Star of The Matrix trilogy Keanu Reeves is back in The Day The Earth Stood Still, a science fiction film with a message...
Do you believe in aliens?
I've met people who've seen them and I've seen some pretty convincing footage, but I don't know why, like in this film, they don't land in Central Park? If they exist, why haven't they done that yet?
Why remake the classic '50s sci-fi drama The Day The Earth Stood Still?
I'd seen the film as a young man and I asked the same question. But talking with director Scott Derrickson then David Scarpa, the writer, it seemed like Scott had a real grip on how that film - made in black and white in 1951 - could relate to 2008. The '50s film is a cautionary tale but Scott had an appropriate way of telling that story so that it would be current and relevant today. Mankind is at a crossroads, for extinction or for change, and my character, Klaatu, comes from outer space to make a judgement on humanity. He's an alien inhabiting a human body, he's a friend of the Earth, literally - he's here for the planet's sake.
Do we get to see the alien you?
You don't actually ever see the alien. No, that's not quite true... In the beginning Klaatu is looking at people and at his body, his vessel. It was quite physically demanding, being very still for so long.
What are the equivalent issues facing us today in the film?
The '50s film was talking about the atomic bomb and the Cold War. Today we've got population issues, sustainability issues, and pollution issues, technologies that are having devastating environmental effects. The film uses an outsider looking in at us so that we, the audience, can look at ourselves. The message is, 'If you don't change your ways, you won't have to kill yourselves - I'll take care of that.' During the course of the film, Jennifer Connelly's character and others try and change my mind.
It's a pretty massive film...
It's got a big backdrop, but it's a more personal story, just by introducing an alien into the mix. There is good stuff for the kids with Gort, a sentinel robot that comes with me. He's got some fun stuff. It's broadly appealing but there's food for thought as well as spectacle. It's not Transformers.
The film takes a very 'green' stance to its science...
The film's ecological in that it's saying man's impact on the planet is getting to such a state that we either change or the planet's going to disappear. Klaatu says, 'You guys are great, but you are not worth a planet.'
How green are you?
On a scale of one to 10, I'd say I'm probably a six or seven. I do all of the things that you can do in a city. I'm not off the grid or anything, but I do all the stuff.
This marks your return to the science fiction, a genre that's served you well in the past...
I like sci-fi films. They entertain me. Why? Good story, and what I do always depends on there being a good story. I like 2001, Blade Runner, Solaris. The Matrix isn't a bad sci-fi picture either. [Smiles]
How was it working with director Scott Derrickson on his biggest movie to date?
I'm pretty much a director's actor, so I'll give myself over, I'll listen, I'll do whatever until I'm proven wrong, then it might change. I'm pretty collaborative and Scott has got a really good eye, a good story sense. I worked with him and [writer] David for about five weeks beforehand, then we had two weeks of rehearsal and Jennifer got to participate, so everyone got to work on the script to get it right.
Do you feel any pressure when you're the star of a big-budget studio film like this?
It's a bigger film for Scott. My responsibilities are not as big as they were on The Matrix. I have a smaller role.