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INT: Keanu Reeves

02.17.2005

Fresh off the MATRIX trilogy, Keanu Reeves gets a shot at another successful film franchise this week with CONSTANTINE , based on the popular underground comic "Hellblazer". Reeves plays the title role of John Constantine, a noir-ish ďsupernatural detectiveĒ who spends his days chasing around naughty little demons that choose to meddle in earthly affairs. Hellblazer fans will be quick to note that the character in the comic was blonde, British and hunted demons on the streets of London. Though early drafts of the script included these details, changes were made in order to get the film to the big screen. I would love to have heard Keanu say ďWhoaĒ with a British accent, but Iíll live. Iíll always have DANGEROUS LIAISONS.

Keanu stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week for a brief press conference to promote the film. He wore a beard, something that I found oddly unsettling. Other than that he was his usual affable self. Here are some excerpts:

Keanu Reeves

What attracted you to this character?

I first got the script when I was in Sydney working on the Matrix and I really enjoyed it. From my first reading of the script to shooting was over a year and a half. In terms of choices itís good to have a variety, but I said yes while I was making the Matrix. I didnít think I was repeating myself, it felt different. Constantine is a very extroverted role. Itís a great script and idea and character.

How familiar were you with the "Hellblazer" comic books and how did you feel about some of the changes that were made, like moving the setting from England to the U.S. ?

I wasnít familiar with the character before I read the script. When the script came to me it had already changed to American so I didnít know that. When I started doing research I found that out, but the important part is the essence of Constantine and we worked really hard to keep that aspect of it because thatís what it is all about. He is a hard-edged, hard-boiled, world weary, cynical, fatalistic, nihilistic, self-interested guy with a heart. I think we did it. I hope fans of the comic donít feel we sabotaged something so well loved.

Other cast members say you kept a lot of journals dealing with things like spirituality. Can you talk about some of your research?

They have no idea what they are talking about. (Laughs) The process for me is just writing down thoughts and working on the role. I wasnít carrying around The Path of the Peaceful Warrior, in that sense. I think the film speaks for itself and that is what I was working on. It was mainly about the script and the journey the character takes learning about the curse, or gift, he was given in his youth. Part of the journey is Constantine understanding his life and the circumstances and he comes to an ambivalent peace of sorts.

This seems to be your deepest foray into a religious themed film. How much does the religious theme of this resonate with you?

With Constantine , I think of it as a secular religiousness. The piece uses icons in a Catholic platform with heaven and hell and god and the devil, but I was hoping these concepts could become more humanistic that are hopefully relatable. Itís a man trying to figure it out. With the other roles, I think the hero journey or Siddhartha is a seeking that has some value to our lives. I think all of us in western traditions relate to the seekers and messiahs and heroes and anti-heroes. We all deal with that day to day and they are entertaining. I think they are worthwhile. Myth telling and story telling is always couched in this kind of engaging, entertaining manner, whether itís a shadow play or a circle and a story teller. Itís all the same.

At what point in your research did you feel you finally knew the character?

I really enjoyed the character, but in terms of embodying it, I worked with costumers and we tried on things and there were options. I found a jacket and shoes and it felt right. Then you go to rehearsals in costumes and it starts to feel connected and natural. When it feels right it is great. I knew his core, but I had to work on it. I lowered my voice and worked with the director and looked at the comic book and his deadpan humor. It kind of happened just a couple of days before we shot. The exorcism was the first scene and that helped a lot. I had to walk over and get on the bed and when I figured that out I felt like I had it.

After the Matrix films, how do you feel about this possibly becoming another film franchise?

My contract didnít have a second film in it, but we all fell in love with this thing and I had a great time so we were talking about what happens next, is he a heroin addict in Morocco ? We had other ideas, but ultimately itís up to the audience whether the studio would put up the money for another one. I would love to do another one as long as itís the same crew. Trilogy? Why stop there? We can have Son of Constantine! Weíll know two weeks after it opens. We wonít be able to afford Francis next time though.

Your character smokes a lot in the movie. How much did you actually smoke?

Too much. Itís a character trait of the character. Heís dealing with a lot and itís a tool to help numb himself. I smoke myself.

Did you have any input into the spirituality of the character?

I had some great times working with Francis and Mr. (Akiva) Goldsman. Spirituality is a word I donít think applies to Constantine , he is more humanistic. There is more of a flesh and blood aspect. There is a line, ďI guess there is a plan for all of us and I had to die twice to figure that out. Like the book says, he works his works in mysterious ways. Some people like it, some people donít.Ē That is my line and that sums up where Constantine ends up. There is still that ambivalence, but there is that acknowledgement that he doesnít understand it. He takes his life and he goes to hell, he comes back and he doesnít know why.

You were initially hesitant about working with a video director. What changed your mind?

That came from an uneducated bias. When they first came to me I thought the film had such a strong narrative. In the past I have been weary of video directors, but then I saw a few reels and I saw Francisí reel and he had a classicism to him and a narrative impulse in the way he treated the performers in his videos. They were telling a story or revealing something about their characters. When I met him he had his concepts and we spoke for two hours and walked out of there eager to work with him.

Is it important for you to mix and match big roles with small ones?

Iíve been fortunate to be able to do different kinds of roles on different scales and that is important to me. Sometimes you donít want to play the hero, you want to play something else in another genre. Iíve been trying to do that in my career and I hope to continue that. There is a joy in the diversity of roles.

You have an amazing resume at this point. What do you get from acting now?

I really love it. Itís my craft. When I was 15 I asked my mother if I could be an actor and she said whatever I want. Three weeks later I was in acting school. I heard Anthony Hopkins say this, you learn it by doing it. Itís like painting I imagine. The craft of it and skill of it, the more you do it the better you get. For me itís a love. A good day on the set collaborating for me is a hoot. I love it and hopefully I will continue.

Can you talk about your kissing scenes with Rachel and creating that sexy tension?

Itís for fun. You can see that in the couple that it can be there and yet it canít be there because itís not the time or place. I think itís part of the enjoyment off the piece, itís like an editing choice like when the car hits the men and you see the spirit of destiny. They want to kiss, but they canít kiss, and at the end of the film they do say they want to keep seeing each other.

Do you think acting is a vehicle to affect the world in a positive way?

(laughs) Yes, in my art! I am making up for what I do in life! Iíd like that aspect in the work that I do because itís what I enjoy in art. I think to go see a film and be entertained, and I donít mind playing a negative part like in The Gift because itís part of a story about grief and about dealing with it. I donít want to go to a movie and watch assholes for two hours! Pedophilia? Thanks. I know we are fucked up, but I donít want to see that, unless itís something really cool like Anime, but even at the end of those they have transformation. If it doesnít have a positive element to it, it wonít attract my interest and itís not worthwhile for me.

Did you have any big physical things you did yourself, instead of using a stunt person?

When Constantine gets punched by the demon and he goes flying backwards, I had to do that. My stunt double told me when I land to not fight it. When I launched I almost go out of frame and Iím glad he gave me that information. There was some wirework and I did that roll in the street. It was pretty basic stuff, but it was fun. I like fake fights because itís part of the story. Rachel had to do the heavy work in her scene. We shot it over and over and she was in the water all day. I was just there to support her and help her.

Does your band Dogstar still exist?

No. (the crowd groans) Really? There was some good rock there, but the band I played in after called "Becky" was great. I recommend you go to www.beckyonline.com. I played with them for about a year, but they needed to go on tour so I had to bow out. I donít play anymore.

What are you doing next?

Hopefully I am working with Sandra Bullock on a film called- -

Speed 3?

Donít laugh, we might make that. What would it be called? Sped? Itís called THE LAKE HOUSE, but itís changing. Itís a straight romance.

Do you think the ambivalent peace Constantine comes up with is similar to what you have to come up with as an actor?

I donít think those are two different things. Any success I might have it comes from the work I do or am involved with. That is connected. I did Constantine with Warner Bros. and they hired me. I donít know if they would have hired me if I hadnít already had success with them on other projects. Theyíve been a great supporter of me. The aspect of star and fame is a byproduct of the work I have done, hopefully.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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