Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Ryan Neal
Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: RidiculouslyExtraordinary. Posted by Ryan Neal
The Bill and Ted Franchise, Matrix Trilogy, John Wick Franchise
Currently Known For:
Actor, Director, Producer and Musician
1984 - Present
September 2, 1964
The Bill and Ted Franchise, Matrix Trilogy, John Wick Franchise
“Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve made a lot of money but I want to enjoy life and not stress myself building my bank account. I give lots away and live simply, mostly out of a suitcase in hotels. We all know that good health is much more important.” After first rising to fame in the late 1980s as the star of the Bill and Ted film franchise, it was hard to imagine Keanu Reeves tackling a serious and more dramatic role but that’s exactly what he did when he turned heads for his performance in the 1991 action thriller Point Break. Reeves reinvented himself as an action star and a dramatic actor as he followed up with credits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Speed (1994), and The Devil’s Advocate (1997).
With his career getting off to an impressive start, Reeves cashed in on his growing fame and, over the last three decades, has linked himself to some of the hottest characters in film. Apart from starring as Ted Logan in the Bill and Ted films, Reeves took on another starring role as Neyo in The Matrix trilogy from 1999 to 2003. A decade later, he returned bigger than ever before in the John Wick franchise, a role that he reprised in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and in the upcoming 2019 film, John Wick: Chapter 3—Parabellum. Beyond his career as an actor, director, and producer, he’s also a gifted musician and one of the humblest actors in Hollywood. How is that possible for a man worth over $350 million?Early Life
“I am not handsome or sexy. Of course, it is not like I am hopeless.” Keanu Charles Reeves came into this world on September 2, 1964, in the capital city of Beirut, Lebanon. His mother was working in Beirut when she met and fell in love with an American man who had been imprisoned in Hawaii for selling heroin at the international airport. Because of this, Reeves’ father was noticeably absent from his childhood; his parents divorced when he was three years old and he remained with his mother. Because of his mother’s work as a costume designer and performer, Reeves traveled the world and lived with a revolving door of stepfathers. His mother briefly settled down in New York City with Broadway director Paul Aaron in 1970, but they divorced the following year and packed their bags once again—this time for Toronto, Ontario.
Spending much of his childhood on the road, Reeves was nine years old when he snagged his first acting credit in a production of Damn Yankees. While he enjoyed acting, he never considered it as an option especially since he constantly moved around the world to follow his mother’s career and her numerous marriages. By his teens, Reeves was so rambunctious that he was expelled from one high school, which meant very little to the teen who auditioned for and won the part of Mercutio in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Leah Posluns Theater. He later enrolled at the prestigious De La Salle College, a Catholic preparatory school, and was a star hockey goalkeeper nicknamed “The Wall.” This inspired his dream of playing hockey professionally in Canada, but an injury took him out of the sport for good. At the age of 17, he dropped out of high school, received a green card from his stepfather, and spent the next three years planning for his next big move to Hollywood.Settling into Hollywood
“It’s easy to become very self-critical when you’re an actor. Then you get critiqued by the critics. Whether you agree with them or not, people are passing judgment on you.” Calling on his former stepfather, director Paul Aaron, in Hollywood, Reeves moved to Los Angeles, California in 1984 and spent the next few months under Aaron’s roof. He appeared in a handful of television commercials and short films before he made his first studio movie appearance in Youngblood (1986). Shortly after, Aaron convinced Erwin Stoff to step in as Reeves’ agent in a decision that pushed Reeves’ career in a new direction.
Thanks to Erwin’s connections and Reeves’ natural talent, the young actor landed a prominent role in River’s Edge (1986) and went on to appear in Flying (1986). With each performance, he gained more and more traction in the industry, which is how he was cast as Ted Logan in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). No one anticipated much from the comedy, but the film was a huge success with Reeves’ performance surprising both audiences and critics alike. The same year, he made his breakthrough performance in Parenthood (1989) before reprising his role as Ted in Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (1991).
Although his goofy character in the Bill and Ted franchise was a welcome change, Reeves didn’t want to be typecast and pushed to reinvent himself as a dramatic actor. This transition was noticeable in the 1991 high-budget film Point Break, which earned Reeves his first MTV Award for Most Desirable Male. “It was life-changing for me,” Reeves said of Point Break. “It introduced me to fitness and training.” At the time, Reeves hired Denise Snyder as his fitness guru to guide his transformation into an action star.
Adding in credits in My Own Private Idaho (1991) opposite River Phoenix, Reeves turned heads for his performance as Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). He rose to even bigger prominence in 1994 when he landed the starring role in Speed. The following year, he proved his versatility as an actor with the romance film A Walk in the Clouds (1995) and surprised everyone when he turned down an $11 million paycheck to star in Speed 2: Cruise Control. “I just felt that if I went into Speed 2, I just… wouldn’t have come up out of the water,” he later admitted.
Instead of Speed 2, Reeves toured with his band and starred in the title role of the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s 1995 production of Hamlet. While the decision was controversial, it once again proved Reeves’ talent as one film critic wrote, “Reeves quite embodied the innocence, the splendid fury, the animal grace of the leaps and bounds, the emotional violence, that form the Prince of Denmark… He is one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet.”
Reeves’ choices in film over the next few years were questionable with credits in Johnny Mnemonic (1995), Chain Reaction (1996), and Feeling Minnesota (1996), all of which were flops at the box office. Fortunately, he redeemed himself quickly with The Devil’s Advocate (1997) starring Al Pacino and Charlize Theron. Then, by 1999, his career low was long forgotten when he was cast as Neyo in The Matrix (1999), which was a massive box office hit that generated widespread positive reviews. He reprised his role as Neyo in The Matrix Reloaded (2003), The Animatrix (2003), and The Matrix Revolutions (2003).
Apart from his work in The Matrix franchise, Reeves added in credits in The Gift (2000), The Watcher (2000), Sweet November (2001), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), Constantine (2005), A Scanner Darkly (2006), The Lake House (2006), Street Kings (2008), The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008), and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009). Reeves’ balanced his busy schedule with his work as a musician as well as his interest in directing. He started work on his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi (2013), in 2008 and produced the documentary Side by Side (2011) starring celebrated directors like Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, and James Cameron. Then, he caught another major break in 2014 when he was cast as the star of John Wick, a film that opened to positive reviews and grossed over $89 million at box offices worldwide. It also rekindled Reeves’ popularity as an action star.
“I had a little experience in movie fighting, but I’d never done judo,” Wick said of getting in shape for the role and hiring MMA fighter Eric Brown as his sensei. “At the beginning, I didn’t even know where to put my feet. So, it was a lot of me learning the basics.” Those basics are exactly why Reeves doesn’t like to be called a stuntman and prefers to be known as an action star. “There’s an incredible stuntman who doubles John Wick,” Reeves says. “They hit him with a car. He’s standing there, and they hit him—that’s a stunt. Me? I’ll shoot some guns, flip some people—and that’s action. So, yeah, I do as much action as I possibly can because I love it—and I love the opportunity to bring the audience along.”
As an action star, Reeves also hates stepping aside for the sake of safety, which is why he’s been closely monitored on every set since The Matrix since he’s happy to do takes over and over again until they are perfect. “I want to be able to do everything,” he says. “Since The Matrix, I’ve used this term ‘superperfect.’ As in, ‘Can we get it superperfect?’” On big budget films like The Matrix, that allowed Reeves to do things until they were perfect; on smaller projects like Wick, that meant doing them as best as possible without error. “That’s part of what makes a great action film a pressure cooker,” Reeves says. “It’s the intensity of just trying to do the best you can in the circumstances that you have.”
Reeves certainly did his best in John Wick and reprised his role in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017). He’s also set to reprise his role in John Wick: Chapter 3 (2019). In the meantime, he starred in Siberia (2018), Destination Wedding (2018), and Replicas (2018) with upcoming projects including Always Be My Maybe (2019) and Toy Story 4 (2019). He’s also not opposed to a Bill and Ted reunion since there are so many remakes and reunions thanks to streaming services like Netflix. “I’m open to the idea of that,” Reeves says. “It would be absolutely fantastic and ridiculous to play those roles again… I think it’s pretty surreal, playing Bill and Ted at 50. But we have a good story in that. You can see the life and joy in those characters, and I think the world can always use some life and joy.” As of May 2018, Bill and Ted Face the Music was officially confirmed.Life Today
“I’m not looking for a red carpet to walk and I’m not trying to have a celebrity footprint… I can see the appeal—it’s just not my taste.” With Bill and Ted Face the Music and a handful of other projects in the works, the 54-year-old Reeves certainly has plenty to keep him busy. However, he’s not looking for Hollywood stardom, even though that’s exactly what he has. Instead, he prefers to live a humble and low-key life outside of the spotlight. So, what does that mean for his personal life?
Not one to share details of his love life, Reeves met and fell in love with actress Jennifer Syme in the late 1990s. On December 24, 1999, Syme gave birth to their daughter, Ava Arche Syme-Reeves, who was stillborn. The grief that followed put a constant strain on their relationship and prompted their breakup weeks later. The two remained in contact until Syme’s death on April 2, 2001, when she sideswiped three parked cars and was thrown from her car as it rolled. Reeves was set to start shooting The Matrix sequels and took several weeks off to grieve his former girlfriend.
Since then, he’s remained tight-lipped about his personal life and, instead, has buried himself in his work and philanthropy with organizations like PETA, the SickKids Foundation, and Stand Up to Cancer. He is also the founder of Company Films production company and Arch Motorcycle Company, which builds and sells custom motorcycles, another of Reeves’ many hobbies.
Beyond his exceptionally private life at home and his work as a philanthropist, Reeves says he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon even though his age is definitely catching up with him when it comes to action flicks like John Wick. “I had the classic 40 meltdown. I did. It’s embarrassing. It was pretty funny, but then I recovered. To me, it was like a second adolescence. Hormonally, my body was changing, and so my relationship to myself and the world around me came to this assault of finiteness.” Today, the 54-year-old has changed even more but that isn’t stopping him. “I can’t do stairs as fast,” Reeves admits. “But if you say ‘action,’ I’ll go.”