On His Dedication to His Craft

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If he feels he's bad in a scene, he'll go home pissed off, come back to set pissed off, and then he'll try to focus.

Shia LaBeouf (costar, Constantine), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005

You care about Keanu. He's a big-hearted guy. There were a lot of passages in German [in Philip K Dick's futuristic novel on which A Scanner Darkly is based], and he had them all translated. He was always digging deeper, unlike Robert [Downey Jr] who was more instinctual. Keanu's the kind of guy who would call you up about it at two in the morning

Richard Linklater (director, A Scanner Darkly), "Reeves just gets better" – The West Australian (Aus) – 13th Nov 2006

He's a brave, resilient actor who takes the knocks and the plaudits with equal grace. As a result, he just gets better and better.

Kenneth Branagh (director and costar, Much Ado About Nothing), "The Wild One. Keanu Reeves on Sex, Hollywood and Life on the Run." – Vanity Fair (US) – Aug 1995

This was so much fun to work on. Keanu and I would look each other in the eye. 'Is he Fred, is he Bob? Is he totally gone?' Keanu has two speeds. And once he’s on, that's all he does. I love that intensity. Just always digging, digging, thinking, thinking, never satisfied.

Richard Linklater

You know, there's not one bit of movie-star ego in that guy…He's incredibly focused and incredibly disciplined, and I mean unlike anyone I've ever met.

Carrie-Anne Moss (costar, Matrix trilogy), "Zen and the Art of Keanu Reeves" – Vanity Fair (US) – Feb 2001

Look you’ve got to hand it to Keanu. He is a fanatic. He approached it like an athlete: He just trained and trained. I think it was his perfectionism that made the other actors do the same thing. When they saw him do it, they all did it.

Joel Silver (producer, Matrix trilogy), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005

I like working with young actors, and he's become one of the best. Keanu is hardworking, highly professional and always prepared.

Gene Hackman (costar, The Replacements), "The Replacements – Production Notes" – 2000

I was always wondering what is it about him that makes all the directors want to work with him, makes the industry go after him. You and I know that it's a package. Knowing that, I realized that he's not only professional, he's so easy to work with, very well-mannered, polite, patient. It was incredible working with this young man

Shohreh Aghdashloo (costar, The Lake House), "Shohreh Aghdasshloo on Il Mare, 24 and Actors" (Off-site link) – 24th Mar 2005

Keanu brought complete and utter 100-per-cent dedication, the likes of which we've never seen. He made a maniacal effort. This guy trained for months and months. He put himself through insane torture. By the end of the movie he had physically lost four inches off his waist. I can't stop singing his praises.

Lana Wachowski (writer and director, Matrix trilogy) – "What is the Matrix?" – Guardian (UK) – 4th Jun 1999

He obviously has massive passion about his work, and cares almost to a fault. He's a little hard on himself when he works. But that's good because that continues the seeking spirit – because he wants the most out of the moment and out of himself. And that lack of tolerance for anything less than the best is what's going to make him one of the best actors in the world.

Patrick Swayze (costar, Point Break)

He's really a dedicated craftsman who's most relentless on himself until he gets it right. He has a severe intensity. After a take, he'd step outside and you'd hear him just cursing himself. Just shouting, loudly, at himself.

Sam Raimi (director, The Gift), "Zen and the Art of Keanu Reeves" – Vanity Fair (US) – Feb 2001

Everytime he’ll do a take like, “Oh that sucks, let’s just go again.” He’s talking to himself, but it sounds like he’s yelling at somebody.

Richard Linklater (director, A Scanner Darkly), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005

Keanu is shy, and he is very focused.

Charlize Theron (costar, The Devil's Advocate and Sweet November), "Keanu Reeves: A Regular Guy" – Women.com (US) – 16th Feb 2005

Do I really know Keanu after working with him? No. I know things about him: he's hardworking, he's generous, he's a sweet, sweet guy. But it's all just sort of on the surface

Francis Lawrence (director, Constantine), "The Man Who Isn't There" – TIME (US) – 14th Feb 2005

We sat around discussing the philosophy and the metaphors of the script. We knew it would take a maniacal commitment from someone, and Keanu was our maniac.

Lana and Andy Wachowski (writers and directors, Matrix trilogy), "Reality Bytes" – Entertainment Weekly (US) – 9th Apr 1999

Keanu is exceptional. He is a super perfectionist, always dissatisfied with his own performance, even when I think it's very good! I tried my best to match the level that he was looking for.

Yuen Wo Ping (fight choreographer, Matrix trilogy), "End of the Revolutions" – Starburst (UK) – Dec 2003

The guy never stops. He kept pushing me, like, “This other Philip K. Dick book, here’s what he says about this—I got the German bits translated.” I think he sits in his hotel room and works.

Richard Linklater, "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005

Keanu beats himself up on set. He has very high expectations of what the standard of work should be, but he never pressures me or the other actors. He's a great listener – I really love working with him.

Hugo Weaving (costar, Matrix trilogy), "End of the Revolutions" – Starburst (UK) – Dec 2003

One of the things that people are not banking on here is Keanu's integrity—on two fronts. One, he made a promise and he'll honor that promise. And secondly, Keanu is not and never has been money motivated. So the issue is not other money or movies. He wants to do Hamlet. And he follows his heart. The money will be there later—if he wants it.

Lewis Baumander (director, Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet), "Director says Hamlet promise will drive Keanu to Winnipeg" – Toronto Star (Ca) – 22nd Oct 1994

The thing that impressed me on the first day was how much work he had done. This was not going to be a star turn or a walk in the park. And what I realized, too, was how his principles are etched in stone. He carries a lot of weight extremely well.

Stephen Russell (costar, Hamlet), "The Wild One. Keanu Reeves on Sex, Hollywood and Life on the Run." – Vanity Fair (US) – 12th Jan 1995

He was so consumed to that role. He talked about it night and day, he worked on it consistently, he was always thinking about it, he would call Lewis in the middle of the night.

Shael Risman on Keanu's commitment to Romeo & Juliet, "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston

Keanu is very hard on himself. Halfway through a take he will very often swear violently and stomp off into a corner. At first it's very disconcerting, but what you gradually realize is that he's only angry with himself and has no other way of expressing it. One of the things I learned to do with Keanu was, in a sense, protect him from his own anger.

Jon Amiel

If I sent him a book that had something to do with the film, he would read it right away. Keanu would read City of Night and then he would read three other books by John Rechy. And River would, like, not look at the first page of the book.

Gus Van Sant (director, My Own Private Idaho and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

He arrived having learned it from beginning to end, every single solitary word that Hamlet has to speak and most of the other characters' words as well. It amazed me how easily he could pull out quotes from other characters in the play to reference back to his own. His knowledge was encyclopaedic, not only of Hamlet but also of other Shakespeare plays and of the revenge tragedies which were the bases for Hamlet.

Richard Hurst (Keanu's line coach for Hamlet), "Keanu" by Sheila Johnston

I've also seen a truthfulness in Keanu's work. When I met him, he was someone I admired and liked his sort of curiosity and enthusiasm. He's a very enthusiastic actor; he wants to learn. And not necessarily that he was going to come and learn from me, but he was certainly going to learn by doing some Shakespeare, and having to be in a situation where there was absolute discipline about the words he was speaking. He couldn't paraphrase or ad lib. You have to serve the text. You have to be right there for the words. I was very impressed by the way he took to it – the eagerness, the zeal with which he worked on his voice. He's a tremendously passionate creature, and he cares a great deal. He will do two things [while working]: One, he'll go along with you. For instance, he would go with my way of working – he rehearsed the way I wanted to rehearse, he learned it in advance the way I wanted him to do so. He would also fight for his own choices of the way he wanted to do it. I remember him wanting an extra take here or there. I was impressed that he was as disciplined as he was. You want both things, really: you want to be strong enough to know your own mind and say, 'Listen, I think it should be this way.' But you also want to be open enough to use and cast off of whatever is being offered to you from the director and the other actors. I was very admiring of the way he managed to do that. I don't want to sound too cozy about the whole thing, but I was genuinely impressed by what I thought was a very grown-up individual who was utterly serious about his chosen profession.

Kenneth Branagh, "Much Ado About Keanu" – Detour Magazine (US) – May 1993

He's someone who has a profound innocence and for me, that was essential. At the beginning of the film, Siddhartha has never heard the word "suffer", the word "old age". He's a being of extreme simplicity, almost to the point of idiocy, in the noble sense of the word. Now, Keanu possesses that kind of innocence. Regardless of whatever his life may have been like, he has in spite of all, maintained a profound innocence. A few months later, I again saw Keanu in Tuscany where he was filming Much Ado About Nothing. He was reading a lot on Buddha and had learned how to meditate. Keanu joined us on the set 3 weeks before filming was scheduled to begin, I was planning on using a double for the scenes where you see Buddha's ascetic body. He said to me "No, I'll do it myself." And he began a draconian diet. Making do with one orange a day. Later on, when we were filming the American segment of the movie in Seattle, I learned the US critics were very hard on Keanu for Dracula. I think people are going to be very surprised by his ability to transform himself.

Bernardo Bertolucci (director, Little Buddha), "Keanu Reeves, State of Grace" – Studio (Fr) – Dec 1993

Even back then, he was incredibly professional. He was always on time. We always knew where to find him. On the other hand, his trailer always looked like a bomb had gone off.

Keanu's colleague on Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure who requested anonymity, "Keanu Reeves: the US interview" – US Magazine (US) – Mar 1995

There was never the fear of God put into me that maybe Keanu would bolt or some movie that could pay his full price would come along or with so many new offers maybe my film would have to wait in line behind one or two others. And I think the reason was that he is a person of his word. He was doing the movie because he wanted to play the part, because he wanted to work with Vincent D'Onofrio, because he trusted me as a director. He's very honourable that way. It never seems to be about the money for him.

Steven Baigelman (director, Feeling Minnesota)

I'd work with him again in a second because we had a terrific time.

Lawrence Kasdan (director, I Love You to Death)

He has always taken the job seriously. He prepares incredibly. But an actor has to let things happen, and it was a constant battle. You want to let him get to a point where things happen that are a surprise. I think the camera sees that, and it's some of the most exciting stuff. But to an actor, that's uncharted territory. With Keanu, a lot of the time he'd almost get there, then stop himself.

Taylor Hackford, (director, Devil's Advocate), "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997

A lot of actors don't want to do rehearsal or even utter the words, but Keanu loves it. And there's not one line of the script that he hasn't really thought out.

Chris Evans (costar, Street Kings), "Keanu's got a gun" – National Post (Ca) – 4th Apr 2008

It wasn't any prima donna bullshit, like 'Look, I can only work from nine to five. After five o'clock, I'm done, I gotta get home, I gotta do this, do that.' Keanu was the first one there, the last one to leave. So, I just found him inspiring.

Jada Pinkett Smith

He was initially resistant to [Speed], though always professional. It was an action movie, he was an actor – he didn't see the challenge.

Jorge Saralegui (executive vice-president of production, 20th Century Fox) "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997

He has never worked for the cash. He says, 'I want to do a good movie, and whatever form that comes in, it comes in.

Erwin Stoff (manager), "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997

Keanu's fiercely devoted to his career and to the concept of having a career, and I think it is one of the things that is misunderstood about him.

Erwin Stoff, "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997

He's the last one to give himself a break, to know when the work is good. There were days when that kind of thing would piss me off. He wears his pain on his sleeve, no question. Nobody stands in Keanu's way more than Keanu.

Steven Baigelman (writer and director, Feeling Minnesota), "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997

The first thing I noticed about Keanu is how much work he'd already done in preparing for Hamlet. It was apparent to me that this was not going to be a star trip, this was not going to be a romp in the park, that he is a very serious young man and he was not here to fool around. When you're trying to get a part right, it can be quite frustrating. You can vent it by having a fit, blocking out other people or by accepting your vulnerability in the situation and laughing at it. Keanu, for the most part, laughs at it.

Russell (costar, Hamlet), "The play's the thing" – Toronto Sun (Ca) – 11th Jan 1995

Keanu is an intense actor. He works hard on his part and is devoted to it and I admired him for that.

Al Pacino (costar, The Devil's Advocate), "Keanu worshipped Al" – TV Week (Aus) – 3rd Jan 1998

Keanu was amazing. He put his life and career on hold for four months to learn to do the fights in Matrix. Even after intense training and with all the precautions, the actors would hurt their wrists and ribs on a daily basis. Keanu never complained or played the prima donna.

Joel Silver, "Keanu's Edge" – RTE Guide (Irl) – 12th Nov 1999

Look, he is a great talent and a great guy who has worked very hard. He has really gone beyond himself in this third picture. He is a very smart guy, he is very private, he doesn't really like to give a lot. But he is a great friend and a great person.

Joel Silver, "Keanu's hard drive" – Daily Bulletin (US) – 2nd Nov 2003

Keanu is a very disciplined guy. He brought a tremendous amount of creativity to the script process and we spent a long time going over it – line by line, page by page – trying to scrutinise it for logic and also trying to rid the script of anything that was intuitively suspect.

Scott Derrickson (director, The Day the Earth Stood Still), "Keanu Barada Nikto" – Empire (UK) – Dec 2008

Keanu isn't about fame at all. His choices are always about what strikes his heart.

Carrie-Anne Moss (costar, Matrix trilogy) – "Silent Revolution" – The Courier-Mail (Aus) – 1st Nov 2003

I would say it's been an exciting experience because obviously, he's done so much and on this picture working with him first hand, it's a nice surprise because I realize he's a very talented man. He's so anal about his work. The guy has received some criticism good and bad, but working with him I have a great affinity for the kind of generosity that he has for the work. He is definitely a simple man and maybe a little misunderstood. He's just reclusive and very private.

Djimon Hounsou (costar, Constantine), "Constantine On Screen...." – Starburst (UK) – Mar 2005

Keanu is a very underrated actor. From one side, he's very childlike and innocent like Cary Grant, and from the other side, he's so strong. Most important are his eyes: You can read emotion in them. There's nothing going on behind the eyes of most action heroes.

Jan de Bont (director, Speed), "Keanu Reeves: Quiet Power" – Greensboro News & Record (US), 18th Jun 1994

He doesn't want to be famous. I think he loves acting, and the life of a filmmaker. I never heard him complain.

Jon Favreau (costar, The Replacements), "He worked, worked out for this film" – The Baltimore Sun – August 7, 2000

There is no one who is harder on themselves than Keanu. There were times when I would cover my ears and eyes, worried that he was pushing himself too far, but I completely commend and applaud him for going there. He really took his fighting and physicality to a level that I don’t think any American actor has ever done.

Carrie-Anne Moss, "The Matrix Revolutions: Production Notes" – Warner Bros. (US) – 2003

He's incredibly passionate about this piece, so he has worked very hard to do what the boys expected of him. I have never seen somebody train and be as committed to a character. He almost had a religious existence in Australia. He was never really out, he was never running around. He would just train every day when he wasn't shooting. He would be quiet and to himself. He loved Neo and he wanted the audience to as well.

Joel Silver, "Reeves reboots" – The StarPhoenix (Ca) – May 14, 2003

Keanu's fights are just incredible to me. I wish you could all see the extent of his commitment, because you would respect him even more. He is unlike any actor I have ever met; any person I've met, actually. Physically, he just takes himself to the edge. He is willing to do whatever it takes to learn. He is so hardcore with himself and so hard on himself. It took that kind of commitment. He's the One, ya know? I don't think there's any other actor that could have played that character. I know it. And without any kind of movie star bullshit. He's not in it to be hot and strong and aren't-I-cool? There's just none of that. He's there because he loves this character and he loves the brothers and he loves the movie and he really wants to be in them.

Carrie-Anne Moss, Carrie-Anne Moss interview – CHUD (US) – May 6, 2003

He is an actor that is great to work with. He is a professional. Highly devoted to the role, to the character he is playing.

Francis Lawrence, "‘Keanu Reeves hired me’ – ‘Constantine’ director" – Manila Bulletin (Philippines), February 19, 2005

I was very impressed with Keanu Reeves' work attitude. He only trained for half a year to prepare for his part in the Matrix sequels. From watching the movies, you can see that he has attained such skills that are equal to many martial artist who have been training since childhood. You can imagine if Keanu had started his martial arts training when he was a child, his abilities would surpass many of the martial artists of today.

Collin Chou (costar, Matrix sequels). – KungFuCinema.com – 2004

When I signed on to work with Keanu it was clear I was getting not an actor but a collaborator. Keanu was there for script development and preproduction. He’s got this enthusiasm for the entire process that really brings you back to the joy and naïveté all filmmakers had when they were kids making movies in their backyard.

Carl Rinsch (director, 47 Ronin), Keanu’s Excellent Directing Adventure – The New York Times (US) – October 18, 2013

What I really like about Keanu is that he’s a normal, laidback guy,” he says. “He’s incredibly bright and such a hard worker. We spent as much time developing the other characters as we did his. He recognizes that the strength of the storyline lies in even the smallest details.

Derek Kolstad (writer, John Wick), John Wick Production Notes – October 2014

Keanu Reeves in the “Matrix” movies, the guy never stopped moving. He went from shooting something to rehearsing something, to working out, to learning lines. He’d go to sleep, then come back and do the whole thing all over again. It was a 24-hour a day job for 2 ½ years. There was hardly a day off.

Harold Perrineau (co-star, The Matrix), "Interview With 'Seeking Justice' Star Harold Perrineau" (off-site link) – Justine Ashley Costanza – Starpulse – February 28, 2012