Keanu Reeves arrives at 50 with picture projects and as a director
by Rodrigo Fonseca
(Translated from Portuguese by Anakin McFly using Google Translate)
Reaching 50 years of life and 30 years of his career has made Keanu Reeves rethink his path and seek changes. Back on Brazilian screens since last Friday with Carl Rinsch's adventure film "47 Ronin", the star behind blockbusters like "The Matrix" franchise (1999-2003) only turns fifty on 2nd September. But he has already begun to change his routine in Hollywood to enter what he calls the "mature phase".
The first of these decisions was to debut as a director, helming the martial arts adventure "Man of Tai Chi", which still has no confirmed release date in Brazil. The second: abandon commercial projects in favour of betting on screenplays seen as cursed ground in Hollywood, such as science-fiction "Passengers" and the thriller "John Wick", planned for release by 2015.
"I've been on the road since 1984, working non-stop on projects ranging from blockbusters to indie productions. I accumulated a lot of experience with big directors like Bertolucci and Coppola. There've been many changes in the industry. It was time for me to take a new position and begin starting my own stories, or at least, plots that are able to go beyond being just entertainment and make you think," said Reeves during the Cannes film festival last May, where he exhibited the first scenes from "Man of Tai Chi".
Learning from Rock
Transformed into an action icon in the 1990s, when he starred in the cult genre with "Point Break" (1991) and "Speed" (1994), Reeves gained an intimate knowledge of fighting styles like kung fu, karate and aikido throughout his preparation for playing Neo in "The Matrix". Previously, the actor, born in Beirut Lebanon, the son of a geologist and a dancer, had already studied the Eastern art forms of dance and fight to film "Little Buddha" with Bernado Bertolucci in 1992. From these studies, which continued over the next two decades, he took elements to integrate into his characters in "47 Ronin" and "Man of Tai Chi", in which he also starred.
"In the 1990s I enjoyed devoting my free time to music, playing bass. And, in that contact with rock and roll, I learned that it is important to talk about issues that move us most. It was then that I realised how much I'm attracted to stories about outsiders in search of acceptance, forced to experience extreme feelings like a desire for revenge. It's a premise often dealt with in samurai and martial arts epics," said Reeves, whose last big screen blockbuster was "Constantine" in 2005.
Conceived as a tribute to the work of Akira Kurosawa, "47 Ronin" is a $175 million production in which Reeves plays Kai, a warrior of English ancestry who enters feudal Japan and joins a battle against a corrupt aristocrat. In the story, Kai joins a group of masterless samurai who intend to bring justice upon a lawless land. In "Man of Tai Chi", Reeves goes over to the other side and becomes a villain who loathes the law.
"It's a unique experience to be able to transit the boundaries of good and evil on screen while we have the chance to discuss the contemporary concept of the hero. With "Man of Tai Chi", my idea was to use the most of the choreography of the fights to express how much the body can transcend its limits in dangerous situations, says Reeves, who, in his directorial debut, entrusted the main role to stuntman Tiger Hu Chen.
In the story of "Man of Tai Chi", Chen plays a scholar of oriental philosophies and fighting techniques. In order to save the temple where he was trained, he agrees to participate in tournament fights. Reeves is a businessman who exploits the boy's talents through his desire for a challenge.
"Chen was part of the stunt team on "The Matrix" and spent hours on the set talking about stories of legendary fighters. It was those conversations that gave me the idea for the project. I spent five years trying to get it down on paper, seeking the most of the maturity in me to build an adult narrative that reflected my thoughts," said Reeves, who returns to theatres this year as a hired killer in "John Wick".