Zen and the art of Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly
by Mark Caro
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—Scott Derrickson's remake of the 1951 science fiction classic "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is large and loud in ways you'd expect from a modern special-effects-driven spectacle, but at its center are two actors not known for their volume or showiness: Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly.
Reeves has made an art of Zen stillness even when worlds are being upended (in the "Matrix" movies, for instance), while Connelly delivers a deep soulfulness whether she's supporting the addled mathematician of "A Beautiful Mind" (which earned her an Oscar) or plumbing the depth of drug addiction in "Requiem for a Dream."
In "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which just debuted atop the box-office charts with an estimated $31 million weekend gross, Reeves plays the serenely threatening alien Klaatu while Connelly's scientist tries to persuade him to spare the world.
After participating in a media event in which they discussed the relevance of this "Day"—and uncomfortably fielded questions about their holiday shopping plans—Reeves and Connelly sat down for an interview. Reeves, slim in a dark suit and still youthful-looking at 44 with a scruffy beard, arrived first.
Q Do you feel a disconnect between the work and the promotion of it?
A Reeves: They're just very different, obviously. But they are connected in the sense of it's like putting up posters or going to the town square and saying, "Hear ye! Hear ye! There's a show on tonight." I'm a pretty private guy, so I'd rather talk about the work in the film than my personal life.
(Connelly, 38, enters in a white polka-dot dress, dark eyeliner accenting her already intense blue eyes.)
Q What is it about what you do that is most commonly misunderstood?
A Connelly: That's tricky. I don't know what the common misunderstandings are.
Q Perhaps that acting big scenes is harder than acting quiet or natural scenes, that people think you're like your characters.
A Connelly: I do get those questions sometimes: "Well, is it easier to do this film in which you play a mother because you are a mother?" "Is it hard for you to do this because you don't do this in real life?" Because the resources I have to use are my life and my experiences, to some extent of course they'll be imprinted with something that comes from me, but it's always creation.
A Reeves: You had a pretty good list. The other thing I think would be that it's glamorous.
Q You mean the work itself or the life?
A Reeves: Yeah, the life of it. Everything's sugar-coated and crystals and beautiful.
Q How much control do you have compared with years past?
A Connelly: Even though I have more choices and maybe more opportunities than I might have had a decade ago, I still find myself having to search for and wait for things that I feel really strongly about. It feels, just very recently, a little harder. Financing for the smaller independent films seems a little trickier right now.
A Reeves: I'm developing a couple of scripts. I'm working with a producer, and we came up with these two ideas, and one's a comedy, one's a cosmic love story.
Q How is acting amid a lot of digital effects?
A Connelly: It's a different way of working, because usually I'm trying to get out of my head and just be available on set. ... And then you find yourself in a kind of converse situation where you're entirely in your own imagination and blocking out what you see in front of you, trying to replace it with images in your own head, and it's a strange, strange way to work. But it was all right. It's fine, just at times slightly humiliating and not very satisfying.