Keanu Reeves (born September 2, 1964) is an American actor, philosopher and time-traveler. He is best known for his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of a spaced-out metalhead in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, as well as being critically applauded for his roles in Speed and The Matrix. His part opposite Patrick Swayze in Point Break was praised by The New York Times critic Janet Maslin, who said that Reeves "isn't so bad. For being in a movie about a group of surfers, you'd be surprised by how little he says the word dude."
In addition to his film roles, Reeves has also performed in theatre. His performance in the title role of Hamlet was spoken highly of by Roger Lewis, of the Sunday Times, who hailed him as "... one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: I ... was ... high." On January 31, 2005, Reeves received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and also provided his autograph and hand prints on a special slab of concrete pavement in Disneyland. Embarrassingly, the concrete dried while he was still pressing his hands into it, forcing him to wait several hours before he could safely be removed from the pavement.
Keanu Charles Reeves ("Whoa, is that my middle name?") was born in in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of Patricia Bond (née Taylor), a costume designer/performer, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr., a geologist. Reeves has much desired to visit his birthplace, but so far has been unable to find it on his world map. His mother is English, and his father is an American of Hawaiian and Chinese descent. Reeves is named after his uncle, Henry Keanu Reeves ("Oh yeah! I remember him. Had wooden teeth. Chased Moby Dick. No wait, that's Captain Ahab, dude ...")
Keanu's name translates from Hawaiian as "cool breeze over the mountains", and has acted as an excellent pick-up line to fall back on in case his intelligent demeanor and charming personality fails to impress. When he first arrived in Hollywood, his agent thought his first name was too exotic, so during the early days of his film career he was sometimes credited as K.C. Reeves. Reeves soon fired his agent after he was told at an audition that his name made him sound like a homosexual boyband member.
Reeves grew up primarily in Toronto. Within a span of five years, he attended four different high schools, including the Etobicoke School of the Arts, from which he was later expelled. Reeves has since reasoned why he was expelled:
“The teachers there were like ‘HEY! Reevesy! Stop slacking you slacker!’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, then make me, dude,’ and then they were like, ‘I will if you don't watch your attitude young man,’ and then I was like, ‘Yeah, well I won’t if you don't not watch YOUR attitude ... Wait, what did I just say?’ Anyways, I guess I was just a little too rambunctious and shot my mouth off once too often. I was not generally the most well-oiled machine in the school. I was just getting in their way, I guess. That time they caught me smoking pot in the school bathroom didn't help either.”
Reeves excelled more in hockey than in academics, as his educational development was challenged by dyslexia. He was a successful goalie at one of his high schools, De La Salle College "Oaklands". His team nicknamed him "The Wall", in recognition of how he could not be moved or knocked down, no matter how many hockey pucks were launched at his forehead. They also voted him MVP, as a way of thanking him for winning all those matches and being the player who had to go without a helmet when supplies were short.
While Reeves dreamed of becoming an Olympic hockey player for Canada, an injury ended his hopes for a hockey career ("A puck hit me in the balls, dude! There's no way I'm setting foot on a hockey pitch after that.") After leaving De La Salle College, he attended a free school (Avondale Alternative), which allowed him to obtain an education while working as an actor. He has yet to gain his high school diploma, but has high hopes for achieving it sometime next year.
Reeves spent much of the late 1980s appearing in minor roles in a number of movies aimed at teenagers. He also appeared in Dangerous Liaisons as Danceny, the music teacher and love interest of Cecile. He could regularly be spotted during his breaks racing down the snowy French alps on his surfboard, as well as trying to romance the daughters of any neighbouring aristocrats. (There are some bodacious babes in France, dude.) Reeves continued to play roles in period films in Much Ado About Nothing, as the villainous Don John, who schemes to ruin his brother, Don Pedro, played by Denzel Washington. (My brother? Oh, you mean brother as in another word for a black guy.)
He finally made his mark on society when he starred in the unexpectedly successful 1989 comedy, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. It was this film that truly confirmed Reeve's mastery of acting, with many of his lines being improvised on the spot. It also remains one of the greatest showcases of Method Acting, rivaling even Daniel Day-Lewis's intense style. Two days before filming was to commence, he and his co-star, Alex Winter realised that they had not learnt any of their lines, nor did they have any idea what the film was about.
Reeves, being one of those few gifted individuals who are usually vapid, but can accomplish astounding feats of skill and intelligence overnight as long as it's in a musical montage, got high and subsequently built a time machine out of the contents in Winter's backyard. They then journeyed throughout various eras of time, meeting many inspirational leaders who could teach them about responsibility, and hopefully acting. They accomplished neither, but fortunately, when they explained where they had been and what they had been doing those past few days, the director liked what he heard so much that he changed the script, subsequently transforming it into a tale of their adventures.
The new script was originally titled Alex & Keanu's Excellent Adventure, but Keanu opted to have his name changed to Ted in a bid to deter typecasting when he came to future acting roles, while Alex Winter changed his name to Bill, fearing that if he did not change his name, his career would fail completely and he would be forgotten by society. Two wise choices by two incredibly wise actors.
During the early 1990s Reeves decided, at the age of 26, that it was time to break out of his teen-film period. He dropped out of his starring role in the Sonic the Hedgehog movie (now cancelled), and chose instead to appear in high-budget action films such as Point Break. The predecessor to The Fast and the Furious, Reeves plays an FBI Agent who must infiltrate a gang of surfers in order to arrest them and their enigmatic leader (Patrick Swayze) for committing robberies. Though much better written, acted and directed than The Fast and the Furious it made far less money – and did not launch surfer culture into mainstream society as well as FF did with Chav.
“I never played a part where I spoke English before.”
← Reeves was also involved in various lower-budget independent films, including the well-received 1991 film, My Own Private Idaho, in which he portrays the working life of a male prostitute with his close friend, the late River Phoenix. In 1992 Reeves starred in Bram Stoker's Dracula. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, he was highly intent on taking the part, convinced that it would change people's perceptions of his acting abilities.
In 1994 both Keanu Reeves and his career reached a new high. His career, however, managed to reach it without the aid of Class C drugs, when he secured the starring role in the action film Speed. His casting in the film was controversial since, excluding Point Break, he was primarily known for comedies, indie dramas, and Bill & Ted movies. Reeves had never been the sole headliner on a film, with his name often thought impossible to appear on a poster by itself without being mistaken as the main title.
In the film, Reeves plays a police officer who – after an hour of doing his damnedest to stop a bus – discovers in a twist rivalling M. Night Shyamalan that Dennis Hopper has put a bomb aboard, set to explode if its speed drops below 50mph. Reeves attempts to disarm the bomb but notices an attractive girl (Sandra Bullock) and feigns that he is incapable of disarming it, giving himself time to "get to know her better". Despite considerable persuasion, she refuses to have sex with him, as they are on a bus-full of people. To seal the deal for when they leave, he performs several heroic acts before finally pressing the bomb's off button. The unexpected international success of the film made him and Bullock into A-List stars.
After this, Reeves scored a hit with a romantic lead role in A Walk in the Clouds. Unfortunately, Reeves's other choices after A Walk in the Clouds failed miserably with critics and audiences, as they appeared to grow tired of his limited emotional range. Big-budget films such as the sci-fi action film Johnny Mnemonic ("What do you mean I can't act? That WAS acting! The dude really wanted room-service!") and the action-thriller Chain Reaction were critically panned and failed at the box office, while indie films like Feeling Minnesota were also critical failures. ("Are you sure that was one of mine? I don't even remember meeting Charlize Theron. Oh man, I'm so high ...")
Reeves began to climb out of his career low after starring in the horror/drama The Devil's Advocate alongside Al Pacino ("Oh yeah, I think I built that dude's house ...") and Charlize Theron again, contrary to Reeves's recollection of filming. He deferred his salary for The Devil's Advocate so that Pacino would be cast, as he would do later for the less successful The Replacements, guaranteeing the casting of Gene Hackman. The Devil's Advocate did well at the box office and received good reviews, although many critics felt that Reeve's poor performance detracted from an otherwise enjoyable movie. Still, it proved that he could plausibly play a grown-up with a career.
The 1999 science fiction-action hit The Matrix, a film in which Reeves had a starring role, was a box office success and attracted positive reviews. He was originally told to go home when he auditioned for the part, as Will Smith had agreed to star in it. However, Smith changed his mind at the last minute, and dropped out to star in Wild Wild West instead. In need of a new actor, The Wachowski Brothers quickly scrambled to find a new actor to play the lead role. Assuming on the basis of his name that Keanu was a Chinese person, they immediately settled on him without any re-auditioning. Through this groundbreaking film, Reeves was able to showcase his ability to correctly wear sunglasses, demonstrate his knowledge of kung-fu ("I know kung-fu"), and introduce audiences to his own unique brand of philosophy and Reevisms. Will Smith, on the other hand, has yet to live down his particularly unwise career choice.
In between the first Matrix film and its sequels, Reeves received positive reviews for his portrayal of an abusive husband in The Gift. Keanu comments on how he enjoyed working with his co-stars:
“Tom Cruise’s wife was hot. But I couldn’t really check her out properly because he was always there keeping an eye on her, even though the dude wasn’t supposed to be in the movie. I think he makes her feel kind of insecure about her acting skills, though, ’cause I remember this one time, when he wasn’t looking, she slipped me a note saying ‘help me’.”
Aside from The Gift, Reeves appeared in several films that received highly negative reviews and unimpressive box office grosses, including The Watcher ("Whoa, I'm a serial killer), Sweet November ("Whoa, I'm a typical businessman who devotes his life to his career") and The Replacements. ("Whoa, I'm a football player. Wait, no I'm not, I'm a hockey goalie – but that's the magic of acting, dude!")
However, the two Matrix sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, Something's Gotta Give, and the 2005 horror-action film, Constantine, proved to be box office successes and brought Reeves back into the public spotlight.
His appearance in the 2006 film, A Scanner Darkly, based on the dystopian science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, received favorable reviews, mostly because the incoherent ramblings of a schizophrenic drug addict fitted well with Reeves's acting style. Critics and audiences once again fell under the delusion that he was a good actor. However, this renaissance in his career was short-lived, as his romantic reunion with Sandra Bullock in The Lake House did not do well at the box office.
Reeves played the main character in two 2008 films, Street Kings and The Day the Earth Stood Still, in which he mercilessly decimates everyone's fond memories of Dirty Harry and Klaatu, respectively. He will be further ruining fanboy dreams when he takes on the role of Spike Siegel in the live-action film adaptation of the anime series, Cowboy Bebop. Having already conquered the consistency of time, Reeves will be exploring the fabric of space when he produces and stars in the 2011 space opera, Passengers.
A self-described "Philosophiser", Keanu Reeves is noted by many for his picturesque quotes and comments, collectively termed as "Reevisms". These have been gathered into a book on philosophy, entitled The Art of Whoa.
Although the book is credited as being personally written by Reeves, he has gone on to admit that he used a ghostwriter. He tried to justify this, when he confessed in a press-release meeting to promote the book that he has not yet mastered the ability to write, as "learning to read was hard enough." He also detailed the difficulties he faced trying to find a ghostwriter.
“Well, first I tried to get River Phoenix to write it, but I couldn’t get him to pick up the Ouija board at the other end. Then I remembered my other best friend Patrick Swayze had recently died, so I tried to get in touch with him, but he didn't pick up either. Dead people are totally selfish, dude.”
Upon release, his book became an instant bestseller, and has since proved popular among many Philosophy Majors, with one particular stoned-out student stating that it felt "more Nihilistic than Nietzsche!" Admittedly, Nietzsche was not a confirmed Nihilist, but it is still a compliment nonetheless.
A complete collection of his Reevisms can be found at Unquotable:Keanu Reeves
In 2005 Keanu Reeves astounded people all around the world, when he announced his intentions to join the high-IQ society, Mensa. Many doubted whether he would meet their entry standards, so to prove them wrong he allowed his IQ test to be broadcast live on national television. He successfully completed every sum, conquered every word puzzle, and even managed to solve a Rubik's cube without touching it. While some questioned how he pulled off this once-thought impossible feat, he explained that all he did was manipulate the colour code of the Rubik's Cube's matrix system to correspond with the pattern he desired. Not understanding what he said, the judges assumed he was right and allowed him to continue.
Sadly, his success did not last long, as during his bathroom break from the grueling nine-hour test, he was caught trying to light a blunt by a fellow urinal user. Judges were notified and confiscated the weed from him before he could smoke any of it, and he was forced to give a urine sample. He was still allowed to attempt his test, as marijuana ordinarily does not have any beneficial effects on logic or reasoning capabilities. For the remaining five hours of his test, he struggled trying to solve a child's jigsaw puzzle that when completed, comprised a picture from the film, Finding Nemo. At the end, the judges revealed the solution to the puzzle, to which he was heard to exclaim, "That's not fair, dude! I've never even seen Finding Emos!" The urine sample he gave came back positive for a new breed of cannabis that increases mental coordination and functioning. His claim for admission was subsequently denied.
In 2008 Reeves was visiting his friend Sandra Bullock in hospital with hypothermia, after having pushed her into a lake as a practical joke. He had been followed for several days by Italian paparazzo, Alison Silva. He got into his Porsche to leave the hospital, and thought it would be a good time to test out his new portable DVD player. He backed out of his parking spot whilst simultaneously watching The Lion King, at which time Silva decided to stand behind his car to photograph Reeves watching The Lion King; a picture undoubtedly worth millions for some reason. With Reeves concentrating on both driving his car and watching his DVD player, he did not notice the photographer underneath his wheels. He drove home without any knowledge of what had happened.
Conforming to the American code of justice (take their money), Silva sued Reeves for allegedly hitting and injuring him with his Porsche. The paparazzo's lawsuit took a year and a half to make it to trial, with Reeves's main defense statement being "I don't have anything against Paparazzi. As a matter of fact, it's my favorite pizza topping." All twelve jurors rejected the photographer's case in just over an hour. When they delivered their verdict in Reeves's favour, he reportedly jumped out of his seat with his fist in the air and shouted "EXCELLENT!"