Berliner Morgenpost (Ge), April 14, 2008
Keanu Reeves and his zest for guns
(Translated from German by Fiercelyred, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
by Rudiger Storm
Run, shoot, kill, yeah. In cop-movie Street Kings, the Hollywood star is living out his violent side: a gun can be sexy. Keanu Reeves talks to Morgenpost.de about the animal within. And then he tells us about his rather crazy philosophy, resulting in an existence in caves.
Keanu Reeves likes to speak in riddles, starting with the film roles he takes on. Some observers see the stoicism of the Matrix star as evidence of his inability to express himself. Then again he shows, as trigger-happy cop in his current thriller Street Kings, a fury that just doesn't go with that notion. During the interview in Beverly Hills the 43-year old actor is amiable and outgoing, but also hides behind an ostentatious irony. He uses this until he gets hopelessly tangled up in it.
Morgenpost.de: Mr. Reeves, do you own a gun?
Keanu Reeves: No.
Morgenpost.de: Would you like to?
Keanu Reeves: Not necessarily. But I admit, guns can be sexy. The first time I got one was when I shot Point Break. The feeling of holding a gun and firing live ammonition was quite overwhelming. I was extremely nervous. And to be confronted with a very, very powerful object filled me with enormous respect - I have never forgotten that.
Morgenpost.de: A lot of your fellow countrymen are proud of the right to own a gun. Should every American have a gun?
Keanu Reeves: Yes, why not?
Morgenpost.de: Are you serious?
Keanu Reeves: No, not really. I grew up in Toronto in Canada, where the gun laws are much stricter. That brings with it the feeling of being more relaxed there than in the USA, where a certain violence seems to be in the spirit of the age (zeitgeist, transl.).
Morgenpost.de: Did you see "Bowling for Columbine"?
Keanu Reeves: Yes, and I think that the basic assumption of the movie is correct: because America was born out of a movement of fleeing and persecution, people here feel a greater need to defend themselves. There's more to it than that though: in every one of us lies the potential for violence, that could manifest itself sooner or later.
Morgenpost.de: What is your take on what violence means?
Keanu Reeves: Our condition is, that we are in a struggle for survival. Because of that, we still carry with us an animal within, even when we have evolved on other levels. When the going gets tough, those survival instincts break free, since they had only been tamed momentarily. We see that time and again. In a city, the illusion of order breaks down quickly.
Morgenpost.de: How would you react, if your order fell apart?
Keanu Reeves: I don't know. I don't like conflict. But if the Huns were to ride over the Hollywood hills, I guess I'd have to defend myself. Don't fuck with my sister - that's my motto.
Morgenpost.de: Is it really?
Keanu Reeves: No, I just had to make a stupid joke.
Morgenpost.de: Had you grown up in Germany, you'd have had to choose between military service and alternative civilian service. What would you have chosen?
Keanu Reeves: How old would I have been at the time of this decision?
Keanu Reeves: At that age I would choose the army, provided that I wouldn't have to go to war afterwards. I'd rather run, jump and shoot around. I would have a problem taking orders though. But ideally I'd do both (military and civil service, transl); you should be able to mix them.
Morgenpost.de: In case of an emergency, would you shoot someone?
Keanu Reeves: That would depend on how I'd feel at the time. For Street Kings I did a training called "shoot/don't shoot". You hold a gun, that is connected to a monitor through a feedback mechanism. On this monitor you see from a subjective perspective how you walk through a house. There you are confronted with people holding guns - or not holding guns. You have to decide in every situation if there's a threat. In the end you get your score; how often your reaction was correct and how good your aim was. As it turned out I was a good shot, but I tended to not fire often enough. It took training to get my shoot rate up. But now my normal threshold against violence has returned.
Morgenpost.de: Apparently you found it intoxicating to live out your violent side in Street Kings.
Keanu Reeves: Don't forget that that is acted violence. Of course you act out one aspect of your emotions. I thoroughly enjoy it, when I can perform martial arts-games in movies like the Matrix. Street Kings had yet another appeal for me. I trained myself into the emotional state of a cop who is always in a fight or flight mood. That gets your adrenaline running. It doesn't change the fact though, that violence is not in my nature.
Morgenpost.de: How did you get mixed up with the LAPD last year then? You were even taken away in cuffs.
Keanu Reeves: That was because I didn't say "Yes, sir. No, sir." quickly enough. That was the only time though that something like that has happened to me, and that's all I have to say on this matter.
Morgenpost.de: Which one of your parts had the strongest effect on you?
Keanu Reeves: Today I'm going to say Little Buddha. I played Prince Siddharta in that movie, who later went on to become Buddha. It changed my life in that I came into contact with a new philosopy, religion, way of thinking - however you want to call it.
Morgenpost.de: Were you aware of the expectations that came with this part?
Keanu Reeves: When I was on the plane to India, a steward came up to me and said that he loved my movies, especially Speed. He asked me what my next project was. I said, I'm making Little Buddha with Bernardo Bertolucci. - "Yeah, but what part is it?". His response to my answer was "No, you can't play him." But I thought: why not?
Morgenpost.de: Would you answer the same way, if asked today?
Keanu Reeves: I think so. I don't want to limit myself in my possibilities. I'm not a practising Buddhist though. It's just that take on life was heavily influenced by it.
Morgenpost.de: What do you mean?
Keanu Reeves: I have gained a lot of perspective. I understand the principle of Samsara, the cycle of death and rebirth. I'm aware of the fleetingness of existence. To me, the notion of compassion is the most important. You try to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and analyse what the cause of the suffering is - namely emotional hunger and confusion. And you objectify this behaviour with the tools Buddhism gives you: why do I feel the way I do? What is my fellow human being feeling? Why does he act the way he does? Thought processes like that were like therapy for me.
Morgenpost.de: Have you finished that therapy now?
Keanu Reeves: Once you've come to a realisation, it's impossible to take it back. I'm constantly questioning my motives for doing or desiring something. On the search for my true self. And once I've become aware of that, I can make a decision. But I'm getting to the threshold of free will here. I can't think beyond myself. I'm like someone who is plowing his way through the snow. Ahead of me, a ripple builds, so that I can only see a small part of the road.
Morgenpost.de: Have you come to know the real Keanu Reeves?
Keanu Reeves: You have to look at that on different levels. First, you observe the easily accessible areas - taste, gesture, then you look beyond that. I know people who took it very far and who withdrew in caves in the Himalaya to study. It appears, as if the personality is taken apart, and you submit to their structures.
Morgenpost.de: What? You submit to the structures of the personality?
Keanu Reeves: Right, it all makes sense. I just don't know what more to say here.
Morgenpost.de: Maybe you should go into the cave as well?
Keanu Reeves: I have toyed with that idea. But my field of work is in the civilised world. Be that as it may: the mountain still calls me.