Matrix star Keanu Reeves enters an alien world... a Chekhov play
by Tom Teodorczuk
Keanu Reeves is better known for sci-fi blockbusters than stage classics, so when his latest film role involved a part in a Chekhov play the Matrix star decided he may need some tips.
He knew just where to come — to London to meet West End giants Simon Russell Beale and Sir Jonathan Miller.
In his new film Henry's Crime, released tomorrow, Reeves plays a robber who winds up acting in a production of The Cherry Orchard.
The fate of Reeves's character Henry mirrors that of merchant Lopakhin in the 1904 play.
Along with the film's London-based director Malcolm Venville, Reeves researched his character by interviewing Russell Beale, who played Lopakhin at the Old Vic in 2009, and Sir Jonathan, 76, who directed the play at The Crucible, Sheffield, in 2007.
Henry's Crime is written by Sacha Gervasi, who won an Evening Standard Film Award last year for his heavy metal documentary Anvil. The new dark comedy, which also stars Vera Farmiga and James Caan, was a hit at last autumn's Toronto Film Festival. Reeves, 46, sought out Venville to direct the film after seeing his debut movie, last year's British gangster drama 44-inch Chest.
Venville, 51, said: “Keanu came to London and we did a lot of research together. We went to various Cherry Orchard productions, rehearsals and met Chekhovian actors. Simon gave us tips. And just to have an audience with Sir Jonathan for half an hour was great fun. He got on well with Keanu.”
He added: “I'm really grateful to Keanu for getting this film financed and made. This was his labour.”
Russell Beale, 49, was this week given the Freedom of the City of London for his services to drama.