“Every struggle in your life has shaped you into the person you are today. Be thankful for the hard times, they can only make you stronger.”—Keanu Reeves.
When describing Keanu Reeves, it is hard not to use the word duality, as he is one of the most divisive actors of all time. People either love him or hate him. They think he is charismatic or dull, interesting or boring, Zen or zoned out. When it comes to Reeves, everything is black and white with no grey areas.
However, there is one constant when it comes to Reeves and his career: there is no denying he was perfect for his role in The Matrix and the only one capable of pulling it off—even Will Smith agrees! At 54 years old—or older, depending on who you ask—and undergoing a career resurgence thanks to the John Wick films, Reeves doesn’t look to be slowing down or going away anytime soon, so why not read up on the Canadian who can be summed up in one word—Whoa!
1. It’s in His Blood
It is only fitting that Keanu Reeves almost had a career in hockey, as it is an integral part of being a Canadian. Reeves played goalie growing up and was quite talented, earning the nickname “The Wall” and getting offered a tryout for the Ontario Hockey League team the Windsor Spitfires. He declined the offer to pursue acting instead.
2. The Opposite of Fast
Reeves was game for a Speed sequel all the way up until he read the script and thought it was so bad that it would sink his career, no pun intended. He was not a fan of switching to a cruise ship, as he thought it would be too slow, and he wasn’t wrong. Always the gentleman, he told the people involved in Speed 2, “I love you guys but I just can’t do it.” He even reportedly turned down between $11 million and $12 million to return.
3. Did We Forget Anyone?
Reeves was cast as the lead in Speed after the director saw him in Point Break, but before he landed the role it was offered to a who’s who of 90s actors like Stephen Baldwin, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Wesley Snipes, and Woody Harrelson.
4. All Around the World
It is widely known that Reeves is Canadian but what people may not know is that he wasn’t born in Canada. Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon on September 2, 1964, and spent time in Sydney, Australia and New York City before calling Toronto home. Since he spent the majority of his childhood in Canada, he identifies as Canadian.
5. We Should Start a Band!
Reeves played bass in a grunge band called Dogstar from 1991 to 2002 and they were about as good as the name suggests, just asks Reeves himself. He acknowledges that they weren’t very good, as evident by a disaster gig they played at a festival where fans showered the stage with beers and boos during a Grateful Dead cover. Throughout their 11-year run, they managed to produce two albums and one EP, with the career highlight coming when they played at the Glastonbury Festival in the UK in 1999.
6. Building a Resume
Reeves has acted in virtually every medium of entertainment in his career, dating all the way back to when he was a kid. He had roles in community theatre, local television and commercials, with his first acting credit coming from a Coca-Cola commercial in 1983. He would later make his official film debut in the Canadian short film One Step Away in 1985, and his feature film debut in the hockey movie Youngblood in 1986, where he played a goalie.
7. Got Bills to Pay
When Reeves turned 19 years old, he decided it was time to make a run at becoming an actor full-time and moved to Los Angeles. However, before making that jump and developing a successful acting career, Reeves had part-time jobs growing up in Canada, working at a hockey rink and an Italian food store.
8. One Last Ride
Fans of the Bill & Ted franchise collectively lost their minds earlier this year when a YouTube video popped up featuring Reeves and Alex Winter making the official announcement that the trilogy will be completed Summer 2020 with Bill and Ted Face the Music. It will be nearly 20 years since the last movie was released back in 1991, but this one could have arrived earlier as the script was completed in 2011.
9. A Tad Too Short
The director of Speed—Jan de Bont—didn’t want Reeves to have long hair in the movie because he felt like it made Reeves look too young and more like a hippie. As a response to this, Reeves ended up shaving his head completely bald, which terrified everyone at the studio, who were taken aback when they first saw him. It ended up growing in a bit before they actually started filming.
10. They Can’t All Be Winners
Reeves may be a fan favorite actor for a lot of people but it is fair to say that critics are not always in favor of his style of acting. This is evident from his films ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, as he is associated with 35 rotten movies compared to 26 fresh movies. His three highest rated movies on the site are Dangerous Liaisons, Parenthood, and Speed, all at 93%, with the worst rated movie being Generation Um… at the lowest of the low, 0%.
11. Hero for Hire
Although John Wick and Neo are essentially superheroes without the capes, Reeves has never played a comic book superhero, but not from lack of interest or trying. If he could have it his way, Reeves would play Batman or Wolverine, and was even in consideration for the latter in X-Men, but lost out to Hugh Jackman. He was also almost cast as Dr. Manhattan in Watchmen.
12. That’s a Lot of Dough
Reeves movies may not be winning Academy Awards but they are winning the box office when they’re released. He currently has a lifetime box office gross of $1,963,443,716 from 47 movies, and when adjusted for ticket price inflation it goes up to $3,332,908,500. His three highest grossing movies of all-time are—unsurprisingly—The Matrix trilogy, with The Matrix Reloaded coming in first, The Matrix second and The Matrix Revolutions third. He earned a decent payday for those movies alone, which helped contribute to his $360 million net worth.
13. Making It Work
People can say what they want about Reeves acting abilities but they can’t deny his passion and drive to make the best movie possible. That is why he took a multi-million dollar pay cut for The Devil’s Advocate so they could afford to cast Al Pacino, and a 90% pay cut on The Replacements, so they could hire Gene Hackman.
14. True Team Player
Further proof that Reeves did not pursue a career in acting for the money alone comes from his time working on The Matrix trilogy. He was paid handsomely for his contribution to that film’s success but he also understood and acknowledged that it takes an entire team of people in various departments to pull it all off. That is why he gave away $75 million of his payday from the two Matrix sequels to the special effects and costume design teams. And to top it all off, he bought the entire stunt team Harley Davidson motorcycles.
15. Make Keanu Happy Again
Don’t forget to book off June 15 from work this year so you can celebrate “Cheer Up Keanu Reeves Day”, which is a legitimate day, or as legitimate as people want it to be. This day was created by the website 4chan after the Sad Keanu memes started popping up on the internet in June 2010, featuring a rather sad looking Reeves eating a sandwich on a bench.
16. Permanent Record
Reeves’ criminal record isn’t entirely squeaky clean, as he has had a few run-ins with the law—not counting the paparazzo case that was thrown out—that revolve around driving. He was arrested in 1993 for driving under the influence—he confessed immediately—and in 2006 he was pulled over for running a red light.
17. Hollywood Bum
Even after achieving financial success in his career, Reeves stayed busy as an actor and never ended up finding a place to call home. He would spend his nights in hotels—like the Chateau Marmont—and in on-set trailers. He confessed in an interview that he stayed in a hotel for almost four years in the 90s. He finally decided to lock down a permanent residence around 2008, when he bought a $4 million house in the Hollywood Hills.
18. Chicks Dig Scars
Reeves is a motorcycle fanatic, so much so that he started his own motorcycle manufacturing company called Arch Motorcycle Company. He was even gifted a $50,000 West Coast Chopper from motorbike builder Jesse James on his 40th birthday. Surprisingly, his passion and love for motorcycles hasn’t changed over the years, even though they have been responsible for some pretty serious injuries he’s sustained from riding. He’s ruptured his spleen, broken his ankle, gotten burns and stitches, had a tooth go through his upper lip and lost a few teeth as well. Next time he’s on screen, try and spot which teeth are fake.
19. Superhero Shuffle
Reeves was nearly part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe this year as he was initially cast in Captain Marvel as Yon-Rogg, the mentor to Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. Unfortunately, the filming schedule conflicted with John Wick 3, and he had to drop out at the last minute, with the role going to Jude Law.
20. Sign Me Up
There used to be a professor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California who taught a film class where students would watch Reeves’ movies and use them “as a departure point for discussing culture and philosophy.” The course originally looked at the films of European directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jean-Luc Godard, but the professor decided to mix it up one semester and spend 12 weeks looking at Reeves’ filmography. Some of the movies screened were Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Point Break.
21. Awards Season
Depending on who you ask, it is either criminal or justifiable that Reeves has never been nominated for an Oscar for acting. That prestigious award may have eluded him up to this point in his career, but there are other awards shows he’s found some success at. He’s been nominated for 13 MTV Movie Awards and won four—Most Desirable Male, Best On-Screen Duo, Best Fight, and Best Male Performance—as well as, unfortunately, five Razzie awards—three for worst actor and twice for worst supporting actor—but has never won, which is technically a good thing.
22. Bold Move
Reeves turned down a role in the critically acclaimed movie Heat—where he would’ve acted opposite screen legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino—in order to appear in Hamlet as the titular character. That would be somewhat understandable if it were a film version, but it wasn’t. It was a play that was put on in a 789-seat theatre in Manitoba, of all places. To be fair, he sold out the venue every night of its run, and had people from countries as far as Japan and Finland come see the show.
23. The More the Keanu the Better
Glasgow, Scotland was home to the first ever Keanu Reeves Film Festival in 2019, called KeanuCon. It was a two-day event that took place on April 27 and 28 and saw 11 movies screened, including such classics as The Matrix, Speed, and both Bill and Ted films.
24. I Do If You Do
Reeves has never been married, unless people want to count his marriage from the movie Dracula with Winona Ryder, which they technically could, sort of. The duo recently joked about this during the promotional tour for their movie Destination Wedding, bringing up that the filmmakers for Dracula used a real Romanian priest to conduct a full marriage ceremony between the two actors for their wedding scene. Sure, that reasoning may not hold up in a court of law, but it could help someone win at trivia night.
25. Personality Matches the Name
If anyone is thinking about naming their future child Keanu, know that it means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian. And for anyone who wasn’t thinking about naming their kid Keanu, maybe consider it after finding that out.
26. Bad Habit to Break
Apparently, Reeves went full method actor while filming the movie Feeling Minnesota, as he decided to smoke real cigarettes on screen. This was the first time he had ever smoked in his life, and as a result, he ended up becoming addicted to cigarettes at the age of 30. In a 2008 interview, he claimed he wanted to quit, but it’s 2019 now and he still smokes, so it looks like he’s losing that battle.
27. Who You Gonna Call?
Reeves shared an interesting story on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few years back about the time he saw a ghost, or just a floating jacket, or both—he’s not entirely sure. The story goes that when he was about 6 years old, he was in his bedroom with his nanny when he saw a bodiless jacket float into the doorframe and drop. Being a kid, he thought nothing of it but when he looked over at his nanny her jaw was just about on the floor.
28. Dodged a Bullet on That One
Like a lot of actors trying to break into Hollywood, there was a brief period where Reeves agents tried to convince him to change his name. He came up with two, and they are both equally terrible, so brace yourself. The first one was Chuck Spadina, which his agents were not fans of, and the second was Templeton Page Taylor, which definitely stands out, but for the wrong reasons.
29. He Looks Good for His Age
There exists a website called Keanu Is Immortal, which posits that, well, Keanu is immortal. The site puts forth the theory that Reeves never ages and has had numerous identities throughout the years, like Charlemagne the King—born in 748—and Paul Mounet, the French actor—born in 1847. Jimmy Fallon actually brought this up with him on his talk show, and Reeves technically never denied it…
30. I’ll See You in Court
Reeves found himself in some legal trouble in 2008 when a paparazzo sued him after he claimed Reeves struck him with his car, resulting in a broken wrist. The paparazzo was looking for $711, 974 in compensation, while Reeves maintained his innocence, claiming the paparazzo tried over his own feet and was never touched by the car. It took over a year and a half before the case wound up in court, but less than an hour for the jury to realize the paparazzo was lying—go figure—and the case was thrown out.
31. Not an Ideal Debut
Reeves made his directorial debut in 2013 with the movie Man of Tao Chi, and it remains today his only director credit. The film was poised to be a big deal in China, as it was co-produced by the country, featured a Chinese actor in the lead role and was mostly shot in the country. Unfortunately, it failed to gain any traction and is considered a box office bomb, making just over $5 million on an estimated $25 million budget. At least it was received fairly well by critics!
32. Will the Real John Please Stand up
People paying attention to the filmography of Reeves may have noticed that he has an interesting relationship with the name John, as he’s played seven characters—soon to be eight—with that name throughout his career. He’s been, in no particular order, Jonathan Hacker, John Wall, Don John, Johnny Mnemonic, John Constantine, Johnny Utah, John Wick, and soon, John Rain. It can’t be a coincidence, he definitely lost a bet with someone—or John is his lucky name.
33. Practice Makes Perfect
Reeves performs his own stunts for the John Wick franchise—which is insane at 50+ years old!—but his desire for adrenaline seems to have been birthed on the set of Speed. The director of the movie, De Bont said, “He was nervous in the beginning, then he got addicted to the adrenaline,” which is why he insisted on performing the stunt where he jumps from a car to the bus.
De Bont shot down the idea, so Reeves secretly rehearsed the scene, and when it came time to film he just went for it. De Bont’s reaction when he saw his movie star literally jump for his life—“I almost had a heart attack”.
34. He’s Sexy and He Knows It
Reeves is no stranger to lists, as he has been featured on quite a few throughout his career, most notably for his good looks. He’s been featured in People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world and on Empire magazine’s list of 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History. The people at Empire magazine are definitely fans of Reeves, as he’s popped up several more times, like at number 23 on their top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list and number 68 as Neo from The Matrix trilogy for the 100 Greatest Movie Characters.
35. Family Struggles
Keanu’s mother Patricia Taylor was British and his father Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr. was Chinese-Hawaiian. They had one more child, a daughter, before Samuel decided to abandon his family. Keanu would see a string of stepfathers enter his life, along with a half-sister from one of his mother’s marriages. Some relationships were lasting, as he was able to live with one of his stepfathers in L.A. after he decided to make the road trip from Canada to pursue acting. To this day, Reeves has still not talked to or seen his biological father since he was 13.
36. Rebel Without a Cause
To say school wasn’t for Reeves is a bit of an understatement. He may have turned into a Zen, carefree actor later on in life but when he was growing up, he was more of a bad boy. He attended four high schools in five years and was expelled from the Etobicoke School of Arts at 16 years of age for running his mouth too much and talking back to teachers and faculty. Ultimately, he never graduated high school but it’s safe to say he turned out just fine.
37. Someone Needs a Security Upgrade
On September 12, 2014, Reeves entered his library to discover an unwanted female guest sitting there waiting for him. The situation could have ended much worse, but luckily she just wanted to meet him, so he was able to keep her calm while he quietly called 9-1-1 and they arrested her.
38. Bad Luck Comes in…Twos?
Things took an even weirder turn three days later, on September 15, when Reeves had another break-in from a different female guest, but this time he wasn’t there, and it was much more strange. The woman took a shower then skinny dipped in his pool. Reeves cleaning crew got suspicious and called him about it, and he called 9-1-1. Maybe that’s where the idea for the movie Knock Knock came from.
39. Hard Times
Reeves was set to welcome his first daughter into the world in 1999 with his then-girlfriend Jennifer Syme, but tragedy struck when the baby was stillborn at eight months old. She was named Ava Archer Syme-Reeves and they buried her in January 2000.
40. Tragedy Upon Tragedy
This heartbreaking loss proved to be too much for the couple to handle and they separated a few weeks later, but remained friends. Two years later, Reeves had to bury another loved one when Jennifer died in a car accident after losing control of her vehicle and getting thrown from it.