James Caan teaches Keanu Reeves to smile
by Mark Daniell
Maybe Jimmy Caan did rub off on Keanu Reeves.
The actor – here promoting his heist comedy Henry’s Crime – was all smiles this morning at a press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival, which was a big contrast to the bored, distracted, sulky Keanu I first glimpsed here back in 2005.
Another journalist in the room must have picked up on this new Keanu vibe, and lobbed a question the actor’s way early on asking the former Toronto kid what his favourite thing to do when he returns here is.
“I don’t have any coming and going rituals,” the bearded star said. “I left in 1985 and the first time I came back, I went to see the street I grew up on [near Hazelton Lanes].”
He reflected on the changes, but then his Henry’s Crime co-star James Caan quipped how the first time he was here – no dates please – the Park Hyatt didn’t even exist.
In Henry’s Crime, Reeves plays Henry, an hapless loser set adrift in Buffalo. He has a dead-end job at a highway toll booth and boring personal life. But when he stumbles across the scene of an armed robbery, he’s mistaken for one of the robbers and soon finds himself behind bars.
In prison he hooks up with Max (played by Caan) who teaches him a thing or two and by the time he’s released, Henry figures that now that he’s done the time, he might as well do the crime.
“It wasn’t curing cancer,” Caan joked, “but it turned out it was fun.”
The cast, rounded out by Oscar-nominee Vera Farmiga, got along famously and Caan thinks that is evident in the film, which is directed by Malcolm Venville (44 Inch Chest).
“When people like each other, it emanates itself onto the screen,” he said. “I don’t care what the subject is, the audience can tell when people enjoy working together.”
The very-pregnant Farmiga patted her belly and looked at Caan. “James and I got along well,” she grinned.
More than a decade after his role as Neo in the Matrix series, I asked Reeves how the role has shaped his acting choices.
Surprisingly, nothing has changed, he said.
“Hopefully [my movies] entertain audiences,” he said. “And you choose to do something because you want to work with certain people.”
Asked if he’d lend his considerable star power to a Canadian film, Reeves said he would, but that the right project hasn’t come along yet.
When another journalist told Reeves he has plans to watch the Matrix trilogy this weekend, Reeves smiled and congratulated him.
Likewise, Caan, whose iconic role in The Godfather was mentioned throughout the conference, was happy to talk about the one performance that helped shape his career.
“Unlike actors that hide, I’m very thankful people still remember I’m alive,” he grinned. “So no, I don’t get tired of it; it was a blessing.”
Had he known the movie was going to be so popular, he might not have accepted dying so easily though.
“I would have told them, ‘You’re not going to kill me; I refuse to die.’”
Caption: Keanu Reeves at the Tiff presser for Henry’s Crime at the Hyatt, Toronto, Tuesday September, 14, 2010. (Craig Robertson/QMI Agency)