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Keanu Reeves On Not Receiving More Offers From Hollywood: ‘It Sucks’

Keanu Reeves On Not Receiving More Offers From Hollywood: 'It Sucks'

Fifteen years since "The Matrix," Keanu Reeves remains one of the more intriguing action stars in American movies. His latest vehicle, the wildly entertaining action-revenge drama "John Wick," shows you why. Co-directed by former stunt men David Leitch and Chad Sthelski, the movie turns its tightly-wound premise — Wick, a retired hit man, seeks revenge against a crime boss’ son for killing his dog — into a slick, energizing series of showdowns. While Reeves punches, kicks, shoots and otherwise steamrolls various bad guys, the movie maintains an elegant visual style that strikes a noticeable contrast with the more assaultive form of action movies produced on a bigger scale today. In a candid discussion with Indiewire, Reeves explained why he’s been drawn to various genre films lately — and how his recent involvement in more indie than studio projects wasn’t a conscious choice.

READ MORE: Review: Keanu Reeves Kicks Ass to Avenge His Dead Dog in Satisfying ‘John Wick’

Your last three movies — "Man of Tai Chi," "47 Ronin" and now "John Wick" — are almost like a trilogy about lone warriors. What do you make of that association?

Kai from "47 Ronin" and Donaka Mark from "Man of Tai Chi" and John Wick are all definitely isolated, pushed away, trying to get back in, manipulated. They all have interesting, mysterious pasts. It sounds like a good character to play. All of those roles have been really enjoyable. It’s part of the journey. It wasn’t intentional.

But they all speak to your tendency toward characters who internalize their struggles. For a long period of this movie, we don’t see you express a lot of emotion — until this passionate monologue you deliver in the final act.

I put the suit on. I’ve played different kinds of roles and worked in different genres. I think "Side By Side" is a little different from "47 Ronin" or "Henry’s Crime" or "Generation Um…" Did you ever see "Generation Um…"? I like that movie. I guess those kinds of characters are part of my taste.

More recently, you worked with Eli Roth on his upcoming film "Knock Knock."

I like Eli as a filmmaker and the script was great. The role was fantastic. I guess if I was connecting things, for me it was interesting to go from John Wick — this willful, determined man, who has a lot of power in doing what he does — to my role in "Knock Knock," where he’s a victim. He’s super victimized. That was a kind of nice sweet and sour year for me.

Do you feel particularly attracted to certain kinds of genre movies?

Aren’t all movies genre? If we’re talking about the science fiction or action genres, I’ve always tried when I could to do them in a way that’s not just cookie-cutter — that they bring something fresh or original to it, have some kind of ideas to it. I’ve been fortunate, in some sense, to do those kinds of movies that are unique.

What’s unique to you about "John Wick"?

It’s the world they’ve created and the vision of the story. The shooting style: the colors, the way they shoot the action. They’re doing wide shots, not a lot of cuts. They’re wanting the action to unfold in front of you as opposed to changing perspectives. That feels different — it’s a little more intimate and objective. It’s not just visceral action. You can believe what you’re seeing and it’s not just sound and fury. You can see the fluidity and what they’re doing — like that one hall shot where they’re wrestling, and he just comes through and pounds a knife into the other guy’s chest. There’s no cut.

How would you compare that to other action movies made today?

They’re more spectacle. I thought Derek Kolstad, the writer, wrote a really cool script that reminded me of Sam Shephard, kind of noir-y, but at the same time it has these big speeches, like the one Ian McShane gives. Everyone has a mysterious past and relationships that the filmmakers just present to you. It’s fun.

"Man of Tai Chi" was like that as well. Since you directed it as well as starring in it, how do you feel about the experience now that it’s in hindsight?

That was an amazing time. I really enjoyed directing. I was on the street the other day at a gas station and a kid behind the counter was like, "Saw ‘Man of Tai Chi.’ Loved it!" I was like, "Cool!" It was just nice — it’s an English-Mandarin-Cantonese kung fu movie. So it’s cool when people like what you do.

And went from being a first-time director on that movie to working with two first-time directors on this one. Could you relate to anything about their experiences?

In a way, I could relate to what they were going through with pre-production and post-production. Certainly on "John Wick," I could help as a producer, because I knew what they were up against as a performer in the movie. I could try and do things to help them achieve things.

You aren’t doing many studio movies these days. "John Wick" was produced independently and acquired later by Lionsgate. Do you have a preference for indies over studio projects?

Not really. The last studio movie I did was "47 Ronin," but before that it had been a long time — probably "The Day the Earth Stood Still." So I haven’t been getting many offers from the studios.

Are you OK with that?

No, it sucks, but it’s just the way it is. You can have positive and negative experiences, but what I like about studios are the resources and the worlds that they can create. Obviously, a lot of good filmmakers work on studio movies. Even when I was working on studio movies more often, I was always doing independent movies. So for me, that was just not happening, but I want to keep going, making things, and telling stories. I want to be able to do that — to be an actor, a director, to produce, you know? If we’re going to do a delineation between studio and independent [films], I was always hoping to do both.

It’s been two years since "Side By Side," the documentary you hosted and produced about the conversion from film to digital. How do you think the conversation has changed since then?

How many theaters can still show film? We made some film prints of "Man of Tai Chi" but it was shot digitally. Digital cameras are getting better. Filmmakers and film students aren’t getting the chance to work with film, but hopefully that can stay around. I’ve heard that Chis [Nolan] is buying some stock and stuff. It’s been tough for people who are interested in emulsion, and for all the timers, and the labs. It’s all kind of going down. But hopefully people will continue to have that media to work with. It’s still beautiful, remarkable. It’d be great to see a beautiful, pristine print with a projector that has the right light bulb in it, showing a movie. I’m sure it’s stunning and beautiful. I was speaking to a film student the other day who was like, "How can I have that experience? How can I work with film?" Oftentimes in film schools, you work with Super8, 16mm, maybe a little 35mm. Hopefully, people will ask for it, or there will be certain enclaves that can still protect that experience. 

READ MORE: Watch: Keanu Reeves Defends His Dog From Puppy Assassins in ‘John Wick’ Clip

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Mel Neo

Keanu, you are a very intense old man that’s why people don’t want to work with you. Also you don’t make the kind of films that old people like the cinema is dominated by old people movies at the moment. It’s full of old people they should hire you. Old man.


    That was plain stupid, Mel Neo.

    Randy Freemont

    One thing that cannot be disputed is that every actor, crew member, and director who has come in contact with him says he is a joy to be around. There’s a reason why he is considered the most beloved man in Hollywood–which, judging by the fickle affections of Hollyweirdos, says a lot. His intensity IS what continues to land him roles. What comes naturally to him, other action actors (especially Marvel Comic Uni heroes) struggle to achieve with forced furled brows and choreographed jaw clinches. Judging by the 2014 Sony leaks, the lack of studio offers has very little to do with any actor’s likability or even talent, for that matter. Studios are willing to work with wet blankets the same they are intense personalities; complete jerks and accommodating doormats. Money is no respecter of character. He is a young living legend. Legends whether droughts and storms; he’ll find himself back on top (after several minor falls) with at least five more comebacks. John Wick was an unexpected, innovative turn. Believe it or not, for some people it was their very first Keanu movie–what an introduction! Exposed came and went with more disappointment than love from critics, the director, and the few people who saw it alike, yet he is currently being praised as the best part of The Neon Demon. This man will be 75 still working and surprising us when we least expect it. Who cares about the studios? Soon enough, with the increasing accessibility of good technology to lay people and our ever evolving means for funding, Studios (much like record labels) will be an antiquated middleman, if not obsolete. Oh, and as for his age, in what world does he register as the 51 year-old man he actually is, let alone old?

      Randy Freemont

      *weather (Legends weather droughts…)


I happen to think he kick arse as an action star & he’s extremely intelligent when he’s on screen & he’s given solid material to work with! We paid to see & saw John Wick in theatres FIVE times when it finally ended it’s run & I also loved him a 47 Ronin & his own EP produced Man Of Tai Chi. He’s in that age category that I call young silver foxes that I personally love because not only are HOT but they’re also seasoned & thus extremely talented. Guys like Keanu, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, RDJ, & Tony Goldwyn just to name a few, will always get me & most of my viewing club into the theatres! I know he’s signed on to do John Wick 2 as he should have so I can’t wait until we see what other projects are thrown his way because of the domestic & international success of that revenge porn on beautiful steroids film!


I have always liked Keanu Reeves he has aged very well better than Brad Pitt and Sean Penn that is for sure I would like to see him in more movies as soon as I know he has. A movie coming I go see it. John Wick was great . he is a good action actor Come on Hollywood get with it …..there definitely is room for him … make it happen


"Still Waters Run Very Deep" I think that sums Keanu up if i were heartless but I’m not, by heartless i meant use quotes i like to describe someone which isnt heartless lol, what i mean is there is more to him than anyone knows. That shows in his movies, i wish people were more susceptable to sensitivity but hey, this is earth.


Seems like he may have a higher price tag then other actors and studios would rather save a few million and go for some new guy who has less talent and ability. He has done what all actors who go into the movies are looking to do, not only bring art to film but be an enormous hit, which should make him a wanted man, but personally i think studios play cheap, its why they cut some of the same movies over and over again with the same titles tossing in any cheap actor who has a lower price tag in order to save a few bucks, its not about art to them, its about the money and its THIS reason and philosophy why i don’t actively go to the movies unless the movie comes across as "great" or a real work of art and of course entertaining, which the Matrix absolutely was (still have my ticket stub)


I think this happens to all actors. A acting career is like a ride across Pyramid and few stay at the top forever. He should be grateful for the past roles and the financial security it brought him.


By most accounts, he’s one of the more professional dudes out there with a great work ethic. Problem is he needs to reinvent his shtick. Do like Big Willie Smith, kiss a lot of ass, hit the juice a bit, get swole. Change his game, get sexy back, and he’ll be in.


Tough to be new forever? He is of old times! When time’s change. Move on. It’s Called life! I do like his old movies maybe though! Maybe a little too much "DUUUUDDEEE"! in his DUDE? Very likable actor outside of that..


I like him as an actor. If he was in a studio movie or any movie I would watch it.


I didn’t know he was not having offers from studios. I thought it was a magnet to attract people to theaters.


Well all the douche bag roles dried up in hollywood around 1997-1998. Why would he think he had a future?

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