Making the earth stand still
by Talia Soghomonian
Keanu Reeves can make the Earth stand still just with his incredible presence. The actor stars as the extraterrestrial Klaatu in the reworking of Robert Wise’s 1951 masterpiece, The Day The Earth Stood Still, in theatres next Friday.
Looking elegant in the chic surroundings of the Ritz, Keanu Reeves tells us more.
Q. Congratulations, you manage to come across as a scary alien without any overacting or weird physical traits.
A. Thank you. It was scary to play an alien because it has to be believable. So I’m glad that you went along with the story. I approached it like any other role. I was trying to figure out what did the alien want, who was it, how does it exist. And I just came up with ideas for that and tried to play the role.
Q. Did you watch the original?
A. Yeah, sure. But this version of the film, and specifically Klaatu, the character that I play, is very different. I kind of thought of myself as his brother (laughs). But it’s very different.
Q. How is it different?
A. In the original, the alien comes to Earth and, in a way, he’s more human than humans. He has a very soft, personable, friendly disposition, and in my interpretation — or in terms of this story’s interpretation, that’s not the case. He’s much more objective and distant and perhaps a little more cold.
Q. Your Klaatu is less talkative as well. Yet we see the different emotions he is feeling despite his stoic expression.
A. Yeah, the character has a character arch and as he begins, one of his first lines is, “This body will take some getting used to.” So he starts more with his alien self and I think through the course of the film, he gains a little more human empathy and changes. He is affected by what he sees and by being in a human body. So that was the story I was telling.
Q. (Co-star) Kathy Bates said you really terrified her.
A. She did? Well, that’s nice of her! (Laughs)
Q. Both the original and this remake carry strong messages for humankind.
A. The original was more about violence and the expansion of violence. The alien came and said, “If you continue with this violent path, we will be more violent than you.” So there was kind of a threat there. If that’s violence, I don’t know. In this film, I guess it’s ecology. I guess the human character. The film says we are at a crossroads with our planet. We, as a human species, are having such an adverse impact on the planet that either we’re going to die or the planet’s going to die. And if the Earth dies, we die. But if you die, the Earth survives. My character is here to make a judgment on the human species and comes to learn and believe that at this crossroads, at this tipping point, human beings can change, that we will be able to survive ourselves and hopefully some other species on the planet.
Q. Do you think there’s also a political message, especially when Kathy Bates’ character says, “You don’t talk to the U.N. You talk to us”?
A. Yeah, it’s a multi-layered film and I think part of it is the representation in the beginning that America is aggressive, and when it’s confronted by something unknown reacts aggressively. The story we tell is that maybe that’s not the best way to be, that that kind of aggression has adverse consequences. And Kathy Bates’ character comes to realize that. She’s like, “We need to have a dialogue, we need to talk. There has to be a different way.”
Q. Does it resonate with what’s happening today?
A. Yeah. It’s an issue that people are thinking about in the world and hopefully the film will be part of the solution.
Q. Do you think that movies and art in general can help people change or raise awareness?
A. Yeah, I hope so. I think it’s part of a dialogue. It’s part of — I use the German word gestalt. I think it’s on a lot of people’s minds, in terms of global warming and extinction of species, the impact that humans are having on the planet.