Reeves stars and produces in new film ‘Henry’s Crime’
by Ed Symkus
Amid rumors that Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are getting together for another installment in the “Bill & Ted” series, Reeves has taken a step up the filmmaking ladder. His chores on the new heist comedy “Henry’s Crime” include starring in it and producing it. The film opens Friday.
But it’s been a long road getting it to the screen.
“My producing partner Stephen Hamel had an idea for doing a film about a guy committing a crime that he already went to jail for committing,” said Reeves at a press gathering in his hometown of Toronto. “That was sometime in 2005. So we found a writer and worked on the script for all of these years. When that was done, we decided to make it, we sent the script out, and here we are today.”
The story involves a laid-back fellow named Henry (Reeves) who doesn’t mind his dreary job as a tollbooth collector. And he doesn’t seem to have a clue that people regularly take advantage of him.
For instance, there are the guys who ask him to drive them someplace, then wait outside in the car. What they neglect to tell him is he’ll be waiting outside the bank they’ll be robbing.
Inexplicably, he doesn’t rat on the rats, he goes to jail and there befriends lifelong criminal Max (James Caan). After Henry’s release a series of incidents – his wife has run off, a ditzy actress named Julie (Vera Farmiga) runs him over – leads him to the decision to actually rob the bank that he did time for.
But, for reasons too complicated to explain, the only way it can be done is if he gets Max out of jail and he lands the lead role of Lopakhin – opposite that actress – in a local production of “The Cherry Orchard.” Reeves credits the film’s screenwriter Sacha Gervasi with the inspiration to include the Chekhov play within the film.
“He found some odd intuitive parallel between our story and Lopakhin’s. In the film, Henry is Lopakhin,” said Reeves, referring to some similarities between the characters.
“Henry has come from nowhere, he’s deciding to change his life, he loves Julie but he’s going to destroy her life at the same time. So there was a nice parallel.” Reeves also found that he was learning a lot from Caan, with whom he had never worked before.
“Jimmy showed how it can be done right, by rolling up the sleeves, coming to the house to do the table read, and giving his take on the character,” said Reeves.
Caan was amazed that Reeves pulled off the combination of acting and producing so well.
“I never at any point saw him act the way producers I guess are supposed to behave,” said Caan. “I learned that it could be done with grace, and not feel awkward.
“I told him to get the hell out of my way, not thinking of him as the producer,” he added, laughing. “And I don’t care if it’s a tragedy or a comedy, I believe that the audience can subconsciously tell when people really enjoy working with each other, which makes the movie more enjoyable. It just comes off the screen. There were tough conditions and long hours and the craft table wasn’t all that great, but we somehow giggled through it.”
Caan, who’s best remembered for the demise of his Sonny Corleone character in “The Godfather” – he dies in a hail of bullets at a toll booth – was asked what he thought of Reeves’ character being a toll collector.
“I’m almost out of toll booth jokes,” he said with a sigh. “I just keep thinking if I had the correct change I would’ve made a lot more money. I didn’t know they were going to make a ‘(Godfather) II.’ I would’ve refused to die.”