Fantastic Fest 2014: Keanu Reeves on ‘John Wick’

Keanu Reeves John Wick

Fantastic Fest had a red carpet gala screening for John Wick, the new Keanu Reeves action movie. Reeves and the filmmakers were in Austin for the event so we got another interview with Reeves. We’ve got a really friendly rapport now after previous discussions fro Side By Side and Man of Tai Chi. On October 24, John Wick is out for revenge on the Russian mobsters who killed his dog, and we spoke about Reeves’ history in action films, the Point Break remake, Oscar hopes and the old Sad Keanu meme. 


Related: Fantastic Fest 2014 Review: ‘John Wick’


CraveOnline: Watching John Wick, I was reminded that in the early ‘90s you paved the way for the idea that an action hero could look like a regular guy and didn’t have to be a bulky Schwarzenegger/Stallone type. Was that significant to you?

Keanu Reeves: For me it was part of the story. I always thought that when we meet John, he’s kind of in his normal life. He’s not an assassin anymore. He’s just a guy. Then as you start to hear about his myth, for me it’s like that one scene in the shower. You see his back and you’re like, “Oh, he looks capable.” But before then he’s just like a normal guy.

I’m even thinking big picture in terms of all your movies. Point Break and Speed were cops, and The Matrix was someone who thought he was a normal guy. Has that always been important to you to explore that an action hero could look like a normal guy?

I guess so. I’ve never had the opportunity, maybe because I’m not that kind of person. I didn’t have the physicality of a Dwayne Johnson or a Schwarzenegger, or even like Statham. I’m not built that way.

You are in fantastic shape though, so it is believable.


Have you also been championing the talent you meet behind the scenes, like Tiger Chen and Chad and David?

Yeah, I would say in the past couple of years for sure. Maybe even with Chris Kenneally who directed Side by Side. It was really cool to work with Chad and Dave on this and have the history that we had, to then go on because they had a great vision of the film and I think they really executed it well. It’s just cool to have that history and go off and do something.

I am actually fascinated by scenes of waking up in a movie. In the movie, it’s presumably the morning when the dog wakes you up but for all I know that was five in the afternoon on a set after a long day. How do you get into that space where we take it for granted it is first thing in the morning?

Yeah, waking up scenes, I don’t like them. I don’t know about other actors but for me, it’s like okay, how are you going to wake up? For me, it’s always what are they dreaming or where are they at before? It’s always “what’s the moment before” as an acting exercise. So what’s the moment before when they’re dreaming? For me, I always try to think symbolically of shape. How are they sleeping? Are they alone? In John Wick, if you notice, he’s on his side but when he wakes up on the dog his arm is out but his wife’s not there, but the dog is there. So I’m always trying to figure out, and then how do they wake up? Are they going to be startled, is it slow, are they coming to consciousness, are they remembering? So there’s a lot that goes into that. [Laughs]

So what was John Wick dreaming of?

The first morning when the dog wakes him up, he says, “I’m awake, I’m awake?” What was I doing there? He has his back turned and I think he’s hoping he doesn’t dream. 

Do you have more fun doing the dialogue and silent scenes or the action scenes?

I can’t, I love them both.

I would imagine at some point you need a break from the physical scenes anyway?

Yeah, for sure. You do. You try not to do too many fights in a row. 

I have always enjoyed your work as an actor, but does acclaim interest you? Would you like to win an Oscar one day?

Oh, the Oscar question.

I’m sorry if that’s passé.

No, no, I mean in the sense of “The Oscar Question!” Definitely. It would be awesome to win an Oscar. 

Again, I love performances in movies like John Wick and Man of Tai Chi but of the sort of roles that group notices, certainly your work in The Gift would be up there.  Although I think the work you do in The Matrix is very important to making that movie work.

Oh, that’s kind, thank you. Action performances generally don’t get Oscars. 

Right, so it will have to be one of your other roles. 


Can you believe they’re remaking Point Break?

Sure. I mean, I heard about remake versions 15 years ago. Now it seems like they’re actually going to do it.

They’re shooting it.

I guess that means it’s a classic and the classic is getting made modern day. What are they doing? Have you read the script?

I haven’t read it but it’s Luke Bracey and Edgar Ramirez. They’re still doing surfing and skydiving but they say they’re including other extreme sports too.

But are they doing an FBI agent and a Bodhi guy?

Yes, it’s Utah and Bodhi but they say it’s a different story. They’re not remaking the same script as your movie.

Okay, cool.

“Constantine” is a TV series on this fall.

Is that really? I’ve heard about that but is that real?

Yes, I saw the pilot.

So the pilot’s aired?

No, but I’ve seen it because I’m a television critic.

How is it?

It’s really good.

Someone’s playing John Constantine? Who’s playing John Constantine?

Yes, his name is Matt Ryan and he’s a Brit. 

So are they going more like the Francis Lawrence Constantine or the original?

A little less. He’s got the trench coat and blonde hair and he can’t really smoke on television.


So did you call it when you picked that character to play in 2004, that there would be more life to that?

I was hoping personally that I would’ve had a chance to play the role again. I wish that we had made a sequel to that. I miss that character.

I haven’t heard much lately, but is the new Bill and Ted still on?

Oh God, it’s getting complicated out there.

Oh no, what’s wrong?

I don’t know, it’s like who’s directing, where’s the money, where’s the script, what are we doing?

What is “Rain” going to be?

It’s an idea to do a series of the novels, the John Rain series by Barry Eisler which are fantastic.

Are you excited to do television?

I’m excited by the idea of maybe getting the chance to play John Rain in a serialized format.

I don’t know if you’re tired of the Sad Keanu meme…

It’s gone!

All I want to know is: was the sandwich good?

Oh, that day on that sandwich? Where did I get that sandwich? I think it was from the Cuban place down the street.

Does it have a name if you want to give it a shout out?

I don’t remember the name of the place. It was by editorial while we were doing Henry’s Crime.

I understand 47 Ronin was a somewhat troubled production. Did you distance yourself from the final film?

No. I tried not to. Actually, the way the film ended up, I like. I don’t feel like the film sold out for what Carl Rinsch was doing. I know for him especially it was a little edgier but I thought that enough of the story, the honor of it and what it was, I felt like it was okay. I love how it looked in the design, the actors and I love that story. I liked playing Kai. I think that might be one that when people look at it again, they’ll go, “Oh yeah, that’s actually a good movie.” I’ve been getting it on the street now. I got it from this cat the other day, just like, “That movie had meaning!”

Is John Wick a character you’d like to play again?

Yes. I don’t know what he’d do but yeah.

Fred Topel is a staff writer at CraveOnline and the man behind Best Episode Ever and The Shelf Space Awards. Follow him on Twitter at @FredTopel.