• Film

Flashback: Keanu Reeves in the Late 1990s

Keanu Reeves has been making some interesting choices lately – voicing a namesake cat in Key & Peele’s feline-in-the-hood movie, joining the exodus of A-list movie stars to TV with the series Rain. Or playing against type in The Neon Demon, director Nicolas Winding Refn’s stylish, nightmarish meditation on fame, beauty and sex that split the Cannes Film Festival in two.

Our first encounter with Keanu took place in September of 1991 when Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho opened. Flanked by Van Sant and friend and castmate (and Golden Globe nominee) River Phoenix, Keanu didn’t say much, letting River do most of the talking.

Things were different three years later, when a more confident Keanu shared the interview hot seat with future Golden Globe winner Sandra Bullock to talk about their breakthrough hit Speed. “What appealed to me about the film was the title”, he told us. “It seemed like a good deal. I’ve been looking for work. I hadn’t worked for about eight months. So when it came around … I was, you know, glad.”

Keanu admitted having “no ambition to become, quote unquote, an action hero”, something that felt out of place a mere five years later, in 1999, when he was already commanding $20 million salaries and was the star of one of the most successful an iconic sci-fi/action movies of the turn of the century: the Wachowski siblings’ The Matrix.  He was in a deep philosophical mood back then. “What is The Matrix?” he pondered. “It’s more about a beginning than an end. It’s a film of questioning, awakening, consciousness, love, support, faith, evolution, man’s relationship with machines, Kung Fu cinema (…) It’s got the kind of mythical figures: the hero, the wise man, the warriors, the guides, the prophesy, the oracle.”