Keanu Reeves and his new roles
(Translated from Russian to English by Irina; translation edited by LucaM and Anakin McFly)
by Tatiana Rosenshtain
Keanu's name translated from Hawaiian means 'cool breeze over the mountains'. Now the time has come for the 48-year-old to live up to the windy definition of his name, trying on new roles as director and producer. He speaks with Tatiana about changes in cinema and his life, tricky new technology and the secrets of real love.
Often described as mysterious and strange, sometimes due to his unique looks and natural humbleness, Keanu Reeves is not an easy person to have a conversation with. He is sensitive and intellectual, but hides it well under a mask of friendliness and irony. During the interview he might suddenly think of something and forget to answer the question, or change the subject, or become philosophical about the end of cinema, or about the influence a person has on their own destiny -particularly when the question asked was about his personal life.
In the past Keanu was not that mysterious; but personal tragedies and the press' extreme interest about them changed his mind about being open.
His career was on the rise when all those tragedies happened. His best friend River Phoenix died from a drug overdose, his younger sister was diagnosed with leukemia. The heart of his unborn daughter stopped beating inside her mother’s womb, and one year later his fiancée and mother of the stillborn child, Jennifer Syme, was killed in a car accident. Since then, the actor has never had a girlfriend, and in interviews only talks about his work, as though it were his only consolation.
Today, Reeves not only acts, but also directs and produces.
His new production project Side by Side is a documentary about how digital technology is changing cinema and replacing film. In that documentary, he interviews Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, David Lynch, Lars Von Trier and George Lucas. After its premiere in LA, Keanu went right away to Hong Kong to work on his directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. The year-long interactions with the masters of digital cinema were beneficial for him; he used the super new robot, Iris, during the filming of the movie's fight scenes.
ELLE: In the movie Side by Side you discuss the technology of movie making. Isn't it too serious a conversation for an actor?
KR: A new era is beginning in cinema and it affects all of us. Experts promise that technology will not only create film visual effects, but also actor clones, which will be able to let us bring to the screen the 'oldies', like Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart, and most importantly currently living and working actors - my colleagues and myself could end up without a job.
ELLE: Are you afraid of being without work?
KR: Honestly, yes, but it's not just that. With the new technology the fake can be easily created. And similar experiments could affect the whole of humanity in a bad way. Of course, I have nostalgia for old cinema, but I am not losing optimism. The directors are still the same storytelling magicians. If they need to show and tell us something important, they would find the way to do so, with the help of current or new technology. Michael Winterbottom said in the movie, "It does not matter what you do, what's most important is that you do it from your heart". I am ready to sign my name to that as well.
ELLE: How were you able to get so many famous directors to be in you movie? Did you use your personal connections?
KR: I don't think that had anything to do with me, but with the hot topic of that story. People wanted to talk about it. But I was asked to do the interviews myself, without the help of assistants.
ELLE: Do you know, the most important job for an interviewer is to get the interviewed person to talk. Were you successful with it?
KR: Yes, it was no problem. But I had to work on myself. Before the interviews with George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, I had to use self hypnosis on myself: "Try not to look like an idiot."
ELLE: I understand. Did you ever want to be a journalist?
KR: (smiles). When I was 17 years old. I did some interviews for a TV show in Toronto. Journalism was my first serious profession.
ELLE: But you decided to become a actor?
KR: Not right away. When I was a child, I had lots of all kind of plans. I wanted to become an inventor, and nuclear scientist, racer and even conductor. I tried to sing and play musical instruments. But because I thought my attempts were mediocre I decided not to do it.
ELLE: How did you decide to become an actor?
KR: My mother was a costume designer. My step-father was a theater director. But even now, it is hard for me to understand, who am I? Something tells me that my place is in the cinema, but where exactly? (thinking) Actor? Yes, I have lots of experience with it. Producer? I like the work, but have little experience and knowledge of it. Director? Here I am at the beginning of my journey. I hope other directors will still invite me to make movies.
ELLE: What could you say about your next acting work in the movie 47 Ronin?
KR: That it's an action movie and, at the same time, a very romantic movie about love and honor. I play a warrior fighting for the love of a princess.
ELLE: Is that how you personally see love?
KR: I don't want to talk about it. Real love doesn't need a huge discussion, just the participation of two people alone.
ELLE: Then let's talk about fighting, in 47 Ronin, you show your warrior side again?
KR: Yes, I participated in some fight scenes. But it's not as easy for me anymore as it was during the Matrix shooting. I am getting older. Pretend fighting scenes becoming harder and I had to practice more, and I don't even want to talk about my knees.
ELLE: Did you have to fight during shooting Man of Tai Chi as well?
KR: I don't want to talk about it. Please be patient (smiles), the movie will be in cinemas sooner or later.
ELLE: Is it true that you lived in hotels before your 40th birthday and only recently bought your first house?
KR: Well, the acting profession means a lot of wandering. It's easy to live in hotels with room service. When I moved to my house, at first, I didn't know what to do there. Sleep, cook dinner, clean? Am I made for all that?
ELLE: I can easily imagine you taking care of the house and using the cooking stove.
KR: Me? Using the cooking stove? That is definitely not me. The most I can do is spread butter on the bread.
ELLE: What do you think of before you fall asleep?
KR: A new day.