Reeves says he's entering 'second phase' of career
by Bill Goodykoontz
You need someone to play Klaatu, the visiting alien in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Where do you turn?
Director Scott Derrickson turned to Keanu Reeves. The actor, often derided for a perceived lack of . . . what? Emotion? Talent? Whatever the case, Reeves, 44, has played a number of memorable roles, in films as diverse as Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, My Own Private Idaho, Speed and The Matrix trilogy. He was friendly and thoughtful while talking by phone recently about his latest film, what he called a "popcorn message movie."
Question: Did you see the 1951 original of The Day the Earth Stood Still?
Answer: I did, yeah, sure. I saw it when I was a kid. I actually saw it on a black-and-white television when I was a kid. I watched it a few times before we went to production.
Q: Did you keep the original in mind while doing the remake?
A: I was approached to do The Day the Earth Stood Still before seeing the script for it. So to me it was like, well, why do you want to make it? And Scott Derrickson, the director, said the (original) film was of its time. We're going to make a film of our time. (I) read the script, saw what he was talking about. He was very collaborative and let me participate in working on the script, getting in on the shooting draft. It was a good experience to collaborate with him and to try to tell this story of our time.
Q: Klaatu spends a lot of the film without showing any emotion of feeling. How do you go about playing that?
A: The character's birthed in the film. There's a scene where you see him kind of developing as an organism. One of the lines that character has is, "This body is going to take some getting used to." That was really, for me, the launch point that there was this kind of separate consciousness and that the body was a kind of container and vessel and that he was going to get used to it. So in the beginning, he doesn't really have all the behavioral cues. But I thought I gave a strong point of view. He is an instrument of justice, and he's also an executioner. I think what we did was kind of have this sinister quality to him in the beginning.
Q: He doesn't have a lot of lines at first, but . . .
A: They're pretty big. "Your planet?"
Q: You seem like you're in a comfortable place - you take time off and appear to wait for the roles you want.
A: I'm not bad where I am. I'm a bit of a workaholic. If I haven't been working for a while, it's because I couldn't find the right piece. I feel like I'm kind of entering a second phase of a career, so I have that kind of ambition. What are the roles going to be now? What kind of roles? What kind of work? I'm reading scripts, taking meetings, meeting directors and developing my own stuff.
Q: You mean play older?
A: I'm going to have to.
Q: Well, you still look young.
A: But also internally, kind of, I am older. I can't play Johnny Utah (from Point Break) again. And what I mean by that is, I can't really play people who are dealing with firsts, first times. I'm on kind of a different level now. I can play people with a midlife crisis, but I can't play a virgin.