The Day the Earth Stood Still
(Translated from Italian by keanugirl76, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
by Marco Giovannini
“If the Earth dies, you die. If you die, the Earth survives,” the alien Klaatu says - without turning a hair - after landing on our planet.
On Keanu Reeves, by now re-christened Klaatu Reeves, the jury is still out. Even the website imdb.com [no comment - keanugirl76] [XD - Ani] begins his biography with the adjective “inscrutable” and sums up the debate on his talent in those fans who love him, those who bash him and those who, half-heartedly, tolerate him.
Surely, this new role seems to fit him so perfectly that, this time, everybody is supposed to agree on the casting: he’s an alien, hidden in a human body that has to hide his feelings as well.
"Visitors” with the peculiar characteristic of turning themselves into ultrabodies have a huge presence in film history, from the romantic (but some find it even erotic/exotic) Jeff Bridges of John Carpenter’s Starman (even nominated for the Oscars), to the psycho-analytic Kevin Spacey’s Prot in K-Pax, or the farcical Garry Shandling in What Planet Are You From?, which, though directed by Mike Nichols, entered movie history as one of the biggest ever Hollywood flops (it cost 50 million dollars and earned just 6).
This movie is doubly dangerous because it’s a remake of a black-and-white cult classic dating back to the Cold War period in the 50s: The Day The Earth Stood Still, which starred one of the most iconic pairs of the movie industry, the alien Klaatu and his invincible robot Gort.
“When I was offered a part in a remake one of the movies I'd seen as a child, my question was: why? But the director was very convincing; he talked about “a propulsive remake”, so he convinced me,” Keanu confesses. “I didn’t just get interested in my role but in the whole movie: for five weeks, I, the director and the scriptwriter met in order to polish events and dialogue. I've been acting for several years, so I have enough experience to avoid the trap of the opportunistic or unrealistic. I share with the audience the method of judging a movie: can I believe it?”
Keanu Reeves has a considerable curriculum of movies dealing with sci-fi (Johnny Mnemonic, but also The Matrix trilogy) and fantasy (Constantine, Dracula directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and The Devil’s Advocate). He says: “Yes, I’m a sci-fi fan, obviously from Star Wars and so on. As a child, I liked 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, then 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blade Runner, and, of course, The Matrix. I’m very fond of Philip K. Dick. I acted in his A Scanner Darkly, but the novel of his (my favourite) that I’d like to play in is The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. Once in a while, I’m asked if my childish love for sci-fi was a sort of escape from reality, from our world, but I laugh at it: there is no escape.” He says it by pronouncing distinctly each syllable, thus imitating the tone of certain 50s trailers: “No-Es-ca-pe. The-re is No-Es-ca-pe….”
“I was a teenager when Star Wars came out, and I had never seen such a thing before. A great story, told in a very funny way, without too many sociological or philosophical implications [to me there were some, but everybody is entitled to have his/her opinion – keanugirl76]. Then, as I grew up, my tastes became a little more intellectual, as if this genre grew up with me.” [Wait, did he just call Star Wars unintellectual? >_> - Ani]
He stops for a moment, then he starts again: “Oh, I’ve forgotten comics! As a child, I used to read Richie Rich and Archie at summer camp, then there came Frank Miller, with Batman and The Dark Knight (and Ronin), then Alan Moore at first with Swamp Thing and then with Watchmen.
And what can I say about Wolverine? If there was a colleague I was ever envious of, it was Hugh Jackman when he took the part. I would have wanted to play him [Wolverine]: I like his strength and his sense of honour so much that I would even have worn his big, long nails.”
Another significant pause. Then he continues outing his fandom: “And don’t forget the Japanese mangas and, why not, the porn animes… I’ve said it before, I grew up… And so, the cycle closes with The Day The Earth Stood Still that combines yesterday with today, past and present, and, maybe, future.”
Before starting the filming, Keanu met Jennifer Connelly during the three weeks of rehearsal (“She is the second reason I accepted the movie.”). She says: “I knew the original very well. At that time, it was a very provocative movie. Nowadays, 57 years later, the message is even more topical: it’s necessary to respect the planet which hosts us.”
Her character, the astrophysicist Helen, has a stepson called Jacob: “He’s played by Jaden Smith, Will’s son. He [Jaden]’s so nice! Actually, the whole family is nice: every time they came on set, we stopped working in order to admire them.”
What kind of alien does Keanu feel like?
“Less lovely than the original. More detached, with a more ambiguous glance that I’d define as amphibious. He’s cold, and, apparently, indifferent. But, actually, this interpretation is very physical, inside and not outside, because of the huge compression. He doesn’t need to threaten, as he’s a threat himself.”
If you were really an alien and you had just landed, what would astonish you?
“The paparazzis’ culture. It looks more and more like a photographic safari. They take pics of you while you’re picking up the newspaper in front of your house, while you’re coming out of a cafeteria with your lips spotted with milk, while you’re putting gasoline into your bike. I mean, these are actions everybody does, not just the stars.”
The original, directed by Robert Wise in 1951, was about the fear of a nuclear disaster. On the contrary, this time it’s about the danger that we may not be “green”, the danger of a lack of attention towards the environment. How much are you involved in this struggle?
“Should I give myself a mark from one to ten, I’d say between six and seven.”
Did you ever want to be a director?
“I ask myself this question every year. I think so, one day. Last September I turned 44, so it’s time for me to decide what I want to become when I grow up.”