What's so inspiring about Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves: "Life goes by faster and faster"
With "Speed" he becomes a star, with "Matrix" he becomes a film legend. At the end of the 1990s, there was no hero in Hollywood who was as successful and at the same time as cool as Keanu Reeves. Private strokes of fate, such as the death of his sister and his girlfriend, or his deep distrust of the media, are the reason why he repeatedly withdraws from the public. In the past few years he has mainly focused on his directorial debut "Man of Tai Chi".
But now Keanu Reeves is back, better than ever. In the grandiose revenge thriller "John Wick" he plays a professional killer with a weakness for fast vintage cars and tailor-made suits. For the interview with Christian Aust in the recently opened New York "Park Hyatt Hotel" he appears in a black slim-fit suit and lace-up boots. He is proud of his film and is almost shy about compliments: "Thank you, man. That means a lot to me. I like this John Wick. And if the film goes well, I would like to play him again".
With its spectacular action scenes, "John Wick" is one of the most physically demanding films you have ever made. You have just turned fifty. How did you survive that?
It clearly gets tougher the older I get. On the other hand, I have more experience. I find it easier to learn the choreography of a fight. This time we didn't have weeks to rehearse the action scenes like we did with "The Matrix". We only developed a lot on the same day. And then it says: Okay, you come into the room at this point and come out again. In between you shoot these twelve guys. In the end, it all comes down to timing. I built my age into this role. Is that how it comes across on the screen? I'm playing a retired killer. And as far as fitness is concerned, I should look a little neglected anyway, until things really get down to business. I asked the directors before filming began: Do you want muscles? And they said: No, but you should look like you have the potential.
Any serious injuries?
Nothing dramatic. In any case, I didn't have to go to the hospital. My film contender Michael Nyquist had a really bad head injury and had to be sewn with eighty stitches. However, I still have traces of my fight with Adrianne Palicki on my legs because I had the great idea of filming the scene in boxer shorts.
You always wanted to be a successful actor, but not the classic Hollywood star. If you look back today: How did you live with this contradiction?
It might sound a bit mundane now, but I just didn't go out often and didn't show myself in public. I just stayed home. Or I purposely did not appear where you would expect so-called Hollywood stars. There are a lot of other exciting things to do.
How does it feel to be fifty years old?
It definitely feels different. My forties really passed by in a flash. And what they say is really true: life goes by faster and faster the closer we get to the white light. First life was a march, now it's a race and soon the sprint comes for me. I didn't worry too much about this birthday. It only started two weeks before that. When I turned forty it was kind of a physical event, like puberty. My body and mind have changed in who I was and what I thought.
In which direction was this change going?
It is commonly called a "midlife crisis". I realized that I am mortal. And connected with this thought came a kind of balance sheet: Where did I get to and who was I before? To me it felt like the end of the teenage dream. As a child, you have this dream of becoming a teenager and then an adult. In your early twenties, you're working to make this dream come true. At thirty you either live it or you don't. Forty for me was this point of comparing the ideas I had as a young person with the status quo. Then something completely different happens in the forties. I know now I'm going to die. But it is precisely this awareness that makes the past more precious. I suddenly remember a lot of things from before.
My first love Or things that interested me when I was eight years old. It's a crazy feeling.
Who accompanied you on this journey and from whom did you learn something as a man?
I have colleagues who have also become kind of mentors for me, for example Lawrence Fishburne and Dustin Hoffman. In a sense, I went through fire with Lawrence. And Dustin was always great to talk to. I have always admired Lawrence. And now we always meet once a year, open a good bottle and talk until five in the morning.
Many people believe that success and wealth make you happy. What is your experience?
Honestly. Success and wealth are a good basis to work on your happiness. It could really get worse. I definitely don't want to swap places with someone who has to live on the street. I think this saying is quite nonsense: These people have nothing and are happy because of that. I'll just say this much: life is complicated, it is short and if we are lucky, it is fulfilled.
How long does success sustain the ego or warm the heart?
There is a strange contrast between the moments in front of the camera or on stage and what happens when the curtain closes again. That has been fascinating since school theater. On the stage, the decoration looks like a real whole forest. As soon as the demonstration is over, it consists only of boards and nails. And then you go home and normal life awaits you there. You still have to do the dishes and take out the trash. I still remember the "Oscar" ceremony very well, at which Peter O’Toole received his "Oscar" for his life's work. Peter O’Toole has always been one of my absolute heroes. I even ran after him once in London to introduce myself. So he got this very special "Oscar" and was celebrated with a standing ovation. Then we went to the "Vanity Fair" after party. Then there is champagne, he had his family with him and everything was really glamorous. I was there until the end of the party. And when I come out of the hotel, Peter O’Toole is standing there waiting for a car to drive him home. I thought: how can that be? Why doesn't anyone drive this man who was just celebrated home? But that's the way it works in this business, man. First the hustle and bustle and then you are alone. I have often found this strange contradiction to be very surreal.
You should be the first on the film set in the morning and the last to leave. What drives you after all these years in this profession?
That's how I work. And that's exactly what I enjoy about this job: to kneel down completely into this work. Once I have accepted a project, nothing else exists in my life during this period. I especially love it when the work becomes as intense as with "John Wick". We really only had a very narrow time window. And the action scenes were very demanding. I've been working with the guys who directed it for over 15 years now. They are like brothers to me. When it comes to action, I kind of grew up with them. I wanted to give everything so as not to disappoint her.
"John Wick" is one of the coolest, most brutal but at the same time most emotional action thrillers that I have seen in the cinema for a long time. Who inspired you to create this character?
The emotional side was very important to me. This obligatory "body count" has been seen a thousand times, but definitely not in this way. John Wick is vulnerable, fragile and has lost everything he loves. That's his motivation. I still find Clint Eastwood incredibly inspiring, from the spaghetti westerns to The Unforgiven. I think Steve McQueen is great too. And I even incorporated Bruce Lee into my character.
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