Earth calling Keanu Reeves
by Chris Betros
TOKYO — Hollywood stars always have to contend with unusual questions when they visit Japan to promote their movies. Japanese media had aliens in mind when Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, young Jaden Smith and director Scott Derrickson were in Tokyo this week to promote “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic about an alien who comes to Earth to warn us to stop building nuclear weapons or else.
In this version, Reeves, 44, is the alien Klaatu, but the message is an environmental one: If we don’t clean up the Earth, we’re toast. Critics in the U.S. have slammed both the movie and Reeves’ acting style. Most of the criticism is based on a comparison with the original. (For the record, Klaatu does utter the famous words “Gort, Klaatu barada nikto,” but it can barely be heard because it is drowned out by the soundtrack. Fortunately, the Japanese subtitles came in handy.)
Derrickson said his biggest challenge was to respect the original film and make it work for a modern audience (hence the ecological theme). “The original had a balance of spectacle, thrills, tension and human drama,” he said. “In a big budget film like this, it is easy to focus on the visual effects and action set pieces, but I tried to put just as much time and effort into the dramatic scenes. So I felt a lot of pressure.”
Reeves, not the most talkative character, was in a bit of a restless state. He was up and down posing for photos, leaving the stage, and coming back. Then he would sing softly to himself while he waited for his answers to be interpreted into Japanese. “I didn’t feel any pressure at all, playing the alien,” he said, looking much younger than his age. “There are only opportunities with a movie like this. It was great fun. We all rolled up our sleeves and got down to work.”
Reeves and Connelly, 38, had to deal with questions such as what sort of eco-friendly things they do in the daily lifestyle, what would they do if they met an alien, who would they tell if they learned the world was about to be destroyed, and what would their last meal be (steak, caesar salad and chocolate cake for Reeves; Connelly said she wouldn’t have an appetite if the world were about to end).
“I try to recycle. I have solar panels at my house and I am interested in rainforest preservation,” said Reeves of his own efforts on the environment. “Hopefully, this film will raise everybody’s awareness of the issues.” Derrickson said: “My view is: Don’t change light bulbs, change your leaders. So I vote for people who will make a difference on the environment.”
The liveliest moments came from the precocious 10-year-old Smith, the son of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, who said his parents had taught him to just be natural when acting and in the spotlight. He said he’d very much like to meet any aliens who happen to be visiting Earth and then sneak on board their spaceship and go back with them.
“The Day the Earth Stood Still” opens in Japan on Saturday, only one week after its U.S. release.