Keanu Reeves Has Big Plans for Bill & Ted 3
by Jason Guerrasio
Keanu Reeves is many things to many people: Neo from the Matrix films, Ted “Theodore” Logan from the Bill & Ted movies, Johnny Utah from Point Break, and yes, even Sad Keanu. But his latest movie, Man of Tai Chi (opening Friday), marks both his directorial debut and a Reeves rarity: playing the villain. The film stars his old friend Tiger Hu Chen, a stuntman on the Matrix movies, who plays a deliveryman with unrivaled Tai Chi skills. Reeves is Donaka, chief of an underground fighting ring who sees Chen’s potential of becoming the greatest fighter in his stable—if he can turn to the dark side.
The Hollywood Blog met up with Reeves in Brooklyn on the set of his latest film, John Wick, to discuss directing Man of Tai Chi, the chances of a third Bill & Ted movie, and see if Keanu Reeves truly likes playing the villain.
The Hollywood Blog: Tell me how this got started.
Keanu Reeves: Tiger and I wanted to work together and we started to work on a story around 2007 or 2008. We were thinking of a story where perhaps I was his student and I’d be coming to China from the States, and he was in trouble with his dojo—you know, the old-school martial-arts storyline. And then as the story developed, this idea of underground fighting came up, and the guy who ran the underground fighting, Donaka—I just seemed to have a proclivity for the voice.
What was the biggest fear or concern about taking this step?
I had a great producer and cinematographer and production designer, really great collaborators, and had a nice prep, so we were ready. I storyboarded scenes that I felt we needed and so I felt prepared by the time we rolled. It all felt comfortable to me. I’ve been in a lot of those rooms before in prep, I just haven’t been the director, but the only difference is you feel a great sense of responsibility to telling the story.
We don’t see you as the villain much. Wanted to try something new?
It wasn’t about having not done it often in the past; it was about the story and this idea of a dual life. Donaka started to develop, and to me he’s the dark master of Tai Chi, so he’s got the temptation and the manipulation, so for me part of the movie is a cautionary tale and Tiger is seduced by his desire, which is Donaka.
There’s one instance where you give this insane scream into the camera. I’d never seen you do something like that before. Is that a case where you’re the director, so you’re going to take liberties?
There’s a moment where I felt Donaka reveals himself as he’s watching Tiger at a tournament where he stars to lose concern towards his opponent, he’s going to a darker place. And Donaka witnessing this, and this is what he wants Tiger to do, he gets a rise in his blood lust, and I wanted his darkness to show. I wanted to elevate the moment from just witnessing to the demon revealing himself. So the actor did that and the director liked it.
What still interests you in the action genre?
There’s usually struggle or overcoming or whatever the color of the moment, so dramatically it’s really fun, and fake fights are fun.
So you still enjoy the physicality?
Gonna change gears, because people want to know, will there be a Bill & Ted 3?
Bill & Ted 3 is waiting for a rewrite from the writers, and we’re still trying to find a way to finance the film. We don’t have a director, we don’t have any money, so we’re trying to get a script. Maybe if we have a script, they will come, I don’t know.
But you’re totally on board?
Absolutely. But it still has to come together. It has to find the right producer and director. I think they’ve created a story that is fun and funny and would be very surreal for me to play, so if everything comes together the right way it could be fun.
You seem to enjoy talking about Ted. Was there a time in your career when you wanted people to forget that role?
I’ve always liked speaking about him. Those characters in those films, they were great times to make and close to my heart and I loved those stories. That’s what you want to do, you want to participate in the story and people enjoy it and embrace it and get something out of it.
Is there any other character you’ve played that you’d like to take on again?
I would like to have played John Constantine again. I liked playing that character and there seemed to be a way to continue that. That’s the only one that comes to mind.
Will we see you direct again?
I hope so. I’d like to. I’m looking for a story.
You’re actively looking?
Well, right now I’m working on John Wick, but it’s out there in the universe.