Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves

Born Keanu Charles Reeves in Beirut, Lebanon, he was the son of Samuel Nowlin Reeves, Jr., an American of Chinese-Hawaiian, English, Irish and Portuguese descent, and Patricia Taylor, who hailed from England. His parents separated when Reeves was three years of age, and Taylor, who worked as a costume designer, took their son with her on various assignments in Sydney, Australia and New York City before settling in Toronto, Ontario. There, Reeves' mother would marry and divorce three more husbands, while her son, raised primarily by grandparents and nannies, cycled through several Toronto high schools while nurturing an interest in hockey. But roles in theater productions convinced him to pursue a career as an actor, and he soon logged appearances in local television commercials and episodic series. After making his feature film debut as a Quebecois goalie in the Rob Lowe hockey drama, "Youngblood" (1986), Reeves headed south to Los Angeles, where he found steady work in various American TV-movies and episodic programs. But after earning solid notices for a dramatic turn as a thoughtful teenager caught up in a murder in Tim Hunter's "The River's Edge" (1986), Reeves graduated to features, where his quiet intensity and exotic good looks initially minted him as a romantic juvenile lead or bruised antihero in films like "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988) and "Permanent Record" (1988). But he showed an unexpected knack for comedy with his turn as a good-natured, if slow-witted teen traveling through time in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989), which led to a slew of roles as goofy but earnest young men in Ron Howard's "Parenthood" (1989) and the Lawrence Kasden-penned "I Love You To Death" (1990). Reeves proved to be almost too adept at these roles, which undermined efforts to play more serious roles, like his surfing FBI agent in Kathryn Bigelow's "Point Break" (1991), Englishman Jonathan Harker in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (1992) for Francis Ford Coppola, and a Shakespearean villain in Kenneth Branagh's "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993), for which he was the subject of much critical scorn. But a turn as a gay hustler in Gus Van Sant's "My Own Private Idaho" (1992) silenced a few critics, as did the box office success of "Speed" (1994), with Reeves as a stalwart police officer helping Sandra Bullock pilot a runaway bus. To the surprise of many industry observers, Reeves turned down the inevitable sequel to "Speed" in favor of touring with his band, Dogstar, and appearing in a 1995 production of "Hamlet" in Winnipeg. When he returned to Hollywood, Reeves continued to keep his distance from traditional studio fare, preferring instead to devote his energies to arthouse efforts like "A Walk in the Clouds" (1995) for Alfonso Arau and Bernardo Bertolucci's "Little Buddha" (1995), which cast him as the adult Buddha. Neither of these efforts, or subsequent projects like "Feeling Minnesota" (1996), found much support at the box office, and he was a supporting player in two of his most successful projects of this period - "The Devil's Advocate" (1997), with Al Pacino, and "The Replacements" (2000), with Gene Hackman. A personal tragedy in the loss of a child with longtime significant other Jennifer Syme, who would herself pass away two years later, added a layer of emotional loss to his downward spiraling fortunes, but in 1999, he rebounded as Neo, a hacker who discovers a secret world within computer technology in "The Matrix." An unqualified hit for its remarkable special effects and imaginative scripting, it was followed by two blockbuster sequels ("The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," both 2003), and with the success of Nancy Meyers' comedy "Something's Gotta Give" (2003), with Reeves as Jack Nicholson's romantic rival for Diane Keaton, and "Constantine" (2005), with Reeves as DC Comics' demon hunter, he had returned as a bankable box office star. Reeves soon settled into a breathless schedule of studio and independent efforts, ranging from a remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (2008) and "The Lake House" (2008), which reunited him with "Speed" star Sandra Bullock, to Richard Linklater's animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick's "A Scanner Darkly" (2006) and the martial arts actioner "The 47 Ronin" (2013). He also branched out to embrace a variety of projects, from a picture book for grown-ups to producing the digital filmmaking documentary "Side by Side" (2011) and making his directorial debut with "Man of Tai Chi" (2013). The U.S.-Chinese co-production, inspired in part by the life of Reeves' friend, stuntman Tiger Chen, took five years to complete, which Reeves funded through steady work in dozens of features. The most unexpectedly successful of these was "John Wick" (2015), directed by stunt man Chad Stahelski, who was also Reeves' stunt double. The film, an ultra-violent tribute to noir and martial arts films, starred Reeves as a former hitman who waged war on the Russian gangster that stole his car and killed his dog. Its stylistic excesses drew positive reviews and $88 million at the box office, and was followed by two more hit sequels, "John Wick: Chapter 2" (2017) and "John Wick: Chapter 3-Parabellum" (2019). Between these efforts, Reeves collaborated with director Nicholas Winding Refn on his surreal "Neon Demon" (2016), gave an amusing cameo as an exaggerated version of himself in the Netflix feature "Always Be My Maybe" (2019) and lent his voice to a Canadian stunt rider toy in "Toy Story 4" (2019).