Keanu Charles Reeves (/ke?’?:nu:/ kay-AH-noo; born September 2, 1964) is a Canadian actor, director, producer, musician, and author.
Reeves is most well known for his acting career, beginning in 1985 and spanning for more than three decades. He gained fame for his starring role performances in several blockbuster films including comedies from the Bill and Ted franchise (1989-1991), action thrillers Point Break (1991) and Speed (1994), and the science fiction-action trilogy The Matrix (1999-2003). He has also appeared in several dramatic films such as Dangerous Liaisons (1988), My Own Private Idaho (1991), and Little Buddha (1993).
Since becoming active in the film industry, Reeves’ abilities have earned critical acclaim. One New York Times critic praised Reeves’ 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.” Even with an amplitude of skills, Reeves has spent much of his later career being typecast. A recurring character arc in many roles he has portrayed is one of saving the world, as can be seen in the characters of Ted Logan, Buddha, Neo, Johnny Mnemonic, John Constantine and Klaatu. His acting has garnered several awards including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
During his film career, Reeves has engaged in several forms of artistic expression. He played bass guitar in the bands Dogstar and Becky. Acting onstage, he performed as Prince Hamlet for the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s production of Hamlet. He wrote the text for a picture book, Ode to Happiness, illustrated by Alexandra Grant. He has also produced a documentary, Side by Side, and directed the martial arts film Man of Tai Chi.
Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of Patricia Bond (née Taylor), a costume designer/performer from Essex, England, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr. His mother is English while his father, who is a Hawaiian-born American, has Native Hawaiian, Chinese, and Portuguese ancestry. Reeves has said: “My grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian, so I was around Chinese art, furniture and cuisine when I was growing up”. He has also spoken of his English ancestry via his mother, mentioning his happy watching of The Two Ronnies comedy show, among others, when younger, and how his mother imparted English manners that he maintained into adulthood.
Reeves’s mother was working in Beirut when she met his father. Reeves’s 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. Reeves moved around the world frequently as a child and he lived with various stepfathers. After his parents divorced in 1966, his mother became a costume designer and moved the family to Sydney, Australia and then to New York City, where she married Paul Aaron, a Broadway and Hollywood director, in 1970. The couple moved to Toronto and divorced in 1971. When Reeves was 15, he worked as a production assistant on Aaron’s films. Reeves’s mother married Robert Miller, a rock promoter, in 1976; the couple divorced in 1980. She subsequently married her fourth husband, a hairdresser named Jack Bond. The couple’s marriage ended in 1994. Grandparents and nannies babysat Reeves and his sisters, and Reeves grew up primarily in Yorkville, a neighbourhood in 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 “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.” Reeves excelled more in sports than in academics, as his educational development was challenged by dyslexia. He was a successful ice hockey goalie at one of his high schools (De La Salle College “Oaklands”), and earned the nickname “The Wall”. Reeves dreamed of playing hockey for Canada but an injury ended his hopes for a hockey career. 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.
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1980s: Early career
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. He lived with his ex-stepfather, Paul Aaron, who was a stage and television director. 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.
His first studio movie appearance was Youngblood (1986) in which he played a Québécois goalie. Shortly after the movie’s release, Reeves drove to Los Angeles in his 1969 Volvo. His stepfather had convinced Erwin Stoff in advance to be Reeves’s manager and agent. Stoff has remained Reeves’s manager, and has co-produced many of his films.
After a few minor roles, Reeves received a sizable 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 Permanent Record, and the unexpectedly successful 1989 comedy, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, along with its 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.
1990s: Widespread popularity
From 1991, Reeves played bass guitar in the grunge band Dogstar. During the early 1990s, Reeves started to break out of his teen-film period. He appeared in high-budget action films like 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, but his performance was received negatively.
In 1994, Reeves’s career reached a new high as a result of his starring role in the action film Speed. His casting in the film was controversial since, except for Point Break, he was primarily known for comedies and indie dramas. He had never been the sole headliner on a film. The summer action film had a fairly large budget and was helmed by novice cinematographer-turned-director Jan de Bont.
Reeves’s 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 paycheck, 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 his performance, Roger Lewis, the Sunday Times theatre critic, 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 I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet.”
However, Reeves’s 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 were critically panned and 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 paycut of $1 million for The Devil’s Advocate so that Pacino would be cast, and later took a 90 per cent paycut 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.
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.
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2000s: Continued successes
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 quit in 2005, citing his lack of interest in a serious music career.
In early 2005, Reeves’ accomplishments in Hollywood were recognized by the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was ceremoniously inducted at 6801 Hollywood Blvd, the location of his star. With the honorable acknowledgement of a Hollywood star, Reeves continued acting.
His appearance in A Scanner Darkly (2006), based on the dystopian science fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, received favorable 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 The Private Life of Pippa Lee was presented at Berlinale.
2010s: New artistic roles
Beginning 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 his friend, stuntman Tiger Chen. Filming occurred on 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 2010’s Henry’s Crime and John in 2012’s Generation Um…. During that time, Reeves also played Kai in the critically panned 47 Ronin. Critics widely attribute the film’s direction, pacing, focus on special effects, and editing to its poor performance.
In 2011, he returned to other artistic mediums of expression. Having played music earlier in his career, he forayed into literature by writing the text for a “grown-up picture book” entitled Ode to Happiness. The text was complimented by Alexandra Grant’s illustrations. In 2011, he produced the documentary Side by Side about the supplanting of photo-chemical film by digital camera technology; Reeves interviewed several celebrated directors including James Cameron, Martin Scorsese, and Christopher Nolan.
Reeves?s 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 recognized director of action genre films, John Woo.
Reeves has continued acting while exploring other forms of artistry. 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. It has since been “Certified Fresh” by popular review site Rotten Tomatoes.
In January 2009, it was announced that Reeves would star in the 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, and the project’s status is currently unknown.
In April 2011, Reeves referenced that a third installment of the Bill & Ted series was possible. He further elaborated on the film in December 2013 during a taping of NBC’s The Today Show. “I’m open to the idea of that…I think it’s pretty surreal, playing ‘Bill & 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.”
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Reeves is entitled to British citizenship through his English mother. He holds Canadian citizenship by naturalization. He grew up as a Canadian and identifies as such, and holds an American green card.
During his initial rise to stardom, Reeves preferred to live in rental houses and hotels. He was a long-term resident of the Chateau Marmont. Around 2003, he bought his first house in the Hollywood Hills. He has since purchased an apartment in Manhattan on Central Park West.
Reeves set up a cancer charity, choosing not to attach his name to the organisation; he has also supported PETA, the SickKids Foundation and Stand Up To Cancer. His sister Kim has battled leukemia for more than a decade.
Reeves gave US$80 million of his US$114 million earnings of The Matrix sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, to the special effects and makeup staff. He is quoted as saying ?Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.?
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In December 1999, Reeves’s girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, gave birth to a stillborn daughter. Ava Archer Syme-Reeves was born prematurely, following an eight-month pregnancy. Eighteen months later, Syme died in an automobile accident. She was the sole passenger of the vehicle at the time of the accident. Reeves, who was scheduled to begin shooting back-to-back Matrix sequels during the subsequent spring, was seeking “peace and time to deal with this”, said his friend Bret Domrose, a guitarist in Reeves’s alternative rock band Dogstar.
During 2008, Reeves was sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by paparazzo Alison Silva. The unsuccessful $711,974 suit claimed Reeves allegedly hit and injured Silva with a Porsche concluding a family visit at a Los Angeles medical facility. The paparazzo’s 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.
Reeves is neither Buddhist nor atheist, despite frequent listings to the contrary. He has previously claimed to be non-religious, while also citing an intense interest in Buddhism. In September 2013, when asked if he was a spiritual person, he replied with: “I don’t know? I don’t know the spiritual Richter-scale measurement! That’s a weird answer, isn’t it? I don’t know. Do I believe in God, faith, inner faith, the self, passion, and things? Yes, of course! I’m very spiritual … Supremely spiritual … Bountifully spiritual … Supremely bountiful. [Laughs.]”
Sad Keanu meme
Reeves gained internet notoriety in 2010 when photos of him, seemingly depressed while eating alone, were posted to a 4chan forum. The images were soon distributed via several blogs and news sites. These pictures led to the “Keanu is Sad” or “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 for an article in British newspaper, The Guardian.
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Stalker home invasions
Reeves has had two stalker incidents occur at his Hollywood Hills home. On September 12, 2014, Reeves awoke and found a female stalker in his library, who told him that she was there to meet him. While Reeves calmly talked to her, he called 911 and alerted the police. They arrived, arrested her and took her in for psychological evaluation. On September 15, 2014, a second female stalker made her way into his home through a gate that was left unlocked by a cleaning company. This time, the intruder undressed and took a shower in Reeves’ bathroom and then proceeded to swim naked in his swimming pool. The cleaning crew became suspicious and alerted Reeves. who was not at home. He then notified the police and the stalker was arrested.
- “Keanu Reeves Articles & Interviews Archive, 1986-2014”. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
- “Pondering the mysterious Keanu Reeves”. CNN. November 5, 2003. Archived from the original on April 30, 2008. Retrieved October 8, 2014.
- “Seven magazine interview with Keanu Reeves”. Seven magazine. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Bystedt, Karen Hardy (September 1988). The New Breed: Actors Coming of Age. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 978-0-8050-0774-9. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- DeAngelis, Michael (2001). Gay Fandom anf Crossover Stardom: James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-2728-7.
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- Howell, Peter (May 4, 2003). “Reeves Reloaded”. Toronto Star. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Makela, Bob (August 5, 2000). “Keanu Reeves: All the right moves”. USA Weekend. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Roman, Shari (February 1, 1988). “Keanu Reeves – Hawaiian Punk”. Details. Retrieved December 2, 2014.
- Shnayerson, Michael (August 1995). “The Wild One”. Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 2, 2014.