17 December 2016

Imported from the USA: Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves (1964) is a Canadian actor, producer, director and musician. Though Reeves often faced criticism for his deadpan delivery and perceived limited range as an actor, he nonetheless took on roles in a variety of genres, doing everything from introspective art-house fare to action-packed thrillers. His films include My Own Private Idaho (1991), the European drama Little Buddha (1993), Speed (1994), The Matrix (1999) and John Wick (2014).

Keanu Reeves
Vintage postcard, no. C 445.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard, no. MM373.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd., London, no. SPC 3017.

Keanu Reeves
Spanish postcard by Coleccion Estrellas Cinematograficas, Cacitel, no. 73.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard, no. MM371.

Cool breeze over the mountains

Keanu Charles Reeves was born in 1964, in Beirut, Lebanon. His first name means ‘cool breeze over the mountains’ in Hawaiian. His father, Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr., was a geologist of Chinese-Hawaiian heritage, and his mother, Patricia Bond (née Taylor), was a British showgirl and later a costume designer for rock stars such as Alice Cooper.

Reeves's mother was working in Beirut when she met his father. Upon his parents’ split in 1966, Keanu moved with his mother and younger sister Kim Reeves to Sydney, to New York and then to Toronto. As a child, he lived with various stepfathers, including stage and film director Paul Aaron.

Keanu developed an ardour for hockey, though he would eventually turn to acting. 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.

His film debut was the Canadian feature One Step Away (Robert Fortier, 1985). After a part in the teen movie Youngblood (Peter Markle, 1986), starring Rob Lowe, he obtained a green card through stepfather Paul Aaron and moved to Los Angeles.

After a few minor roles, he gained attention for his performance in the dark drama River's Edge (Tim Hunter, 1986), which depicted how a murder affected a group of adolescents. Reeves landed a supporting role in the Oscar-nominated period drama Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears, 1988), starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. Reeves joined the casts of Ron Howard's comedy Parenthood (1989), and Lawrence Kasdan's I Love You to Death (1990).

Unexpectedly successful was the wacky comedy Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989) which followed two high school students (Reeves and Alex Winter) and their time-travelling high jinks. The success lead to a TV series and a sequel, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (Pete Hewitt, 1991). From then on, audiences often confused Reeves's real-life persona with that of his doofy on-screen counterpart.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard, no. 1034.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Box Office, London, no. BO 007.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Underground, London, no. MM 396.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Underground, London, no. BO110.

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd., London, no. SPC2621.

Most Desirable Male

In the following years, Keanu Reeves tried to shake the Ted stigma. He developed an eclectic film roster that included high-budget action films like the surf thriller Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991) for which he won MTV's ‘Most Desirable Male’ award in 1992, but also lower-budget art-house films.

My Own Private Idaho (1991), directed by Gus Van Sant and co-starring River Phoenix, chronicled the lives of two young hustlers living on the streets. In Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Reeves embodied the calm resolute lawyer Jonathan Harker who stumbles into the lair of Gary Oldman’s Count Dracula.

In Europe, he played prince Siddharta who becomes the Buddha in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Italian-French-British drama Little Buddha (1993).

His career reached a new high when he starred opposite Sandra Bullock in the hit action film Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994). It was followed by the romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds (Alfonso Arau, 1995) and the supernatural thriller Devil’s Advocate (Taylor Hackford, 1997), co-starring Al Pacino and Charlize Theron.

At the close of the decade, Reeves starred in a Sci-fi film that would become a genre game changer, The Matrix (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999). Reeves played the prophetic figure Neo, slated to lead humanity to freedom from an all-consuming simulated world. Known for its innovative fight sequences, avant-garde special effects and gorgeous fashion, The Matrix was an international hit. Two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999) and The Matrix Revolutions (Andy and Lana Wachowski, 1999) followed and The Matrix Reloaded was even a bigger financial blockbuster than its predecessor.

Keanu Reeves in Point Break (1991)
British postcard by Heroes Publishing Ltd., London, no. SPC2581. Photo: publicity still for Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991).

Keanu Reeves in Point Break (1991)
British postcard, no. 1004. Photo: publicity still for Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991).

Keanu Reeves
Vintage postcard, no. PP 105. Photo: publicity still for Point Break (Kathryn Bigelow, 1991).

Keanu Reeves
British postcard by Santoro Graphics Ltd., South Yorks, no. C350. Photo: publicity still for My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991).

Keanu Reeves in Speed (1994)
British postcard, no. 2070. Photo: publicity still for Speed (Jan de Bont, 1994).

A major bonafide box office star

Now a major, bonafide box office star, Keanu Reeves continued to work in different genres and both in big-budget as in small independent films. He played an abusive man in the supernatural thriller The Gift (Sam Raimi, 2000), starring Cate Blanchett, a smitten doctor in the romantic comedy Something’s Gotta Give (Nancy Meyers, 2003) opposite Diane Keaton, and a Brit demon hunter in American-German occult detective action film Constantine (Francis Lawrence, 2005).

His appearance in the animated science fiction thriller A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006), based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, received favourable reviews, and The Lake House (Alejandro Agresti, 2006) , his romantic outing with Sandra Bullock, was a success at the box office.

Reeves returned to Sci-fi as alien Klaatu in The Day the Earth Stood Still (Scott Derrickson, 2008), the remake of the 1951 classic. Then he played a supporting part in Rebecca Miller's The Private Life of Pippa Lee (2009), which starred Robin Wright and premiered at the 59th Berlin International Film Festival.

Reeves co-founded a production company, Company Films. The company helped produce Henry's Crime (Malcolm Venville, 2010), in which Reeves also starred. The actor made his directorial debut with the Chinese-American Martial arts film Man of Tai Chi (2013), partly inspired by the life of Reeves' friend, stuntman Tiger Chen. Martial arts–based themes continued in Reeves's next feature, 47 Ronin (Carl Rinsch, 2013), about a real-life group of masterless samurai in 18th-century Japan who avenged the death of their lord. Variety magazine listed 47 Ronin as one of "Hollywood's biggest box office bombs of 2013".

Reeves returned as a retired hitman in the Neo-Noir action thriller John Wick (Chad Stahelski, David Leitch, 2014). The film opened to positive reviews and performed well at the box office. A sequel, titled John Wick: Chapter Two, is currently in production and is scheduled to be released in 2017. This year, he could be seen in the psychological horror film The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn, 2016) and the romantic horror-thriller Bad Batch (Ana Lily Amirpour, 2016).

Reeves’ artistic aspirations are not limited to film. In the early 1990s, he co-founded the grunge band Dogstar, which released two albums. He later played bass for a band called Becky. Reeves is also a longtime motorcycle enthusiast. After asking designer Gard Hollinger to create a custom-built bike for him, the two went into business together with the formation of Arch Motorcycle Company LLC in 2011.

Reported to be one of the more generous actors in Hollywood, Reeves helped care for his sister during her lengthy battle with leukaemia, and has supported such organisations as Stand Up To Cancer and PETA. In January 2000, Reeves's girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, gave birth eight months into her pregnancy to Ava Archer Syme-Reeves, who was stillborn. The strain put on their relationship by their grief resulted in Reeves and Syme's breakup several weeks later. In 2001, Syme died after a car accident.

Keanu Reeves
French postcard, no. 1027.

Keanu Reeves and River Phoenix in My Own Private Idahoe (1991)
French postcard, no. 1035. Photo: publicity still for My Own Private Idahoe (Gus Van Sant, 1991) with River Phoenix.

Trailer Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). Source: Movieclips Trailer Vault (YouTube).

Trailer Point Break (1991). Source: Adam Jackson (YouTube).

Trailer Speed (1994). Source: 4thMealisGood (YouTube).

Trailer Little Buddha (1993). Source: vijay kumar (YouTube).

Trailer John Wick (2014). Source: Movieclips Trailers (YouTube).

Sources: Biography.com, Wikipedia and IMDb.

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