Reeves in 2015
Keanu Charles Reeves
September 2, 1964
|Partner(s)||Jennifer Syme (1998–2000)|
Keanu Charles Reeves (// kee-AH-noo; born September 2, 1964) is a Canadian[a] actor, producer, and musician. Reeves gained fame for his starring roles in several blockbuster films, including comedies from the Bill and Ted franchise (1989–present); action thrillers Point Break (1991), Speed (1994), and the John Wick franchise (2014–present); psychological thriller The Devil's Advocate (1997); supernatural action horror Constantine (2005); and sci-fi action series The Matrix (1999–present). He has also appeared in drama films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), My Own Private Idaho (1991), and Little Buddha (1993), as well as the romantic horror Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
Reeves has earned critical acclaim and several awards for his acting, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. One New York Times critic praised his versatility, saying that he "displays considerable discipline and range... he moves easily between the buttoned-down demeanor that suits a police procedural story and the loose-jointed manner of his comic roles". However, Reeves has spent much of his later career being typecast; saving the world is a recurring character arc in many roles he has portrayed, as manifested in characters such as Ted "Theodore" Logan, Gautama Buddha, Neo, Johnny Mnemonic, John Constantine, and Klaatu. The John Wick franchise represented a return to critical praise and commercial success for Reeves.
Reeves has pursued other creative endeavours such as directing and producing films, performing music, and acting in theatre and video games. Onstage, he performed as Prince Hamlet for the Manitoba Theatre Centre's production of Hamlet. He played bass guitar for the bands Dogstar and Becky. He also wrote the text for the 2011 picture book Ode to Happiness, illustrated by Alexandra Grant. He produced a documentary, Side by Side (2012), and directed and starred in the martial arts film Man of Tai Chi (2013).
Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut on September 2, 1964, as the son of Patricia (née Taylor), a costume designer and performer, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr. His mother is English, hailing from Essex. His father, an American from Hawaii, is of Chinese, English, Irish, Native Hawaiian, and Portuguese descent. Reeves states that his grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian and that he grew up around Chinese art, furniture, and cuisine. Regarding his English ancestry, Reeves mentioned watching comedy shows such as The Two Ronnies during his childhood; his mother imparted English manners that he has maintained into adulthood. Reeves' mother was working in Beirut as a costume designer when she met his father.
Reeves' father earned his GED while imprisoned in Hawaii for selling heroin at Hilo International Airport. He abandoned his wife and family when Reeves was three years old, but Reeves knew him until he was six. They last met on the island of Kauai when Reeves was 13. After his parents divorced in 1966, his mother moved the family to Sydney, and then to New York City, where she married Paul Aaron, a Broadway and Hollywood director, in 1970. The couple moved to Toronto, Ontario, and divorced in 1971. When Reeves was 15, he worked as a production assistant on Aaron's films. Reeves' mother then married Robert Miller, a rock music promoter, in 1976; the couple divorced in 1980. She subsequently married her fourth husband, a hairdresser named Jack Bond. The marriage ended in 1994. Grandparents and nannies babysat Reeves and his sisters, and Reeves grew up primarily in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto.
Within five years, Reeves attended four high schools, including the Etobicoke School of the Arts, from which he was expelled. Reeves stated he was expelled because he was "just a little too rambunctious and shot [his] mouth off once too often... [he] was not generally the most well-oiled machine in the school." He was a successful ice hockey goalkeeper at De La Salle College. He thought of playing hockey for the Canadian Olympic team but decided to become an actor when he was 15. After leaving De La Salle College, he attended Avondale Secondary Alternative School, which allowed him to obtain an education while working as an actor. He later dropped out and did not obtain a high school diploma.
Early career: 1980–1986
Reeves began his acting career at the age of nine, appearing in a theatre production of Damn Yankees. At 15, he played Mercutio in a stage production of Romeo and Juliet at the Leah Posluns Theatre. Reeves dropped out of high school when he was 17. He obtained a green card through his American stepfather and moved to Los Angeles three years later. Reeves made his screen acting debut in an episode of Hangin' In. In the early 1980s, he appeared in commercials including one for Coca-Cola, short films including the NFB drama One Step Away, and stage work such as Brad Fraser's cult hit Wolfboy in Toronto. In 1984, he was a correspondent for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV youth program Going Great.
Reeves' first studio movie appearance was Youngblood (1986), in which he played a Québécois goalie. His stepfather had convinced Erwin Stoff in advance to be Reeves' manager and agent. Stoff has remained Reeves' manager and has co-produced many of his films.
After a few minor roles, Reeves received a sizeable role in the 1986 drama film River's Edge, which depicted how a murder affected a group of teens. Following this film's critical success, he spent the late 1980s appearing in a number of movies aimed at teenage audiences, including the lead roles in Permanent Record and the unexpectedly successful 1989 comedy, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, along with its 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. The same year, he had a break-out role in the movie Parenthood.
From 1991, Reeves played bass guitar in the alternative rock band Dogstar. During the early 1990s, he started to break out of his teen-film period. He appeared in high-budget action films such as Point Break, for which he won MTV's "Most Desirable Male" award in 1992. He was involved in various lower-budget independent films, including the well-received 1991 film My Own Private Idaho with River Phoenix. In 1992, he played Jonathan Harker in the Francis Ford Coppola-directed blockbuster Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Rise of prominence in film: 1994–1999
In 1994, Reeves' career reached a new high as a result of his starring role in the action film Speed. His casting in the film was controversial[how?] because he was primarily known for comedies and indie dramas with the exception of Point Break. He had never been the sole headliner on a film. The summer action film had a fairly large budget and was directed by veteran cinematographer Jan de Bont in his debut.
Reeves' career choices after Speed were eclectic: despite his successes, Reeves continued to accept supporting roles and appear in experimental films. He scored a hit with a romantic lead role in A Walk in the Clouds. He made news by refusing to take part in Speed 2: Cruise Control – despite the offered $11 million paycheque, which would have been his largest to date – in favour of touring with his band and playing the title role in a 1995 Manitoba Theatre Centre production of Hamlet in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Of Reeves' performance, Sunday Times theatre critic Roger Lewis wrote, he "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 [Lewis has] seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet". However, according to Reeves, his decision to not do Speed 2 left him blacklisted by 20th Century Fox for a decade, until The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Reeves' choices after A Walk in the Clouds failed with critics and audiences. Big-budget films such as the sci-fi action film Johnny Mnemonic and the action-thriller Chain Reaction failed at the box office, while indie films like Feeling Minnesota were also critical failures. Reeves finally started to climb out of his career low after starring in the horror-drama The Devil's Advocate alongside Al Pacino and Charlize Theron. Reeves took a pay cut of $1 million for The Devil's Advocate so that Pacino would be cast, and he later took a 90 percent pay cut for the less successful The Replacements to guarantee the casting of Gene Hackman. The Devil's Advocate did well at the box office and garnered good reviews.
Hollywood stardom and The Matrix trilogy: 1999–2009
In between the first Matrix film and its sequels, Reeves received positive reviews for his portrayal of an abusive husband in The Gift. Aside from The Gift, Reeves appeared in several films that received mostly negative reviews and unimpressive box office grosses, including The Watcher, Sweet November, and The Replacements. However, the two Matrix sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, along with Something's Gotta Give and the 2005 horror-action film, Constantine, were box office successes and brought Reeves back into the public spotlight. Reeves performed with the band Becky for a year, but he quit in 2005, citing his lack of interest in a serious music career.
His appearance in A Scanner Darkly (2006), based on the dystopian science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, received favourable reviews, and The Lake House, his romantic outing with Sandra Bullock, was a success at the box office. He went on to play the lead character in two 2008 films, Street Kings and The Day the Earth Stood Still. In February 2009, he starred in director Rebecca Miller's film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, which premiered at Berlinale.
Eclectic filmmaking and John Wick: 2009–present
In 2008, Reeves began pre-production on his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. The film is a multilingual narrative, partly inspired by the life of Reeves' friend, stuntman Tiger Chen. Filming occurred in mainland China and Hong Kong. During Man of Tai Chi's five years of scripting and production, Reeves acted in several B movies with lead roles as Henry in Henry's Crime (2010) and John in Generation Um... (2012). During that time, Reeves also played Kai in the panned 47 Ronin.
In 2011, he returned to other artistic mediums of expression. He wrote the text for a "grown-up picture book" entitled Ode to Happiness, complemented by Alexandra Grant's illustrations. In 2011, Reeves produced the documentary Side by Side about the supplanting of photo-chemical film by digital camera technology; he interviewed several prominent directors including James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and Christopher Nolan.
Reeves' first directorial film, Man of Tai Chi, premiered in 2013 with showings at the Beijing Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival. The work was awarded in Beijing and praised by John Woo, a recognized director of action genre films.
Reeves has continued acting while exploring other creative forms. In October 2014, he played the title role in the action thriller John Wick. The film, which stars Reeves as a retired hitman, opened to positive reviews and performed well at the box office. He reprised the role in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and again in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019). Both films were well-received.
Reeves paired up with Winona Ryder in the 2018 movie Destination Wedding about wedding guests who develop a mutual affection for each other. They had previously worked together in other movies including Bram Stoker's Dracula, A Scanner Darkly and The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.
In 2019, Reeves starred in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, had a cameo in the Netflix original film Always Be My Maybe, and voiced a toy stuntman in Toy Story 4. His cameo in Always Be My Maybe was intended to highlight his Asian ancestry. Given the number of high-profile roles Reeves had in one year, USA Today dubbed the time period "The Summer of Keanu Reeves". In addition, 2019 saw Europe's first Keanu Reeves film festival titled KeanuCon, hosted in Glasgow, Scotland. Originally scheduled on his birthday in September 2018, the festival was postponed due to a fire at the Glasgow School of Art. The festival was held on April 27 and 28, 2019, featuring nine films over two days. The movies screened included My Own Private Idaho, Speed, The Matrix, Constantine, Reeves' directorial debut Man of Tai Chi, and John Wick.
In January 2009, it was announced that Reeves was to star in a live-action film adaptation of the anime series Cowboy Bebop, initially slated for release in 2011. Due to budgeting problems, the script was sent for a rewrite. The project's status is currently unknown.
Plans for a third Bill & Ted film had been in the work since around 2011, and Reeves, along with his co-star Alex Winter had expressed interest in replaying their roles. After much work to gain production and distribution rights with the series's original directors and producers, Bill & Ted Face the Music was affirmed in May 2018, with both Reeves and Winter returning in their title roles, and a planned release in August 2020. Reeves has been linked to the maritime romance The Modern Ocean, directed by Shane Carruth, though Carruth noted that the film is unlikely to be realized.
Reeves will return in the fourth John Wick film, scheduled for release on May 21, 2021.
Family and relationships
On December 24, 1999, Reeves' girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, gave birth eight months into her pregnancy to Ava Archer Syme-Reeves, who was stillborn. The strain put on their relationship resulted in their break-up several weeks later. On April 2, 2001, Syme was driving alone on Los Angeles's Cahuenga Boulevard when she sideswiped three parked cars, rolled over several times, and was thrown from the car. Authorities believed she died instantly. She was reportedly being treated for depression and taking two prescription drugs, which police found in her car. Reeves, who was scheduled to begin shooting back-to-back Matrix sequels during the subsequent spring, sought "peace and time" to deal with the incident, according to his friend Bret Domrose, a guitarist in Reeves' alternative rock band Dogstar.
Religious and other views
While often described as a Buddhist or atheist, including being mentioned on a "Famous Atheists" list, Reeves is irreligious and has occasionally expressed a belief in God or some other higher power, stating that he believes in God and the Devil, but "they don't have to have pitchforks and a long white beard." He has clarified that he has a lot of interest in and respect for Buddhism, but has not "taken refuge in the dharma". In September 2013, when asked if he was a spiritual person, Reeves replied with a laugh that he believes "in God, faith, inner faith, the self, passion, and things" and that he is "very spiritual" and "supremely bountiful." Reeves has generally been reticent about his spiritual beliefs, saying that it is something "personal and private." When asked by Stephen Colbert about his views on what happens after death, Reeves replied, "I know that the ones who love us will miss us."
In 2010, an image of Reeves became an internet meme after photos of him, seemingly depressed while sitting on a park bench eating alone, were posted to a 4chan board. The images were soon distributed via several blogs and news sites, leading to the "Sad Keanu" meme being spread on internet forums. An unofficial holiday was created when a Facebook fan page declared June 15 as "Cheer-up Keanu Day". On the first anniversary of "Cheer-up Keanu Day", Reeves was interviewed by The Guardian.
In more recent years with his resurgence after the John Wick films, Reeves has gained additional fame from candid, impromptu real-life events he has done that end up shared virally on social media reflecting his kind and helpful personality, to the point of him sometimes being called the "Internet's boyfriend". In one case, Reeves had been flying into Los Angeles on a commercial plane in March 2019, but it was forced to land in Bakersfield, California. Rather than wait for repairs on the plane, Reeves arranged a van to take him and the other passengers continuing onto Los Angeles, casually chatting with them as they rode the rest of the way. In another instance, while filming for Bill & Ted Face the Music in July 2019, Reeves and other cast members passed a house with a banner reading "You're Breathtaking", a meme that had come out of Reeves' appearance at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2019 for Cyberpunk 2077. Reeves jumped out of their car to sign the banner and briefly talked and took photos with the family.
In 2008, Reeves was sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by paparazzo Alison Silva. The unsuccessful US$711,974 (equivalent to $845,455 in 2019) suit claimed that Reeves hit and injured Silva with a Porsche after concluding a family visit at a Los Angeles medical facility. The lawsuit took a year and a half to make it to trial, during which time Silva continued to attack Reeves and demand payment. At the trial, all 12 jurors rejected the suit, needing only an hour of deliberation to reach their verdict.
In 2014, two stalkers trespassed on Reeves' Hollywood Hills home. On September 12, 2014, he woke and found a stalker in his library, who told him that she was there to meet him. While Reeves calmly talked to her, he called the police, who arrived and arrested her before taking her in for psychological evaluation. Three days later, a second stalker made her way into his home through a gate left unlocked by a cleaning company. The intruder undressed and took a shower in Reeves' bathroom before swimming naked in his pool. The cleaning crew became suspicious and alerted Reeves, who was not at home. He then notified the police and the stalker was remanded.
Philanthropy and business
Reeves set up a cancer charity, choosing not to attach his name to the organization; he has also supported PETA, the SickKids Foundation, and Stand Up to Cancer. In 2014, he said in an interview that his sister Kim had battled leukemia for more than a decade.
Reeves has stated "Money is the last thing [he] think[s] about. [He] could live on what [he has] already made for the next few centuries." Reeves reportedly gave approximately $80 million of his $114 million earnings from The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions to the special effects and makeup staff. The story has been denied by the special effects staff themselves, deeming it as an urban legend. The story likely originated in a back-end deal Reeves made with the producers of The Matrix Reloaded, relinquishing his contractual right to a percentage of the earnings from the ticket sales. Reeves reportedly did so to allow producers the flexibility for an extensive special effects budget. The value of Reeves' forgone share of the profits has been estimated at $38 million, which was added to the overall budget, rather than going directly to special effects.
In 2017, Reeves and artist Alexandra Grant founded a small artist book publishing company called X Artists' Books, sometimes abbreviated XAB. He has written two books: Ode to Happiness and Shadows, both of which he collaborated with Grant, providing the text to her photographs and art.
Selected works and publications
- Reeves, Keanu (text by); Grant, Alexandra (drawings by, book design by) (2011). Bergam, Janey (ed.). Ode to Happiness. Göttingen: Steidl Publishers. ISBN 9783869302096. OCLC 756797130.
- Reeves, Keanu (texts by); Grant, Alexandra (photographs by) (2014). Shadows: A Collaborative Project by Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves. Göttingen: Steidl Publishers. ISBN 9783869308272. OCLC 965117169.
- Although he was born in Lebanon to an English mother and American father, Reeves grew up in Canada, identifies as Canadian, and holds only Canadian citizenship.
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Keanu Charles Reeves, whose first name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian, was born September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon.
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