Interviews


Keanu Reeves


Occupation: Actor
Date of Birth: September 2, 1964
Place of Birth: Beirut, Lebanon
Sign: Sun in Virgo, Moon in Leo
Relations: Mother: Patricia (costume designer); father: Samuel Nowlin Reeves (geologist); stepfathers:Paul Aaron (theater director), Robert Miller (promoter), Jack Bond (hair salon owner); siblings: Kim (horse breeder), Karina; ex-girlfriend: Jennifer Syme; companion: Amanda de Cadenet
Education: High school dropout

 

I DO know that I am the critics' whipping boy." This assertion from the mouth of Keanu Reeves is rare by virtue of the fact that it is indeed an actual assertion. The actor has frustrated countless interviewers with his noncommittal verbiage, and breakthrough statements like that one have been few and far between. If asked to relate his acting philosophy, Reeves will characteristically respond, "I don't know anything, man." If he catches himself trying to explain something, anything, he will dismiss what he has said with "I don't know what I'm saying." Many critics would claim that Reeves' inability to communicate his thoughts and emotions in interviews emerges just as strongly in his acting style. But to his credit, in his eleven-year film career, Reeves has deadpanned his way to being one of the highest-paid actors of his generation.

Reeves' mother, Patricia, really got around  and she dragged her kids along for the ride. Keanu was born in Beirut, Lebanon, when the city was still known more for its beaches than for its bombs. Patricia met Samuel Nowlin Reeves while working as a showgirl at a local club. Their marriage didn't last long, and Patricia packed up Keanu and his little sister, Kim, and relocated to New York City, where she married Paul Aaron, a Broadway and Hollywood director. The Aarons toted the kids up to the more family-friendly Toronto, but split up a year later. There would be two more husbands  one a rock-and-roll promoter, and the other a hair salon owner. Little Keanu seemed to take it all with a laid-back smile; his rotating dads provided such diverse experiences as wrestling with rocker Alice Cooper and being shuttled off to Jewish summer camp. Samuel Nowlin Reeves lost contact with his son when Keanu was still a child, and he is currently serving a prison sentence for cocaine possession.

Reeves never took to academics: "He wasn't quite, well . . . with it," a former teacher of Reeves has said. "He always left his books at home or forgot his homework. But he'd just smile and go back home to get them." Hockey and theatre were more to Reeves' liking: often he would mix the two by reciting Shakespeare while tending goal. After bouncing around to several different high schools, Reeves dropped out to pursue acting full-time. He first caused a stir in Toronto with a role in the homoerotic play Wolfboy; he also acted in several Canadian teleplays. When Rob Lowe came to town to film his hockey drama Youngblood, Reeves won a bit part  hockey and drama, all in one opportunity! Reeves then decided to make the long haul from Toronto to Los Angeles in pursuit of his dream  or whatever.

Once in Hollywood, Reeves caught the attention of directors and critics for his performance as a disaffected teenager in River's Edge (1986). The following year, he confounded everyone's expectations of him by rocketing to stardom with Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, while, at the same time, holding his own in the ensemble period drama Dangerous Liaisons. The critics had a conundrum on their hands: was Reeves a gifted actor, or simply a lucky moron? Most supported the latter theory. But no one was in denial about one thing: he was steadily building a career as a bankable leading man. Reeves has worked with some of the most celebrated directors of our time  Bertolucci (Little Buddha), Coppola (Bram Stoker's Dracula), and Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho); and despite almost continual verbal drubbings at the hands of critics, directors continue clamoring to work with him. Reeves certainly proved his drawing potential with Speed, which racked up $121 million at the box office.

Reeves' private life hasn't proven all that interesting to speculate about, so rumors occasionally seep in to fill the void. For one thing, his sexual orientation is often questioned (one persistent rumor had him married to entertainment mogul David Geffen), and the laconic Reeves doesn't do much to quell the whispers. He will say he is not gay, then coyly add, "But ya' never know . . . " He lives in hotels, rides a motorcycle, and often flies the members of his band, Dogstar, to rehearse with him while he is on location. He cited commitments with the band as one of the reasons he turned down nearly $12 million for the critically lambasted Speed 2. He also passed on the chance to work with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat so that he could play Hamlet in Winnipeg. That's right, Winnipeg. His 1996 actioner Chain Reaction disappointed across the board, but his performance in the coal-black comedy Feeling Minnesota restored his fans' faith. He finally took his chance to work opposite Pacino, in the 1997 thriller Devil's Advocate, in which he played a bright, young lawyer to Pacino's devilish senior partner. Though Reeves had bad luck with the better-left-forgotten sci-fi bomb Johnny Mnemonic (1995), the Warner Bros. flick The Matrix, in which he portrayed a man who leads a society in a revolt against the computers that enslave it, earned him some of the best notices of his career. The genial, if standard, sports drama The Replacements, released in summer 2000, starred Reeves as a scab quarterback who helps lead a ragtag team to gridiron glory.

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