. By accepting less money we could get it done. This is a cautionary tale and it relates to the situation in the US at the moment. It is so sinister that the government is abusing the rights of the individual in the way that data is used. I think that the idea of surveillance is probably something that everyone will have to deal with at some point. The rights of the individual versus the impulse of the state.
Were you able to relate to your character in the film?
KEANU: Yes, my job is to try and understand whoever the character is. It's always enjoyable to learn about the character I am playing. For this particular role I really used the novel. It became a template for everything I was doing.
You're big fan of Philip K. Dick, who wrote the novel. What is it about his work that you are drawn to?
KEANU: He tells great stories and I relate to the situations that he finds his character in. His writing is wickedly funny and ironic. I like the context of his scenes. These seem to be stories about, not the little guy, but of people in situations that are not what they seem. His stories tell of fights of the individual against forces beyond their control. There is flesh and blood in the stories. People are greedy, angry, mean, scared. And I can relate to that. In 'A Scanner Darkly' the characters go through some self-revelation and become conscious about what the drug, Substance D, is doing to them.
Where are you going to spend Christmas this year?
KEANU: I hope to be in Los Angeles. I love to ride on my motorbike to the ocean through the canyons. Especially at Christmas. I love feeling the wind on my face. I know that riding without a helmet is against the law, but sometimes I do it. After all, it's my life isn't it?