Here's how you punch Keanu Reeves in the face, and then write a song about it
by Carly Mallenbaum
Spoiler alert! The following discusses the end of the new movie "Always Be My Maybe," so come back later if you want to see it first.
You may know Randall Park as the patriarch on “Fresh Off the Boat” or Kim Jong Un in “The Interview.”
Well, the actor, writer and comedian is also the guy who punched Keanu Reeves in the face and sang about it.
At least that’s what his character Marcus does in the new rom-com “Always Be My Maybe” (streaming Friday on Netflix, in select theaters now). Park stars and wrote the screenplay with co-star Ali Wong and Michael Golamco.
"We got him and it was so wild," says Park about cameo star Reeves. "And I got to punch him onscreen and he was remarkable."
In the movie, childhood besties Marcus, a struggling musician and Sasha (Wong), a celebrity chef, are very clearly meant to be together. But there are a few things in the way, including Sasha’s pretentious new boyfriend Keanu Reeves, played by a very game Keanu Reeves.
Marcus and Sasha try to double date with Keanu and Marcus' girlfriend Jenny (Vivian Bang), but things get out of hand during a nightcap at Keanu's hotel room. They play a truth-or-dare-style game where Keanu asks and answers the question "If you had to choose one person in this room to die, who would it be?" He says Marcus. Marcus says he'd kill Keanu. To which Keanu says, "I dare Marcus to strike me."
So Marcus does. And then Keanu puts Marcus into a choke hold, until Sasha intervenes to save her friend.
Sasha and Marcus take an Uber home in a huff (Jenny stays with Keanu), but on the drive back, they realize they've both been lying about their feelings for one another. Ultimately, they get together and Marcus is inspired to write a song about how, as the lyrics go, “I’m telling you, for real, I punched Neo. He could duck bullets but he couldn’t duck me.”
The tune, which Park sings in the movie and wrote with the help of Bay Area producer Dan the Automator (who is also behind the music for the new movie "Booksmart"), manages to simultaneously be hilarious and sound just like a catchy '90s-era hip-hop track.
“When I was out of college, I was in a band (called Ill Again),” says Park. “Ali would go to shows. So it kind of made sense to have Marcus be in a band like the one I used to be in.”
In the movie, Marcus' band Hello Peril (a play on "Yellow Peril," a term for the fear of an Asian onslaught) is predominantly Asian American, and so is the rest of the cast.
That includes cameo star Reeves, who is part Asian.
“It was really important to us, especially to Ali, that she have a love interest be Asian American,” says Park. (Earlier in the movie, Sasha also dates a character played by Daniel Dae Kim.) “She wanted that particular character to be Asian American and also iconic and also super good-looking, super-talented and just adored. This person had to be Marcus’ worst nightmare,” says Park.
Reeves seemed the obvious casting choice.
“We wrote him in the script. At the time, we were like, ‘What are the chances of us getting Keanu?’ " says Park. "None of us had a relationship with him, but he was a fan of Ali's (comedy) special 'Baby Cobra.' "
Reeves filmed his part over four days during a break from shooting his action sequel “John Wick 3."
He was clearly in "stunt mode," as Park describes it. “He just knows how to make it look real. All I had to do was swing my arm."
Reeves was clearly focused on the action scenes – he even grabs a vase and purposely smashes it into his head – but also on making the dialogue funnier.
“He improvised so much, and a lot of it made it into the movie,” says Park. For example, there’s a line that came from Reeves where the actor reveals that the glasses he's wearing don't even have lenses. “My eyes are perfect. These are for a part,” Reeves riffed.
Park also credits Reeves with having the brilliant idea that Marcus’ final song (one of three his band plays in the movie) not only be about punching “The Matrix” star in the face but also serve as a love song to Sasha. Lyrics include: “I hit him in the eye then I became her guy.”
“To me, that’s the best thing about this song: Keanu is this incredible icon that I punched, and is the reason I ended up with Sasha.”