Keanu's excellent adventures continue
by Jordan Riefe
Keanu Reeves returns to the cinema this week with the release of The Day The Earth Stood Still, a remake of the classic 1950s film. The top box-office draw was acting professionally by the age of 16, thanks to a family in the movie business – his stepfather was a director and his mother was a costume designer. Here, he talks about his new film and about why he chooses the films he does.
Can you tell us about the The Day the Earth Stood Still? We haven't seen it yet.
Oh, that must be tough, interviewing someone without seeing the film. I can tell you from making it that it's got a great cast – Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates, John Cleese. John plays Dr Barnhardt. He is fantastic. We tried to be faithful to the original, but we also wanted it to be its own film, to tell its original story. The original was the story about its time. This movie is a story of our time. We took this classic idea of an alien coming to Earth with a kind of message or quest, or a warning. That is what we did.
Why do you think you got cast in the film?
[CEO and co-chairman] Tom Rothman from Fox thought he really wanted to remake the film. He is a historian of kind of the studio. And he thought this was one of the greatest films they have. He thought I would be good at playing the alien, which had its challenges. In the original my character is a very human alien. In our story, he is more alien. And through the course of the story, he gains more humanity. So, I guess, to start with, I played him more detached, and by the end, less detached.
The original film had political messages. Does this one have them too?
Not so much political, maybe more social politics. I mean, this movie is more about the character, the idea of only when humans are thrust against diversity, do they change. That is kind of the backbone of the story. We are at a crossroads, of a kind. This can go two ways. It can either be the time we blow it, or the time we change and take care of what we need to do.
What was the most challenging thing to do in the movie?
The scene where we first meet Klaatu, the character I play. That was probably the most challenging because he is in a human body but an alien. So… hmm… I have so many answers to that.
Would you say your movies have changed as you age? You are pretty much getting the same offers as 10 years ago.
No, I wouldn't say the same. I don't know. You know, careers are tough. So you just try to find an interesting role and interesting work. I recently worked with [American film director, screenwriter and actress] Rebecca Miller and that was fascinating. I also got to work with Robin Wright Penn, who is quite a character. So that was a good experience. Rebecca Miller wrote a book called The Private Lives of Peppa Lee, then she adapted the book and directed the film. So I just did that, past three months. So, that was exciting.
Are you the kind of actor who asks lots of questions?
It was nice to have an opportunity to speak with her. It was interesting because the book hadn't been released so it was kind of like, 'Rebecca, do I, am I doing an adaptation of a book which people haven't read, or a film that is coming up? What is my obligation?' On A Scanner Darkly, which is an adaptation of Philip K Dick book, I worked with [director] Richard Linklater, I kind of really went from the book.
And both films have Wynona Ryder. Do you enjoy working together?
She is in The Private Lives of Peppa Lee, too, although I don't have scenes with her, but we are in the same picture. Yeah, we are friends. We are neighbours. I see her once in a while.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am kind of in between books. I am reading some plays, doing some play readings. What is my newest book? The last book I read was In Search of Lost Time.
Reading plays? Do you want to be on stage?
Yeah, that has been circling around. I have been doing some play readings. I am trying to find a right play. It sounds like fun.
PROFILE: Keanu Reeves Actor
Reeves, 44, is a Beirut-born Canadian-American actor best known as Officer Jack Traven in Speed and for his portrayal of Neo in the action film trilogy The Matrix, which made him Hollywood's highest-paid star.
Since he shot to fame in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure in 1989, he has starred in more than 40 films, which have in total grossed in excess of $1.7 billion (Dh6.2bn) worldwide.
He will next be seen in 47 Ronin, a period film produced by Universal Pictures about a band of samurai swordsmen who avenge the death of their master in 18th century Japan.
Reeves played bass guitar in the grunge band Dogstar during the 1990s, and more recently in the band Becky.
He is single and lives in Los Angeles, California