ife certainly has been a most excellent adventure for Keanu Reeves. With a resume of over 40 films, the 37-year-old actor regularly turns down movie roles to go on the road with his alternative rock band, Dogstar. Fortunately for Matrix fans, Reeves completed back-to-back sequels for the franchise prior to heading out on a summer tour.
While moviegoers will have to wait until next summer for The Matrix Reloaded and summer 2003 for Matrix III, Reeves' latest film, Hardball, opens this month. Hardball tells the story of a down-on-his-luck con artist who, in exchange for a loan from his friend, agrees to coach a little league from an inner-city Chicago housing project. The film is based on the book by Daniel Coyle and co-stars Diane Lane and D. B. Sweeney.
Keanu, whose name means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian, was born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1964 to Patricia, a showgirl, and Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a geologist. He was only two when his parents divorced and his mother moved him and his younger sister Kim to New York. Shortly thereafter, in search of a more family friendly environment, they moved again - this time to Toronto.
Due to dyslexia, Reeves was never much of an academic, but quickly found that hockey was not only something that he loved, but something he was good at. But then Reeves discovered a new love - acting - and hockey took a back seat.
Against the advice of family and friends, Reeves dropped out of Toronto's High-School for the Performing Arts to pursue an acting career.
In 1986, after a few stage plays and a handful of bit parts in made-for-TV movies, Reeves landed his first big break. Bratpacker Rob Lowe was in Toronto filming Youngblood, a hockey-themed movie. Eager to put his hockey skills to use, Reeves snared a supporting role. Youngblood was just the motivation Reeves needed to give acting his best shot and after production wrapped he left Toronto and headed for Hollywood.
Reeves' brooding good looks quickly landed him auditions and, not long after, a role in River's Edge, co-starring Dennis Hopper. Reeves' performance in the morose teen drama caught the attention of critics, but unfortunately the movie wasn't as well received by audiences.
Reeves immediately followed it up with an understated performance in the period drama Dangerous Liaisons and went on to play Martha Plimpton's bumbling boyfriend in the ensemble comedy Parenthood. But it wasn't until his hilarious portrayal of a totally cool teen in 1989's Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure that Reeves received widespread recognition.
It was an association Reeves tried unsuccessfully to shake with subsequent roles, including that of a surfer FBI agent in Point Break (1991), a narcoleptic male hustler in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1991), a hapless lawyer who raises the ire of the Count himself in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula (1992), an ill-mannered spoiler in a film version of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing (1993) and Prince Siddartha in Bernardo Bertolucci's box office disaster, Little Buddha (1994).
In the 1994 mega-hit Speed, Reeves' turn as a heroic L.A. police officer battling a maniacal bomb enthusiast (played by his River's Edge co-star Dennis Hopper) cast a new light on the type of role he could play. Reeves' save-the-day performance opposite Sandra Bullock's damsel in distress helped Speed rake in over $121 million and catapulted the previously underrated actor's paycheck past the $10 million mark, making him a bona-fide action star.
Many questioned his decision to turn down $12 million for Speed II, opting instead to go out on tour with his band. But Reeves got the last laugh when the sequel about a runaway cruise ship tanked. "The script I read sounded pretty ridiculous. I mean, just how fast can an ocean liner go?" said Reeves about his reasoning. "It hardly qualifies for speed."
In 1997, Reeves starred opposite Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate. His portrayal of an enthusiastic young attorney who inadvertently chooses Satan as his mentor (chillingly played by Pacino) cast Reeves opposite ingenue Charlize Theron, with whom he would re-team on the tear-jerker Sweet November.
In 1999, lightening struck again for Reeves with the futuristic cyber-thriller The Matrix, co-starring Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss. With an intriguing man vs. computer plotline and eye-popping digital effects, The Matrix earned over $170 million and remains one of the top selling DVDs of all time.
Acting is what he does for a living, but it's not his life. He's got a new CD in the works and several film projects to choose from. Reeves may never shake his airhead Bill & Ted persona entirely, but at least there's a whole new generation of fans will think of him more as The Matrix's Neo than an adolescent stoner. To that end, Reeves was reportedly paid $30 million for both Matrix sequels plus 15 percent of the gross - and that, dude, is excellent, most excellent.
- Amy Ferguson