If I were to tell you about an actor who has worked consistently in major Hollywood movies for over two decades, has often worked with Academy-Award winning writers, actors and directors, and who has a legion of fans that follow him in all his movies, no matter the genre or story, what would your immediate reaction to this person be? Would you think “Wow, this guy must be great. Twenty years of studio movies, he must be talented.” Based solely on the description of the actor written above, with no names attached, would you ever in your right mind assume that the person was bad at his craft; that he sucked? Chances are you wouldn’t. And yet, if after giving you that description, I told you the actor was Keanu Reeves, I bet I know what your reaction would be. “He sucks!”
I just don’t get it. In every interview he gives, he comes across as an insightful, cerebral, well-rounded person who doesn’t mire himself in the vagaries of stardom and never asks for more than he needs. His co-stars glow about him, and quality directors line up to put him in their movies. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, he is plagued by this notion that he is dumb. And that he is untalented. And I just don’t get it.
How can he suck if he’s still making big movies twenty years into his career? The majority of his early peers are gone and forgotten; actors like Christian Slater, Judd Nelson, Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, et al, and yet here he is coming out with a huge new movie this Friday (The Lake House). He has survived critical drubbings more severe than he deserves. He has been heckled and flamed and deplored because he has good looks, but a vacant affectation. He is perceived as a flat actor, devoid of charisma, empty of emotional depth. And yet, he’s still here making big movies. So you explain it to me.
I have been a fan of Keanu since his Bill & Ted days. I have defended my love for the man who would be Neo to every one of my friends and family. I have gotten into screaming matches with people I barely know, just because I heard them bash the man. And I have never lost an argument about him, because no one can prove that he isn’t a gifted, talented performer. They lose, because I can prove that he is.
But my arguing stops now. Once and for all, I am going to prove to the world that Keanu Reeves does NOT suck. And I will prove it to you in 40 point list format. I promise when you finish reading this piece, you will respect, admire, and appreciate the talent that is Keanu Reeves.
Let the proving begin…
1. If you weren’t impressed by Keanu’s mean, Southern Redneck in The Gift, or at least agree he was impressively intense, well then, we have nothing to talk about. Just click the “X” and leave this site immediately.
2. Contrary to popular belief, he has never won a Razzie Award, which is more than I can say for Halle Berry, Charlton Heston, John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, Marlon Brando, Dennis Hopper, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Faye Dunaway, Woody Harrelson, and Madonna.
3. Without being asked, he gave $38 Million dollars to The Wachowski Brothers so they could properly finish the Matrix sequels. $38 Million! Let’s see Tom Cruise drop that much for one of his clunkers.
4. He has worked with the following critically acclaimed directors: Francis Ford Coppola, Ron Howard, Bernardo Bertolucci, Gus Van Sant, Sam Raimi, Taylor Hackford, Lawrence Kasdan, Stephen Frears, and Richard Linklater.
6. Keanu’s name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian, which is pretty cool. Compare it to Jean Claude Van Damme, which is loosely translated in German as “giant douchebag.”
7. The night before he was to shoot his kissing-heavy love scene for A Walk in the Clouds, Keanu took a hockey puck to his mouth, which required six stitches. He still showed up the next day for work and shot the scene over the course of six hours. Let’s see a pussyboy like Orlando Bloom do that! Keanu is hardcore.
8. Showing extreme foresight and good judgment (which is more than I can say for Sandra Bullock), passed on an easy $10 million payday to star in Speed 2, because he didn’t think the script was any good. And he was right. Tell me again why people think he’s stupid?
9. Deferred part of his salary on The Replacements (2000) so Gene Hackman could be cast. Obviously, the man knows what makes a movie great. And that would be the Hack Man.
10. Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. They don’t just give those out, you know.
11. A personal quote: "I'm a meathead, man. You've got smart people, and you've got dumb people. I just happen to be dumb." At least the man is brave enough to admit who he is.
12. He is not nearly as stiff, wooden, or stupid as Paul Walker.
13. Has starred in six $100 Million grossing movies. That is more than the following actors many claim are “better” than Keanu: Johnny Depp, George Clooney, Russell Crowe, Leonardo DiCaprio, Colin Farrell, Richard Gere, Hugh Grant, Ethan Hawke, Val Kilmer, Jude Law, Matthew McConaughey, Sean Penn, Joaquin Phoenix, Tim Robbins, Kevin Spacey, Vince Vaughn, Dennis Quaid, and Al freakin’ Pacino!
14. Almost never shows up in tabloids, an extremely welcome quality considering the glut of media whores we have today (ahem, TomKat!).
15. Yeah, it gave people the impression he’s an idiot, and no, it’s not Shakespeare, but c’mon, who doesn’t love Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
16. “I am an F-B-I Agent!” That line rules.
17. Decided to leave his band “Dogstar” so the rest of the group would not be held back by his celebrity or by his busy schedule. Which is more than I can say for a few other jackass actors/wannabe rockers (ahem, Russell Crowe).
18. Managed to keep a straight face all the way through the abysmally crappy Sweet November. That takes talent, people.
19. Has worked with the following Academy Award winning actors: Al Pacino, Gene Hackman, Rachel Weisz, Charlize Theron, Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Marisa Tomei, Morgan Freeman, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Anthony Quinn, Kevin Kline, William Hurt, and that guy who played Bill in Bill & Ted’s. I’m pretty sure he’s won a couple Oscars by now.
20. Is “The One.” Warrants mentioning.
21. Knows his acting limitations and, in doing so, does not try to overextend himself in roles he couldn’t do. This means not only are his movies better, but so is every movie he turns down. He’s making movies he’s NOT in better – someone give it up for this man.
22. Does not own a computer. So you know what that means: he's not a MySpace whore.
23. In his review for Speed, Roger Ebert had this to say about Keanu: “Keanu Reeves has never had a role like this before. In fact, in his previous film, he played the mystical Prince Siddhartha, and generally he tends toward dreamy, sensitive characters. That's why it's sort of amazing to see him so cool and focused here, a completely convincing action hero who is as centered and resourceful as a Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford in similar situations.”
24. Has made movies in every single genre.
25. He played Buddha. No, I’m serious, “the” Buddha. Between playing the freaking Buddha and playing a stoner in Bill & Ted’s, why do people think he has no range?
26. Back in the '80s, he taught stoners of the world something about history (and brought Napoleon to Waterlube). Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that he's totally non, non non, non non, non, non-heinous.
27. And despite being viewed as a “stoner,” has never been pigeonholed on screen. In his various film roles, he has played an FBI agent, a cop, a serial killer, a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist, the One, a Quarterback, a musician, an ad exec, a nuclear physicist (hello!), a redneck, a soldier, the freakin’ Buddha, a gay hustler, and a Dog Boy.
28. He knows kung fu. So, you know, don’t screw with him.
29. When Keanu decides to do a sequel: Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey. When Keanu decides not to do a sequel: Speed 2: Cruise Control. Can this guy pick winners, or what?
30. Is none of the following: a Scientologist (Tom Cruise), a john (Hugh Grant), a drug addict (Robert Downey Jr.), a cheat (Jude Law), a phone-thrower (Russell Crowe), hard to work with (Val Kilmer) or a mean bastard (Sean Penn).
31. Beside his obvious acting talents, Keanu also surfs, rides motorcycles, was a good enough hockey goalie to earn the nickname “The Wall,” performs Shakespeare, reads philosophy, plays guitar in a slew of rock bands, ballroom dances, horseback rides, and “knows” kung fu. Is there anything he can’t do?
32. His name is actually pronounced “kay-ah-nu,” not “key-ah-nu”, and yet he never makes a fuss out of it (ahem, DEMI!).
33. Has romanced on-screen: Charlize Theron (twice), Sandra Bullock (twice), Monica Bellucci(twice), Rachel Weisz (twice), Carrie-Anne Moss (thrice), Diane Lane, Connie Nielson, Dina Meyer, and Uma Thurman. This does not necessarily disprove his specific level of suckage, but it does prove that hot actresses want to bang him on-screen, which is an important quality in today’s movie stars. For example, nobody wants to nail Adam Sandler, and he’s not nearly as good an actor as Keanu, even if you count Punch-Drunk Love twice.
34. Was in the Pilot episode of the awesome short-lived Jay Mohr show, Action. And since that show ruled all, he in turn, receives a percentage of the ruling. Let’s say 17%.
35. To his everlasting credit, never made a cameo appearance on Will & Grace, which makes him only one of five movie stars in the world never to have done so.
36. Was the host for a documentary show called Children Remember the Holocaust. He supports the faith, I support him.
37. Has a college class based around his movies. “The Films of Keanu Reeves” at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA. Name another supposedly “sucky” actor who has a college class named after him? That’s right, you can’t, because Keanu’s the only one. Because he kicks ass AND educates the youth of tomorrow.
38. Turned down the Val Kilmer role in Heat to do a production of Hamlet in Canada. If I haven’t said it before, let me say it now, the man is devoted to his craft. He works on it, he tries new things. He keeps working. Even if you think he’s not getting better, at least he’s trying. How many movie stars keep pushing themselves after they hit it big? How many just coast along on generic roles and unspectacular performances? Keanu pushes himself. Fuck all to his limitations, he pushes himself and I respect him for it.
39. British theater critic Roger Lewis of the Sunday Times in London (who knows something about Shakespeare – after all, he is British) had this to say about Keanu’s Winnipeg-based performance of The Prince of Denmark in Hamlet: "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."
40. Brought unto the world the phrase “Bogus, dude,” for which we are all eternally grateful.
Now tell me, after reading this piece, do you still think he sucks?
I didn’t think so.