I don’t know if Keanu Reeves hates doing interviews – and I suspect he very well might – but it’s pretty obvious they take a lot out of him. True story: a few years ago, at Sundance, I was waiting to talk to Eli Roth when, out of the blue, Keanu Reeves, who had just finished doing a round of interviews, pulled up to a seat at my table, put his head down and went to sleep. Keanu Reeves has the everliving shit beat out of him making these John Wick movies (John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum comes out next week) yet it’s press tour interviews that you can see physically draining his energy. And here I was, late on a Sunday afternoon, Reeves’ last interview after a three day press event.
But the thing is, unlike other people in his position, he can still be playful and fun, even when you can tell he’s physically and mentally drained. When I mentioned his role in Ron Howard’s Parenthood, of all things, his eyes lit up – an obvious sign Parenthood hadn’t been mentioned this weekend, so there was something new to talk about. Which then leads basically to a Vaudeville routine in which both of us try to remember his character’s name in Parenthood before I finally cave and just look it up on my phone.
The thing I have noticed about Keanu Reeves is if you ask him if he’s seen something, the answer is most likely no. Did he see that video of Will Smith breaking down why he passed on The Matrix? No, but Reeves had some details to add (including his, no joke, love for Wild Wild West). Had he seen the viral video of him sharing a ride with other stranded passengers after a canceled flight? Again, no, but he also seems annoyed that was put on the internet in the first place. (The previous time I interviewed Reeves I asked him if he had ever seen Speed 2: Cruise Control. He responded, deadpan and hilariously, “I haven’t yet.”)
And when the next installment of Bill and Ted is brought up, he seems genuinely excited. But, first, I couldn’t resist quoting one of my personal favorite Reeves lines, from Man of Tai Chi.
I still often say, “You owe me a life.”
You owe me a life!
You owe me a life!
I feel like in this movie that line could be used if it wasn’t used already.
Yeah, a little Man of Tai Chi, Donaka Mark. Yeah, I don’t know if they have similarities…
I don’t think the characters do, but the theme.
But there is something to it of reality and another hyper-reality, another world.
I’m stretching. Any excuse to say that, I’m going to say it.
You owe me a life!
I spoke to you for the first John Wick and the concern then was “Are people going to like this?” Things have changed.
Yeah, yeah it’s been really special. You hope people like what you do – and you hope that even more when you love what you’re doing. I love the John Wick films. I love playing John Wick.
Well, it sounds like they beat you up in these movies.
Yeah, and I like the suffering of John Wick, and coming back and surviving.
But it has to be grueling.
But the grueling is the gift, right? That part of it – the time it takes, the effort, all the creative – there’s so much collaboration in the action and people working together. It’s such a pleasure.
There’s a scene with a knife fight inside a knife store. For me, that was a, “Oh, that’s a new one” moment. To be clear, it’s not that I haven’t seen characters throw knives before in movies.
Right, but not like that.
But not like that.
Well, we were trying to do John Wick action, but to open it up and put it into different situations. And to, yeah, I would just say open up the complexity and have different environments. So I’m glad you appreciate that.
Were you actually throwing knives?
Yeah, there’s some real knives. We threw some rubber knives and then we had an empty hand, so there’s some CG knives and rubber knives. We trained with rubber knives and I trained with real knives. So we were trying to get the technique and how you would throw. I don’t think I’m really good at it, but I was okay. And I was also practicing techniques where you didn’t spin the knife.
Wouldn’t it be scary to be “good” at something an assassin does, throwing knives?
No, it would be awesome.
Then you could be an assassin.
That’s the fun of playtime, right? Getting to be other people and do other things as an actor.
So when you throw a knife it doesn’t always stick in the wall?
No, no, no.
You can’t just fling it willy-nilly?
No, no, no. I mean, if you get lucky, but if you want to improve your chances of putting the pointy end into whatever you’re aiming at, you have to practice. There’s technique. And especially if you don’t want to spin the knife.
Wait, you don’t want to spin the knife? I thought you did want to spin.
No. There are times where you want it to turn, and then I was just looking at stuff where you don’t have it turn.
What’s the difference?
It goes further when it spins?
Yeah. I mean, you have to handle a knife a different way.
This third John Wick feels like back to basics. The second movie had a lot of world-building.
It does, but it’s only simple because you had the background from chapter two.
This one is, “He’s on the run, go get him.”
Right, you’ve heard about the High Table, and you knew the war of the Continentals, so that world-building was done, so we could just move in to then. For John Wick’s journey, yeah, he’s being chased. But then it takes a turn in the third act, don’t you think?
There’s a little complexity there.
Having seen three of these now, I always wonder this: What do you think John Wick does in his free time? What are his hobbies? Other than that he loves his dog.
In the first script they had John Wick described as working with old leather-bound books and book restoration.
Yeah, we filmed it. It’s not in the movie, but we filmed it.
See, that’s great. He’s got a hobby.
Yeah, he had a hobby and a vocation. That’s what he did. Best case, yes, his wife had passed, and that’s what he had decided to do once he got out after the impossible task, that was his vocation.
How long do you want to keep doing these? Because it’s set up for more.
It’s not really up to me.
It’s a little up to you.
Well, eventually. But the opportunity to do it was up to the audience, right? And that’s up to if whether we made a film that people enjoy or not.
Well, I think the reviews are going to be very good for this and people are going to love it.
Yeah, knock on wood. Fingers crossed. For me it would just be depending on the story and who’s the director. I love the role, so I’d love to play it.
How do you feel about that bus video coming out?
What’s the bus video?
The one where you took a shuttle when the plane wasn’t working…
We were in the cab. It was the cab. Yeah, it was the driver and five other people.
I’m watching it and I remember thinking this is really nice, but then I started feeling like this was a private moment, then I felt bad watching it.
I haven’t seen it. I didn’t know someone videoed – I heard somebody had done some video, but I don’t know how much they had done or not.
But it seemed like a private moment, and I felt kind of bad watching it.
Oh yeah? No, I mean, that’s probably not very cool, right?
You were just trying to enjoy your cab ride.
Someone being spying. Yeah. Yeah, I guess that’s like an invasion of privacy. They didn’t ask me.
I was wondering if someone had asked.
No. No. Anyway. They were nice people. We were in it together. We had a nice car ride.
A lot of your quotes have become iconic. An underrated one is, “Did I win?,” from Parenthood.
Oh, yeah! Ron Howard! Because I remember we shot that, and then I did that version.
What’s great was how not even close to winning he was.
Yeah, he’s just been knocked, concussed, and was like, “Did I win?” What was that character’s name? It wasn’t Eddie. Terry? No. Eddie? No. But I do recall doing that take. And then I was like, “Ah, Ron, I don’t know.” And he was like, “No, I love it.” And I was like, “Okay!” It was very spontaneous.
Well, thank you for that. Thank you for appreciating that.
That one always gets me.
“Did I win?” I love it. He was such a positive guy. And even though he’d crashed and crushed. Look up the character’s name.
Okay, I will.
What was the character’s name?
Eddie? Tanner, no, it wasn’t a “T.” It was Martha Plimpton and then Diane Wiest, she says his name. What is his name?
There it is. We did it.
I know/ [Laughs] He’s probably a cousin of Ted Theodore Logan.
Did you see that video of Will Smith talking about The Matrix?
Will Smith does videos now where he puts them on social media.
Oh, does he?
And he’s like, “I’m going to tell the story about how I was almost in The Matrix.”
Basically, he felt he had done too many sci-fi movies, but then joked he did Wild Wild West instead.
Hey, no, Wild Wild West is good.
I liked Wild Wild West.
I’ll go as far to say I don’t think it’s as bad as people think it is.
No, I thought it was good.
Will Smith will be thrilled to hear that.
It’s good. The production design, Ted Levine was the most amazing…
Kevin Kline. It was good. I enjoyed it.
He said if he were cast Val Kilmer would have been Morpheus.
Yeah, Wachowskis and I both, yeah, we met with Val Kilmer.
Oh, wow, okay. Though I can’t imagine anyone but Laurence Fishburne playing the role.
Yeah, well, Laurence Fishburne’s a legend. He’s amazing.
I’m pretty excited about another Bill and Ted.
Oh yeah? Cool.
In grade school, when we had a substitute teacher, they used to show Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
I went to school in Missouri, maybe that’s part of it.
Who’s Joan of Arc? Noah’s Ark?
You’d be entertained and learn a little something, too. When they didn’t want to teach a lesson they’re like, “Here, watch this.”
That’s funny. You just talk about those historical figures?
It’s like Flintstones Vitamins. You remember those?
I do remember, yes.
“Flintstones is candy but it’s good for you.”
I think the adult version of those are called Tums.
Yes. Yeah, now edibles.
And that, too. But that video of you and Alex is really great.
Yeah, it was fun to do. It was cool to just get together and we just kind of did it.
Why do people like those guys so much?
I don’t know, maybe their outlook on life, never give up. They’re kind of underdogs.
And they’re still going.
And they’re funny.
‘John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum’ opens on May 17. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.