The Nerdist Podcast #587
by Chris Hardwick
Link to podcast
(Transcript by LucaM, edits by Anakin McFly. "[…]" marks portions where audio was unclear, such as when they're speaking over each other and/or it's hard to hear who's saying what; other portions were lightly rephrased to remove verbal tics (there were a lot of 'um's), interruptions and corrections.)
Chris Hardwick: This episode is Keanu Reeves, and Keanu was kind enough to squeeze the podcast into a press day for John Wick; and by the way I hadn't seen John Wick at the time of this recording because it all came together very fast when I was in New York, but since, I have seen it, and it's amazing. It has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 9, point, like 3 or something on IMDb, so… it's an awesome movie and he's great in it and he was a super nice guy.
The only thing I will say about this is that he gave us all the time he had, which was literally a half hour, so I think this might be the shortest podcast we've ever done, but I'm not gonna NOT talk to Keanu for a half hour, so we weren't necessarily able to go as in depth as we normally do when it's like an hour – an hour and 15 minutes – but he was still a supercool guy and… and maybe he will come back! Now that he's seen that it's easy-breezy and all… […] so maybe we'll get Keanu Reeves back. So here we go, the Nerdist podcast, episode #587 with Keanu Reeves.
CH: It's nice to see you !
Keanu Reeves: Good morning!
CH: It's nice to meet you. So this is the beginning of your press day.
KR: It is!
CH: Are you mentally prepared?
KR: You know, it's easy to speak about a film that you love.
KR: You know, so… in that sense, yeah. It's, um, sometimes it's not so easy. But today, it's easy.
CH: (laughs) So have you been in that situation before? Where you're like, you know, I don't really feel…
KR: Yeah, like, oh, boy. But not very often.
CH: Good. Well you don't know, because you sign on, I mean I always… to me the fact that a film ever gets made is mind blowing, and the fact that a film can get made and be good is the secondary miracle that can happen.
KR: Yeah, yeah. That's true. You go in with high hopes and ambitions and dreams, and hopefully they're not shattered on the rocks of disappointment… but yeah, Wick was one of the good ones.
CH: I seem to recall – I don't know if you remember this at all, but this was like 10 years ago, but when I was first kinda doing a lot of standup around LA, I feel like you popped up at some comedy shows during.
KR: Yeah, I use to go to comedy shows, yeah.
CH: Are you a fan of stand-up?
KR: I am, absolutely, yeah, ever since I was a kid.
KR: Yeah, I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and we had The Metropolitan Toronto Library – which was the big library and I would go there and read plays and listen to comedy albums. So I would listen to, like, Cosby, Woody Allen and who else was there, Richard Pryor, I mean, some of the 200 years old men, yeah.
CH: Have you seen any of those guys live? Have you see Cosby live? he still performs.
KR: Yeah, I've seen that a little bit on YouTube. Yeah, you know, so you've gotta go on there and see it. But yeah, I've always loved stand-up. I remember, I saw Sam Kinison in 198…6?
CH: Holy shit.
KR: Yeah. That was like prime Kinison in Toronto.
CH: I think a comedy club should feel a little shitty.
KR: Seedy. Seedy!
CH: It should feel like you shouldn't be there.
KR: Yeah like you're doing something, I don't know, not nefarious but something kind of subversive […] but I remember when he came out and he did that kind of ‘moooove' (does impression of comedian) […]
CH: I never got to see him live because I was just slightly too young when I was in college… […] Did you ever fuck around with, like, live stuff like that?
KR: Um, when I was a kid I did Second City.
CH: You did?
KR: Yeah, so I was going through the Second City training program, Second City classes and stuff like that… played theater sports… lost to kids in the hall
CH: Holy shit!
KR: Yeah, played against kids in the hall, got smashed…
CH: Do they know this? Have you talked to them since?
KR:, Yeah, we got boo bricks (?), and they got laughs. […] I was like 17.
CH: You were like 17. But you moved around a shit ton, right?
KR: Yeah, as a kid in Toronto, it was like 5 houses in the city which I don't think a lot of people do – you live in the same city but you're in 5 different locations.
CH: My family did the same thing. […]
(There's a long portion here that's hard to hear (or to tell who is talking) where they talk about bowling alleys, shifty fathers who bowl, "it's a lot like the comedy stuff. It's subversive". …about how bowling alleys should be shifty and there's a sense you coud get killed in the parking lot… "should feel kind of gross.")
CH: Listen, I don't want to embarrass you by telling you this but I was at this party years ago, and you were just sitting on a chair – I don't know why I was at this party because I was not a party person so I immediately was in a corner just uncomfortable. And for some reason you were sitting on this chair and this girl came up and I don't even think you knew her and she just sat on your lap and started making out with you and I'm like whatever this is– that's what I want.
CH: It was the most…
KR: I'm a slut. I'm a slut.
CH: then I think your improv training must have kicked in because you just handled the approach.
KR: Yes, indeed. Yes I had. Continue, please. I won't say no.
CH: … that was amazing.
KR: I must have known this person.
CH: I'm assuming it but it's just that I was there for a while and you were really so meditative and I was like, "did he just summon this person out of the ether? This is incredible!"
KR: I have magical powers.
CH: Well that is an amazing power! I have been a fan of yours for a really long time and… I mean, obviously I was the perfect age for Bill and Ted – high school, amazing, amazing. But I thought you were so incredible in Parenthood!
KR: That was a lovely role. A kind of nice innocence to him. A positive energy. Yeah. Working with Joaquin Phoenix at the time he was 11 years old – when he was still Leaf Phoenix. […]
CH: Tiny little Phoenix! […] So do you like doing comedy, do you want to do – is comedy something that's important to you?
KR: Yeah, absolutely – I haven't had the chance to do it for a while. I mean I did a romantic comedy called Henry's Crime a couple of years ago, but other than that I haven't, um… yes. Yes!
CH: River's Edge was not really a comedy.
KR: – not, but funny. They're funny (imitates characters) ‘What'd I do for my fucking friends. You could fry for this'. Crispin Glover – genius. […]
CH: We've had him on this podcast.
(commentary on Crispin Glover)
KR: He's a remarkable, original cat.
CH: (on podcast time limit)
CH: What do you do when you literally […] when you can essentially do anything you want
KR: That's not true
CH: You don't think so?
KR: No, you can't … you can't do anything you want. I mean, speaking about making films, telling stories I mean, you mentioned it earlier, to make a film is a kind of miracle, um, you know, I mean I've certainly got these opportunities and stuff but it's not like I that girl who sat on your lap, you know…
CH: But she sat on your lap, I never had anything like that.
KR: Yeah, you can't quite do that, you know, but, um, but you can try.
CH: So is that just a myth then? It just seems to me that every morning you wake up and then there's a platter of scripts … and you know, ‘I feel…”
KR: ‘I feel like this one today' – no, it doesn't quite work like that. For me. You know, there's scripts that come by and things but you know, even if that happens, you still have to try and put it together, or if it's put together then, um, well then it's easier (laughs) […] but yeah, I mean, there's always something to be done.
CH: But it's a painstaking process which it seems requires the utmost patience of all the platforms in media film to me. Seems like it's the most maddening because it can take five, eight, ten years for something to get made.
KR: Yeah, absolutely, I mean it is collaborative, it's so collaborative in terms of telling the story, and in terms of the financing – it's show business, and to get all of the pieces together, even before the artists show up, is tough.
CH: Do you like being on the producers' side too or you're just sometimes, "eh, I just want to come in as an actor and not have any responsibility…"
KR: Yes! I mean in the past few years I've done a little more producing and I've enjoyed it, I want to keep doing it but there are times when you just, you know… you wear one hat.
CH: Are you a stresser or you're pretty good at being kind of Zen about everything
KR: Um, no, I'm not Zen about anything, I'm, um, yeah, I'm a fretter. I'm a concerner.
CH: Why do you think that is? Why do you thing this business attracts fretters? But it also does the worst things to people that fret? At the same time…
KR: Um… passion. It's passion. And maybe it's a particular kind of personality trait. I mean for a creative actor, producer, I mean, it takes a particular kind of focus and attention and, I mean, even when you hear stories about people who don't sound like they're focusing or attention-ing that much… um, it's probably not true.
CH: I mean, it feels like we spend so much time in our own heads…
KR: Isn't it great?
CH: No, it's not always that great! Sometimes it feels like.
KR: …it's a house of horrors?
CH: – how do you get out of that, or how do you take time […] how do you… shake it off?
KR: Yeah… um, nowadays probably just go for a motorcycle ride
CH: Oh, you do?
KR: Yeah, I go for a motorcycle ride, breathe, drive kind of fast… and then, you know, also spend time with friends and family, you know, just… let's go do something.
CH: Focusing on other things.
KR: Yeah, and just try to smell the roses – did I just say that?
CH: You did.
KR: Isn't that awful.
CH: It is. It's a lovely grandma thing to say
KR: I'm older now!
CH: But you look amazing!
KR: It's the suit.
CH: It's not the suit. No, no… Does the fan stuff get annoying? Does it get in the way?
KR: Um … not, none of the … For me the impact is really just, you know, someone taking a picture of you while you're putting gas in your motorcycle.
CH: Or the Sad Keanu meme.
KR: Oh yeah, which was fantastic. And then maybe once in a while in an airport there's some crazy… but I mean it's… no.
CH: I've seen your reddit AMA a couple of months back and it was really nice, like… I don't know, you seemed really cool and playful with it and it seemed like…
KR: Well that's just having a conversation of a kind […] I like conversations.
CH: Do you spend time… are you internet-ing?
KR: I'm… once in a while-y? But you know, I don't have a lot of ‘social media'. So yeah…
CH: It is like an extra job.
KR: It seems like it. It's a job that people love, though.
CH: Well it is, I mean it can be fun, but again, I feel like culturally we're creating these little bubbles that are forcing us to stay in our heads all the time. You know, because we're not… I'm not complaining about it, because I like social media, but we're essentially, you know, your face is either in your phone, or you're this close to the screen, and you're all, oh, how did my picture do that I posted, and what are these people saying, and what is it…, and you're just creating these little… weird little isolated… narcissistic bubbles […]
KR: Communication! But I don't know, how can it be narcissistic if it's going out?
CH: Because it's… it is going out, but it's through the lens of you. Yeah, exactly.
KR: But people want to know about you.
CH: I don't know…
KR: They want to share with you.
CH: They want to know everything.
KR: They want to share, they want to be entertained, they want to have some inside connectivity… […]
CH: I was hosting this screening or something and I think it was like 1999 […] and before that […] the trailer for the Matrix came up, it was the first time anyone would see the trailer for the Matrix and this wasn't in a pre-internet era but it was pre-mass consumptive internet so it's not like trailers was all over, you know, online, all the time, for everyone, and people were still using AOL most of the time and the trailer started and again, it was a time when people had no idea what it was yet, now I feel like that's impossible, everyone knows every little everything and the trailer started and people were kind of giggling, what's this? and then halfway through there was a deafening silence because people's mouths were like oooooh and it was one of those moments where I always wish that… I wish I could go back and experience that movie again for the first time, because it's one of those films that you're just what-huh-what-the-fuck-what-huh? Did you have any idea when you were making it that that that would be the case?
KR: I didn't know how it would be received by the audience, but the first time that I read the script, just 'cause, you know, the ideas and the setup, the matrix and the ultimate universe and the agents, the concepts and controls, the kind of philosophical underpinning architecture, but… for a nerd who learns how to fly, I thought it was really great! You know and when I met with the Wachowskis and they showed me a picturebook of all the concepts and stuff and then when they said, ‘we'd like you to train for 4 months to learn movie kung-fu,' I was like, ‘yeah! Okay!' So I knew there was something going on, I just didn't know how it would be, so when I saw it it was pretty… it was great, I was like, oh gosh these visionaries have created the vision[…] seeing the bullet time and the production design and all the performances … […]
They'd done a pre-viz so they had this version of bullet time with the camera moves and this gunshot through a barrel of fire so they had an idea of what they were doing. I mean they knew what they were doing – just no one else knew what they were doing – and then we found out and it was like - yeah, the movies! yeah!!!
It's like when I saw Star Wars – I remember the trailer for Star Wars when I was a little kid and I was in this theater, the University theater, a really big screen and I was just like ‘what is that? What is that, that looks cool! So when you're excited about going to a movie and what you're gonna see and all that…
CH: We don't get many of those, I feel in our lives any more – like, because we've seen to many things to have that, and I think that's why so many people are rabid about spoilers!!! Because we're so desperate to have some kind of a special…
CH: Something! Yeah, something that totally changes the way that we see everything
KR: Hmm, I know but then there's filmmakers, right? You got to go to Soderbergh, you gotta go to Fincher, Nolan, you know, Lars von Trier…
CH: What have you not done yet that you want to do? Is the list infinite or do ou have specific plans?
KR: I don't have any… you know, I'm still trying to work on working, work on making certain projects, but um… in terms of genre, or…I'd love to make an impossibly romantic musical.
CH: Do you want to sing, or […]
KR: I always had his vision in my head, like some kind of impossibly romantic… it doesn't have to be now, it might be an older man story, but about love and loss, Paris… something classic. I know it sounds trope-y and genre-y but… I wanna do it, some day, somehow…
CH: That's the best reason to do anything, if it sounds fun to you; you don't wanna do it for "hey here's a pile of money, now go […]"
KR: Nooo… Yes, yes! Yes, yes!
CH: But if something that you really want to do, then you should just do it! It's the best reason.
KR: We're back again. To passion.
CH: And then, listen, if you wanna throw in some slick…
KR: Oh, I also wanna make an even more violent, crazy movie. Called Berserker
KR: Something, like, crazy, like, over the top, just fucking, like… […]
CH: Sold! Here's the money, let's make it Berserker starts as a comedy and then you just shift genre like halfway through, and then it becomes just fucking crazy berserker, man… […] and then the alien at the end lands and something happens. It's loose. I mean… I haven't really worked out…
KR: I did that with the Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey and that kinda went a little… jumped the sharky…
CH: With the Station? People still reference that! C'mon!
KR: I love Station, it's just so amazingly… twisted!
CH: […] I think Bogus Journey was awesome. And I think Station totally rules. […] But you made it! So that makes it hard for you to judge. […] We don't have a lot of time left with you, and there are so many things… want to delve in, but… what can we do in four minutes?
KR: I don't know. Did you see the movie?
CH: I haven't seen it. They sent me the link last night, but I was working until late… we asked for it for days, and then it finally came last night, and then the way the systems work now is that everyone's so protective of the links, so I got the link at about 8 o'clock last night while I was working, and it was like you have to sign in, and then when you sign in you get a text and the text gives you a code and you have to enter the code and sign on, and it's a very intensive process. I've been in New York for 48 hours and I haven't stopped working.
KR: Working. Does your job make work kind of social? […]
CH: Because you moved a lot as a kid, and I moved a lot as a kid, do you feel not settled in any place, for any period of time? Like I always feel like every couple of years like I probably should move…
KR: Yeah there's a bit of gypsy that… We're wounded … But the wound is our gift!
CH: We're supposed to do something good with that gift.
KR: yes!… no ! but I mean if I'm coming off of a job I'm focused so I don't get that wanderlust or that kind of… jittery thing for at least 3 weeks.
CH: That gives you plenty of time to settle for a few weeks […] Do you stay in any one city for any period of time?
KR: Yeah, I live in Los Angeles… been there since '85… but there is that thing… what's next…
CH: I feel you have to be careful what you joke and say because I think it may have been with my company where you joked about making another Speed, was it? Or another Point Break, and then everyone was like "is it really happening?" Like, I think he was fucking kidding!
KR: Yeah. And then it happened!
CH: Did you make it?
KR: No! Someone else did
KR: Well, they did a sequel, but…
CH: Okay, let's kill those rumours now. No more Point Break, no more Speed.
KR: Berserker is when you punch people and it comes through their chest and out their back
CH: And direct a musical number, and then you sing, and then the girl sits in your lap and kisses you.
CH: And I feel like that's the perfect place to end, it's what this podcast felt like, it felt like this emotional lady sitting on our laps and kissing us.
KR: It was a good day.
CH: I hope you have a good day, and I'm super excited to see John Wick although I'm bracing emotionally because of what happens to the dog…
CH: But you need that, so you can totally go crazy and fuck people up as much as possible, I would imagine. You need that counterbalance.
KR: You do, you need to have a reason.
CH: And that's one of a reason. It's good to see you, man.
KR: It's a fun movie.
CH: Thank you so much for being here.
KR: Thank you.