Zen and the art of Keanu Reeves
Hollywood heartthrob Keanu Reeves is back in the action movie biz with the release of 47 Ronin, which followed quickly on the heels of Man of Tai Chi. Reeves, who was born in Hawaii, spent his formative years in Toronto, growing up near Ramsden Park in Rosedale. And it was in Toronto where he was bitten by the acting bug after spending much of his free time at the hockey rink. He played John Proctor in a high school production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. When he was 20, he moved to Los Angeles and quickly made a name for himself in movies such as The River’s Edge, Dangerous Liaisons and, of course, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
Are you good at kung fu or other martial arts?
I’m very good at movie kung fu, but in a real fight I might have a lot of fighting spirit, but I don't think I would have the necessary skills. It’s more than just knowing the forms and techniques, there’s another art altogether when it comes to actual combat.
You’ve also directed your first film, Man of Tai Chi, which also involves the martial arts and is set in China. Do you have an affinity for Eastern philosophy?
It’s a coincidence that these two movies are both set in Asia and they’re both coming out now, but in general, I am deeply attracted to Eastern philosophy. I’m attracted to the different way that kind of philosophy looks at the world and identifies our place and how human beings relate to each other. In Man of Tai Chi, I was interested in developing the theme of power and control as Tiger struggles with his dark side while his master is urging him to meditate, to slow down and to be more thoughtful about his actions.
When you were growing up in Canada, you actually started out wanting to be a professional hockey goaltender before you got into acting, right?
As a teenager, my only real passion in life was playing hockey, like millions of other kids. I practised and played as often as I could, and I dreamed of playing for the Canadian team in the Winter Olympics. But then I started getting into acting when I was 15 and enrolled in drama classes and got involved with a local theatre troupe. All that changed my life. The first time I acted in a high school play I knew I wanted to be an actor.
Of all the actors you’ve worked with, who made the greatest impression on you?
Definitely one of the most interesting actors I had the privilege of working with and getting to know was Dennis Hopper. We worked together on River’s Edge and then on Speed. I was a huge fan of David Lynch’s, and Dennis had just finished working on Blue Velvet. So we spoke a lot about the way Dennis created his character and what it was liking working with Lynch. I miss Dennis. I would see him socially afterwards every once in a while, and he had such an incredible warmth and sensitivity and a great sense of humour. He was a really unique man.
Your character Kai has a level of sadness to him. Do you think this will cause more people to think back to your “sad Keanu” photo?
I’m absolutely a very happy person.… Maybe I think about my mortality more as I approach 50, but it’s an interesting kind of terror that you feel about aging. I don’t know. Your knees hurt more.