In Conversation with...Keanu Reeves at the TIFF CTT
The Toronto International Film Festival's (TIFF) Canada Top Ten is a festival of all things Canadian. The feature line-up is wholly impressive and includes many of TIFF 2014's acclaimed hits. There are also short films and student films to choose from. As babysitters are scarce, we opted for 1 of the 2 In Conversation With...Keanu Reeves! The other amazing option was Sandra Oh of Grey's Anatomy fame.
The set up was simple - Tiff Bell Lightbox Cinema 1 with the plushy red seats, Cameron Bailey (TIFF artistic director) on stage with Keanu Reeves and a screen showing highlights including the on-foot chase of Point Break, the lobby scene from The Matrix and the interview fight of Man of Tai Chi (which we caught at TIFF 2013).
And it was fantastic. Keanu is a super animated and sincere interviewee and I think some of his answers even shocked Cameron a touch. Here are just a few of my favourite memories of the 2 hour program.
As anyone who has seen Speed, Keanu is a very physical actor. On stage, he was stomping his feet and gesturing with his hands and acting out whole scenes, darting here and crouching there. So awesome. I'm not sure the guy who was manning the video camera was prepared for all of that.
It took 4 months to train for The Matrix. When asked if he was honest when he said "I know kung fu" during the film, Keanu corrected Cameron by saying, "I know movie kung-fu."
Movies were a huge part of his life growing up in Toronto. He waxed nostalgic about cinemas in Roncevalles and Bloor Street. I forget which one had the crappy popcorn. Streetcars are still annoying too.
His childhood in Toronto was largely devoid of racism, which he is thankful for. Sure, he said, there were fights in school but they were because "we didn't like each other," not because of how someone looked or dressed.
He took acting classes starting at an early age. One of his teachers told him "to be specific" when he was miming sweeping. Sweeping!!
Keanu plays goalie in hockey. Cameron called him a "wall" and Keanu said that, depending on the day, it was more like a "sieve."
The infamous lobby scene in The Matrix, with Neo and Trinity marching into the buildling and blowing it to smithereens, took 6 hours to set up and it was done perfectly without CGI. All that stuff flying around in their faces was real. Keanu did the second cartwheel himself. He and Carrie-Ann decided to do the look just before they separate and all hell breaks loose.
The actor who plays Tiger Chen in Man of Tai Chi worked with Keanu on the set of The Matrix trilogies. The movie was filmed in China and Hong Kong and features English, Cantonese and Mandarin. I have watched a lot of action movies in my time and honestly, some of the best fight scenes are all contained in this 1 movie. Watch it. It's on Netflix.
He produced and starred in Side by Side in 2012, a documentary about the creation of film, both photochemical and digital. Directors from Scorsese to Cameron debate the merits of both and how the process of creating a movie is changing by the minute. Cameron highly recommends everyone watch this one if you haven't already.
Thanks to rapid improvements in technology, you can take a picture of Keanu and with a press of a button, see what he looks like when "fat" or as a "zombie."
People are looking into the use of virtual reality for film...as I write. The future is now.
Many of his movies feature underlying themes of destiny, fate, choice and of course, saving the world. Keanu loves working on films that give the audience a little something to chew on after they have left the theater. He remembers being wowed by Star Wars when it first came out.
He is tall. Cameron Bailey is tall and Keanu is taller. Both men look great in black suits.
He has played lots and lots of characters called John or Johnny. Can you name them all?
An audience member asked him for advice to young actors, which is a huge question to answer in a minute, but the word that Keanu kept repeating was "perseverance."
Another audience member asked if she could culture his microbiome using his belly button for the ultimate purpose of growing "Keanu cheese" and eating it with him. Though she reassured him that it would be "tasty," he declined politely though he was definitely amused.
The last audience member flew all the way from Japan to see him and she presented him with a gift from the front row. He gave her a hug. Cue "Whoa."