Mikro Gids (NL), August 1-7, 2009

Keanu Reeves: "I don't want to get pinned down on the same genre."

(Translated from Dutch by Fiercelyred)

by Monique van de Sande

Keanu Reeves is by far the most enigmatic actor of his generation. That is why his role as the unfathomable lover in The Private lives of Pippa Lee, in theaters from July 30th onwards, fits him like a glove. MIKRO gids talked to Reeves in Berlin about, among other things, his midlife crisis. "It was like a second puberty".

Ten years ago, The Matrix was not Keanu Reeves's first hit, but it was his biggest. The intriguing sf-film and its two successors The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both from 2003) earned the Canadian actor a grand total of 200 million dollars. For all intents and purposes, he could very well retire, but that prospect doesn't interest him one bit. He'd much rather keep making music with his band Dogstar, and is a steady fixture on filmsets. "The size of the production doesn't matter to me", he says during his visit to Berlin for the promotion of his latest film, The Private lives of Pippa Lee.

"Before Pippa Lee I made The Day the Earth stood still, a truly gigantic studio film. But it isn't that after doing a big film for all audiences I think: ok, now I could do with something a little more artistic. You might say that I don't want to get pinned down on the same genre, but other than that I'm first and foremost interested in the part itself. Once I've said yes to a role, I go full steam ahead. I want to feel passion with everything I do."

After making this statement, the star - who is, unlike in the movie, sporting a beard and mustache - leans back in his chair. "Right, so we're done here now, no?" he attempts, smiling alluringly. Typical Reeves-humour. The actor has a reputation for inscrutability in general and taciturnity in particular. Since you don't always get away with that during interviews, he has also perfected another tactic: the witty evasion, especially during questions that are a bit too private for his liking.


But we are in luck. Reeves is in a talkative mood and eager to talk about his new film. Though he stresses it really is Robin Wright Penn's film. "She plays Pippa Lee, a woman who does anything to please her thirty years older husband. Their move from Manhattan to a community of pensioners proves to be too much though, and Pippa feels like she's stuck. Discovering that her husband has an affair with a woman who is younger than she is, makes her realize the time has come to put herself first. She finds understanding in Chris, a man who has just moved in with his parents in the same community. And that's me."

Robin Wright Penn - whose marriage to husband Sean Penn has been rocky for some time now - was the first to offer her cooperation to director Rebecca Miller. This daughter of the famous playwright Arthur Miller and wife of Daniel Day-Lewis, is the writer of the book that the film is based on. After that, it took a while for the rest of the famous cast - among which, next to Reeves: Alan Arkin, Julianne Moore, Monica Bellucci and Winona Ryder - to agree to participate.


"I thought I was too old for the part of Chris", Reeves says apologetically. "In the book he kind of is the young lover, while Robin is younger than I am. But I found him an interesting character, because he seems sincere, but really wears a mask. This is also symbolized in the huge Jesus-tattoo on his torso. I have to say, I wasn't very happy with that thing during the shoot. It took four hours to airbrush it onto my skin, after which it was sealed so that it kept for 24 hours. So, the next day I had to get it applied again." Asked whether he'd ever consider a tattoo like that, his answer is quasi surprised: "That huge thing? Like, would you like to spend some time with me and my tattoo? I don't think so!" Reeves denies having to wear a mask, as it were, in public because of his fame. "I don't have that problem. Of course I sometimes am confronted with my being famous, but it can be fun as well. The premiere of Pippa Lee for instance was great. Only the paparazzi are a disaster, for everybody in the business. I mean, I can't imagine anyone enjoying being chased and spied upon."


Private is private, especially with Reeves. With that in mind, we don't mention his alleged relationship with actress Parker Posey, or the baby clothes he is supposed to have picked out with her recently according to some questionable sources. Offspring is a delicate subject with him anyway, ever since his former girlfriend Jennifer Syme bore a stillborn child at the end of 1999. But the actor turns out to be more open about this sensitive matter than expected. "I like the idea of, at one point, getting married", he says hesitatingly. "Or maybe....O, I don't know. I do like the idea of children, at any rate, and actually the whole package does appeal to me."

Jokingly, he says that he has to keep track of the time. "Before you know it, I'll find myself in one of these communities for pensioners. After all, I have already dealt with my mid-life crisis. The first signs of deterioration were quite intense for me. I remember bending forward and suddenly going 'Urgh!' when I stretched back up. I thought: where the hell did that come from? And then there's the fact that hair started to grow in unexpected places, like in my ears. It was a kind of second puberty, because my mind changed too, and with that my relationship to the world. I had to become reacquainted with myself again, as an older man, keeping in mind all that is finite. Because the day will come that these eyes won't open anymore....."

Contented, the actor looks at the effect his words have had, and then adds with a radiant smile: "But I came back out of it in top form!"

In its original Dutch:

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is met stip de raadselachtigste acteur van zijn generatie. Zijn rol als moeilijk te doorgronden minnaar in The private lives of Pippa Lee, vanaf 30 juli in de bioscoop, zit hem daarom als gegoten. Mikro Gids sprak Reeves in Berlijn onder meer over zijn midlifecrisis. ‘Het was een soort tweede puberteit.’

The matrix was tien jaar geleden niet de eerste hit voor Keanu Reeves, maar wel zijn allergrootste. Aan de intrigerende sf-film en zijn twee opvolgers The matrix reloaded en The matrix revolutions (beide uit 2003) verdiende de Canadese acteur in totaal maar liefst tweehonderd miljoen dollar. Hij kan dus allang gaan rentenieren, maar dat vooruitzicht laat hem siberisch. Liever blijft hij gewoon muziek maken met zijn band Dogstar, en hij staat nog steeds regelmatig op een filmset. ‘De grootte van de productie doet daarbij niet ter zake’, vertelt hij tijdens een bezoek aan Berlijn voor de promotie van zijn nieuwste film The private lives of Pippa Lee.

‘Vóór Pippa Lee maakte ik The day the earth stood still, echt een kolossale studiofilm. Maar het is niet zo dat ik na een grote publieksfilm denk: zo, nu ben ik wel toe aan iets artistiekers. Je zou hoogstens kunnen zeggen dat ik me niet wil vastpinnen op een bepaald genre, maar verder gaat het me in eerste en laatste instantie om de rol zelf. Als ik daar eenmaal ja tegen heb gezegd, dan ga ik er ook voor. Ik wil passie voelen bij alles wat ik doe.’

Na deze uitspraak leunt de ster achteruit in zijn stoel. ‘Zo, dit was het wel, toch?’, probeert hij met een charmant lachje. Typische Reeves-humor. De acteur geniet al jaren een reputatie als het gaat om ondoorgrondelijkheid in het algemeen en zwijgzaamheid in het bijzonder. Omdat je daarmee nu eenmaal niet altijd wegkomt tijdens interviews, perfectioneerde hij inmiddels ook een andere tactiek: de geestige ontwijking, vooral bij vragen die naar zijn smaak iets te veel over zijn privéleven gaan.


Maar we treffen het. Reeves is voor zijn doen in een spraakzame bui en wil graag praten over zijn nieuwe film. Al benadrukt hij dat het vooral de film van Robin Wright Penn is. ‘Zij speelt Pippa Lee, een vrouw die alles doet om een perfecte echtgenote te zijn voor haar dertig jaar oudere man. Maar hun verhuizing van Manhattan naar een gemeenschap voor pensionado’s blijkt te veel gevraagd. Pippa komt geestelijk in de knel. Als ze dan ook nog ontdekt dat haar man een affaire heeft met een vrouw die jonger is dan zij, beseft ze dat het tijd wordt om voor zichzelf te kiezen. Ze vindt begrip bij Chris, een man die net bij zijn ouders in dezelfde gemeenschap is neergestreken. En dat ben ik.’

Robin Wright Penn – zelf al langer in onrustig vaarwater met haar man Sean Penn – was de eerste die haar medewerking toezegde aan regisseuse Rebecca Miller. Deze dochter van de beroemde toneelschrijver Arthur Miller, echtgenote van Daniel Day-Lewis, is de schrijfster van het boek waarop de film gebaseerd is. Daarna duurde het geruime tijd voordat de rest van de sterrencast – met naast -Reeves onder anderen Alan Arkin, Julianne Moore, Monica Bellucci en Winona Ryder – bereid was gevonden.

Monique van de Sande


Article Focus:

Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The


Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The , Matrix, The , Matrix Reloaded, The , Matrix Revolutions, The , Day the Earth Stood Still, The , Lives and Deaths of Jennifer and Ava , Articles Translated from Dutch

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