On His Intelligence
"Half-sentences, half-utterances searching in the past
grappling, groping, never last.
In my body, in my heart, and in my mind,
but not on my tongue!
And so my song remains unsung."
– Keanu spontaneously coming up with poetry in an interview
I love that the fallacy that Keanu is a moron is out there in the world.
– Joel Silver (producer, Matrix trilogy), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005
I don't see any goofball in Keanu. Nothing. He's not goofy, but he's very funny. He's very humorous, he's very intelligent, he's very gentle, he's very sweet, and he's just one of the most generous people that I know.
– Jada Pinkett Smith (costar, Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions) "Pondering the Mysterious Keanu Reeves" – Associated Press (US) – 5th Nov 2003
Keanu is unlike anyone I have ever met; he's a deeply sensitive, keenly intelligent guy. He completely dedicated his life to Neo during the making of these films, and it's been a real joy to walk through this whole amazing experience with him.
– Laurence Fishburne (costar, Matrix trilogy), "End of the Revolutions" – Starburst (UK) – Dec 2003
Maybe he still had some 'Whoas' and 'Dudes' left in him, but he's not Ted. He's a bourgeois, shy intellectual from Toronto. He couldn't be further removed from the So-Cal rat.
– Alex Winter (costar, Bill & Ted films), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005
I love him. He's a bright lad, much brighter than people think.
– Kenneth Branagh (director and costar, Much Ado About Nothing)
I just thought he was that kid from [Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure], but he turned out to be this very intelligent young man, very dedicated to the craft of acting....And then he slipped into the part, in little bits and pieces, and suddenly I saw, in that moment, that Donnie Barksdale could be this sexual animal also. And that became a very new and exciting idea to me.
– Sam Raimi (director, The Gift), "Sam Raimi unwraps a decidedly different ghost story in The Gift" – Sci Fi Weekly (US) – 27th Dec 2000
Keanu *is* eccentric. I've never met anyone like him, ever. Maybe he's one of those people who should never have been put in the position that he's been put in. He's very, very quiet. He's not a sound bite celebrity, he just doesn't have anything to say to the public. He's highly intelligent, very well read and he always has an interesting take on things. It's not often you get to be in the company of someone like that. He has such an unusual energy.
– Cameron Diaz (costar, Feeling Minnesota)
He's cleverer than some of the dons at Cambridge.
– Rachel Weisz (costar, Constantine and Chain Reaction)
Keanu was so funny, so smart, so generous, and he introduced me to some of the greatest books I've ever read. He changed the way I think about men in a big way. The men on this film were the first guys I've had as really good friends.
– Carrie-Anne Moss (costar, Matrix trilogy)
He's smart, too. And doesn't feel the need to let you know it.
– Sandra Bullock (costar, Speed and The Lake House)
Keany, he's a sweetheart. People don't understand him, he's on this earth, he's a together guy, he'll rule the world- very smart, indigenous and very productive.
– River Phoenix (costar, My Own Private Idaho and I Love You to Death)
He gets a bad rap. He is intensely private. But he played a couple of movies where he played kind of slow [witted] guys. And he got tarred with that brush. That's like assuming that there is a guy in Star Wars called Yoda who is a genius. But Yoda is made of rubber.
– Joel Silver, "Making The Matrix" – The Age (Aus) – 8th Nov 2003
In the beginning of his career, he kind of gave off this thing of being slightly goofy. I think the opposite is true. He's always reading an interesting book, and he seemed to be interested in other things other than just being an actor.
– Glenn Close (costar, Dangerous Liaisons), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005
He's this autodidact, student for life kind of guy. That's my favorite kind.
– Richard Linklater (director, A Scanner Darkly), "Finding Neo" – Premiere (US) – Feb 2005
I learned my lesson the first time we played a game of chess. We were living in Sydney [filming ''The Matrix''], and I thought we'd have a little game and I'd see how bright the motherfucker was. Beat my ass in 15 minutes and left.
– Laurence Fishburne
Reeves doesn't sound stupid -- far from it. He just doesn't sound human, either. Rather, he sounds like he has a deep affection for humans and has made a purely anthropological effort to integrate himself into their charming little society.
– Scott Brown (journalist), "The Man Who Would Be Keanu" – Entertainment Weekly (US) – 7th Nov 2003
He was very good to work with. He understood what he didn't know and his sincerity and desire to learn was enormous. We'd go to lunch a lot and walk around and talk for hours. About girls. Movies. Acting, theatre. Clothes to some extent. He was really smart and interested in discussing all kinds of things, philosophers or artists or whatever.
– Brad Fraser (director, Wolfboy)
Keanu is extremely well-read, but he doesn't think he is. And he's very intelligent. But he's sort of a punk rocker, in a way, and has this facade.
– Gus Van Sant (director, My Own Private Idaho and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues), "Keanu Reeves: the US interview" – US Magazine (US) – Mar 1995
He plays parts and sometimes guys who were not that quick. I mean Yoda is a very smart character, but he's made of rubber. That piece of rubber isn't smart. It's a performance. Sometimes a lot of journalists feel that Keanu is the people that he plays. It's really not fair to say that. I don't think ('Sopranos' star) James Gandolfini is in the Mafia. But people think that Keanu is not bright. He is very bright. He's a very good actor. Keanu's very well read, he's very conscious of the world, politics, the economy.
– Joel Silver, "Pondering the Mysterious Keanu Reeves" – Associated Press (US) – 5th Nov 2003
He's a really giving person. He'd give you his last shoe. Really smart, too. He's incredibly booksmart. He's a really interesting person who doesn't talk a lot of shit.
– Rob Mailhouse (Dogstar drummer), "The Quiet Man" – Rolling Stone (US) – 31st Aug 2000
I can't remember who said the quote, I think it was Stephen King, but 'What fans think actors are is fiction.' Any perception of an actor is fiction unless you know that individual personally. And I think we maybe all have an idea who Keanu is and what kind of a guy he is. But when I met him in person, he was very thoughtful, very intelligent -- a very kind warm, charismatic guy. And he's also a little bit shy. So what I realized is what he's been doing over the course of his career has been very shrewd. It's a very shrewd persona. Is it who he is? Absolutely not. So I thought, 'He's a smart guy. He knows what he's doing, so let's see if I can push him down a different road.' And he was a joy to work with. The guy has an astounding work ethic
– David Ayer (director, Street Kings), "Keanu Reeves on 'Street Kings'" – Sun Media (Ca) – 6th Apr 2008
Really polite, really sweet, with this strong, native intelligence.
– Robert Mark Kamen (screenwriter, A Walk in the Clouds), "Why Keanu Reeves Won't Sell His Soul" – Premiere (US) – Sep 1997
He's one of the most intelligent people I've ever met. He's extraordinary. People think he's forever on a motorbike with all these teenage girls in pursuit, but he's nothing like that. He's very profound. He's also brilliant at his craft.
– Rachel Weisz, "People go crazy over Keanu... and I can see why" – Woman's Own (UK) – Nov 1996
He's such a private person – very intelligent, very private – that sometimes he becomes almost inarticulate. He has no bullshit about him. If that's Zen-like, I don't know. He has a calm exterior and a turbulent interior. He's learned through his own experience, and his own sense of what he's about, to curb and channel his energies in the direction of the performance. He's quiet. Sometimes playful. More often, intense.
– Pat O'Connor (director, Sweet November), "Zen and the Art of Keanu Reeves" – Vanity Fair (US) – Feb 2001
Shael Risman, who attended drama school in Toronto with Reeves in the mid-80s, recalls 'the seriousness with which he took his art, He's very, very smart. He just didn't talk a lot.'
– Jennifer Tung (journalist), "The Real Keanu" – Us Weekly (US) – 2nd Jun 2003
He plays stupid but he's a bright boy.
– Laurence Fishburne, "'I'm smart, I can't play dumb'" (Off-site link) – Guardian Unlimited (UK) – February 28, 2009
He takes his work very seriously, and he's smart. ... He's very prepared, and he works really hard.
– Ron Sanders (film editor, Johnny Mnemonic) – "Reeves "Might Pull it Off", Film Editor Says of Role" – Winnipeg Free Press (Ca) – 24th Dec 1994
Keanu is a very disciplined guy. He's very well-read, very intelligent and very articulate in the way he expresses his concerns for scenes in terms of what he thinks a scene may be lacking. He's a movie star because there is something compulsively watchable about him and there are certain kinds of roles that he's particularly right for, and good at. And this is most definitely one of them. He has a quality few actors have – he can engage the camera, and therefore the audience, non-verbally, with a certain kind of minimalism. He draws the audience in and makes them want to understand what's going on inside him, even though he's not giving a lot of it away. It's one of those things that actors like him don't always get enough credit for because there are not a lot of actors who can do it.
– Scott Derrickson (director, The Day the Earth Stood Still), "Back To The Future" – FiRST (Singapore) – Dec 2008
He is the opposite of dumb. That is a word that has no application to him. This is not just a director trying to defend his actor and say, 'No, really, he's not dumb.' He's fiercely intelligent.
– Scott Derrickson, "Keanu Reeves Wants to Read You Some Poetry – Details (US) – 27th Oct 2008
it's been really quite a journey just working with him and getting to know him and coming to know each other and becoming friends. He is so dear to me and he's funny as hell. His sense of humor is great and it's one of the clearest signs of intelligence. He's one of the funniest people I know and one of the brightest people I know.
– Laurence Fishburne, "(Title Unknown) – Tribute (Ca) – 20th Nov 2003
[Keanu is] deceptively smart. And I don't mean that because people think of him as a Valley goof but because he's fairly quiet.
– Alex Winter, "Meet Keanu, Anew" – People (US) – May 23, 2003
He knows everything about politics, music, but he isn't out there trying to show you how smart he is. He's very unassuming.
– Joel Silver, "Meet Keanu, Anew" – People (US) – May 23, 2003
When you talk to him, you can tell he's the most well-read and self-educated of all of us.
– Robert Downey Jr., (costar, A Scanner Darkly), "Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr's Big Comeback" – EmanuelLevy.com
He's one of the brightest and most engaged actors I know. Just look at the thing he chose to do for the first movie he directed. He didn't do some small two-hander. He did a logistically complex martial arts film. The idea of him being either Bill or Neo or just a pretty face is wildly inaccurate. Just because he doesn't talk publicly about his internal life and interests doesn't mean they don't exist.
– Alex Winter (costar, Bill & Ted movies), Keanu's Excellent Directing Adventure – The New York Times (US) – October 18, 2013