Keanu Reeves Interview
And Jennifer Connelly & Scott Derrickson
by Staci Layne Wilson
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL
Staci Layne Wilson: Hi, Scott. I want to ask you this because I was studying up on the film and I read: “The director wanted Keanu Reeves because he could play a robotic character.” I thought, “That was mean! Did he really say that?”
Scott Derrickson: I never said that. I would never say that. I don’t think Keanu is robotic at all.
I don’t either! So what does he bring to the role of this sci-fi icon?
SD: Keanu has an ability to do things that other actors can’t do. I don’t think there’s another actor in the world who could have been Neo in The Matrix and not look silly. I really mean that. I think sometimes he doesn’t get the credit that he deserves for his ability to act physically and for the nuance and the understated manner in which he can express himself and make the audience interested in what that character is going through. I knew those were qualities that Klaatu had to have because I didn’t want it to be a big over-the-top performance. I didn’t want it to be something that was strange or twitchy or potentially funny. I wanted people to really feel that this was an alien entity in a human body, and he took that challenge very seriously. He worked out how to do that, and I think he did it really well.
Is it at all similar to the iconic Jeff Bridges’s performance?
SD: Yeah, that’s a remarkable performance. I really admire Jeff Bridges’s performance in Star Man, but that was much more extreme than what I wanted in this movie. There’s a perpetual reminder to the audience. It’s an alien. There’s nothing really human about that character. In this movie, in some ways, it’s about the humanizing of this character, so he starts off a little closer to that but kind of changes throughout the movie. I didn’t want it to be something that was quite that big.
For sci-fi fans who have been waiting for decades for this to be remade, what’s new about it? What comes to the floor for fans of today?
Jennifer Connelly: Wow. It’s 57 years later, so so much is new. The way movies are made is new. What they’re capable of in terms of visual effects is new. The way our global concerns are different. All of that informs this version of it.
Is this a special effects extravaganza? How would you describe it?
Keanu Reeves: No - drama with a little spectacle, but I mean spectacle driven by the story. Obviously, I’m playing an alien who comes from outer space, so there are a couple of space ships, so there are some things going on in terms of the special effects. I would describe it more as a compulsive drama.
The message that Klaatu delivered back in the ’50s was very relevant for its time. That’s been updated, obviously, for today’s world. What do you think the audiences are going to get out of that? What will they get out of this film?
KR: I think this film is inspiring. I think it’s a real affirmation of the human character and the human spirit – its adaptability, its desire to survive, its compassion, its heart… It’s a bit of a cautionary tale, but I think it’s also got a bit of an inspiring quality to it.
JC: At one point, Keanu’s character says to Professor Barnhardt, “You treat the world as you treat each other.” Looking at that, how is it that we treat the world and each other? Is it sustainable? Is it responsible? Is it ethical?
I’m wondering if you get to do the scene where Gort’s coming toward you and you scream, and then you fall over onto a bunch of chairs for no apparent reason…
KR: Wouldn’t you fall over on some chairs if some alien robot was coming up on you? [Laughs]
JC: Gort is very much in the film, and there are Gort encounters, though they’re handled differently.
When will we see Gort in the film? Is it going to be like in the original, toward the beginning? And how involved is he in the overall plot of this movie?
SD: That’s a good question, and no one has asked me that question. I’ll give it away. I’m going to give it away. You’ll see him in the beginning. You’ll see him early in the film.
Is he still like a police force for aliens in outer space? Because that’s the reason why they’re coming to Earth, right? ‘Cause obviously they’re doing something wrong…
SD: Right. The role that he plays is a little bit more complicated than that, so I’m not going to get into that.
More complicated than what was stated in the original?
SD: Yeah, than him just being a universal cop. He’s still the heavy. There’s no doubt about that.
What excited you most about remaking this film that no one has dared touch for so many decades?
SD: I think the timing was right. I think that’s what it really was, because the film was such a product of its time - such a product of the early 1950s and the Cold War, and the need for the UN and all that. In our day and age, we have a very different set of problems and a different set of things that we’re doing to destroy ourselves, and I felt that the updating of the movie made sense for that reason and because the original movie was such a great demonstration of visual effects technology at its time. I was very interested to update the film and see what we could do that was original to the visual effects, given current technology.