Keanu Reeves on acting: 'It's a hustle'
Keanu Reeves talks about his latest film, 'John Wick: Chapter 2' ... and about shoes.
by Bill Goodykoontz
Keanu Reeves is not Ted Logan.
That would be Ted from “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” the 1989 film that in some ways gave audiences the impression that the real Reeves is a dope. Action films like "The Matrix" and "Speed" showed audiences another side of the actor. But during a recent phone call, he proved to be a thoughtful, if slightly goofy, guy. He spoke about “John Wick: Chapter 2,” his new film. He had plenty to say — none of it “whoa” — about the movie, acting and … shoes.
Question: I was in a bad mood when I went to see the new film, and it was kind of cathartic. Is that the idea?
Answer: Absolutely. I think there is a spirit of fun in John Wick. I think that the style of it, the humor in the film, if you like it it’s got a nice sensibility to it. I think the film has actually a warm heart. And the characters are fun, there are new characters. You know, Laurence Fishburne, Common is playing an assassin, Ruby Rose (is playing) an assassin. The world opens up. Hopefully you enjoy the action but there is also humor to it. I think it’s just a good kind of sit down and enjoy the movie.
Q: In that world there’s honor among thieves.
A: There is. They’re kind of in their own world. Those rules I think are cool. “We’re still a little civilized. I gotta do what I do and you gotta do what you do. We’ve all gotta know that.”
Q: What is it like to play a character who is just the baddest guy around?
A: There is a kind of expectation, you know? They’re calling John Wick the bogeyman, Baba Yaga. For me, there’s kind of like John Wick fighting for his life, his personal life, and the director, Chad (Stahelski), and in the first one Chad and David Leitch, they always wanted to put John Wick behind the 8-ball. He’s suffering. He’s getting beat up. He’s getting hit by a car. He’s getting thrown through a window. Action has consequence, and for me it’s just that the guy has a strong will. I’d think, how do you play a guy who’s supposed to that potent, that effective, this kind of mythical assassin. I always took the angle that he’s really good at his job and it all comes down to his will. You beat him up and you knock him down but he kind of brushes himself off and he gets back up. So he’s vulnerable (laughs).
Q: From an acting standpoint, it’s universally accepted that he’s feared, but he doesn’t give off that kind of vibe.
A: Yeah, there isn’t this, “I’m all that.” Though he has a nice suit. He gets dressed up. He puts his armor on, he puts that suit on.
Q: I wondered about this — he’s like James Bond in that he does this incredibly athletic stuff in dress shoes. They must really fit well.
A: That’s right. The equipment is important. So the shoe has to fit. They probably have a good rubber sole on there. There’s not a lot of support. But there is a lot of flexibility, and you have a lot of contact with the ground.
Q: How hard is it to choreograph the fight scenes?
A: Specifically to “John Wick” and “John Wick 2,” there’s kind of like John Wick school, and John Wick training. For “John Wick 2” I did about three months’ training, on and off. You do all the car stuff. Basically at the beginning you’re just learning some basic skills. Here’s five judo throws. And here’s some jiu jitsu moves. Just getting a groundwork. The director, Chad, just wants me to have a toolbox, like they know I can do these throws, they know I can do these transitions, these reloads with the weapons, these techniques. And they kind of build the choreography. I work with them on that. I have some skills and we have some ingredients and then we start cooking dishes. It’s really a pleasure. I really enjoy action, and as a performer I want to do as much as I possibly can so that the audience can be more connected to the character and hopefully have a good experience watching the story, and getting connected to the story.
Q: This seems like one of those roles that’s like the games you play when you’re a kid.
A: Playing cops and robbers, man!
Q: You get to be the best shot, the coolest guy.
A: Well, I don’t know if I’m the coolest guy, but it’s really fun physically. I like pretending. I’m an actor. It’s fun to do the action sequences. … And it’s also the performers that you’re working with. It’s kind of a dance. You have to have cooperation. You have to sell it as being real, but at the same time it’s choreographed to make it beautiful, in a way. But big fights are fun.
Q: Do you try to do different things in your career, different types of roles?
A: The answer is basically yes. But is it necessarily going to be a chance to work like that? No. But definitely trying to keep the variety and tell different kinds of stories. But in regards to John Wick I love the character. I love playing him. I love the world, and I hope I get a chance to do again. But it’s up to the audience.
Q: People think successful actors just sit back and let the scripts roll in, and you pick the best.
A: It’s a hustle. We’re all beggars, right, because I can’t do it alone. It’s a producer, a director, it’s casting. You get some offers, and if the film isn’t for you, then you can say thank you. If it is for you then you still sometimes have to find the money to produce it. The movie still has to get made. You definitely have to do things. You have to work at it. … It’s called show business for a reason.