Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keanu Reeves: He Is Called `Action Hero of the '90S'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Keanu Reeves: He Is Called `Action Hero of the '90S'

Article excerpt

KEANU REEVES, Hollywood dude, is lunging, thrusting and dancing around a Toronto parking lot on a brisk spring morning.

He's lean as a greyhound, elegantly dressed, his hair cropped in a ruff, "Repo Man" style. And he's quoting the Bard.

"When, in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state. . ."

"It's a sonnet," explains Reeves, whose first name is a Hawaiian word for a cool breeze over the mountains. He fell in love with Shakespeare at 14 and now recites it to calm himself down.

"Shakespeare is physically thrilling, it goes into my brain and into my heart."

At the moment, the actor is being watched by Dina Meyer, his co-star in "Johnny Mnemonic," a cyberpunk action adventure in its final days of shooting. Her mind is not focused on Elizabethan verse.

As Reeves spins, leaps and tosses off a few more lines of iambic pentameter, Meyer darts across the parking lot to pin him against the trailer.

"We only have one almost kissing scene," she bemoans later. "I can imagine people watching and saying, `When are they going to get it on?' "

Ever since he played Ted, the totally excellent dude of the "Bill and Ted" adventures (1989, 1991), it's been assumed Reeves is Ted - airhead, air guitar and all - which is to say, he isn't always taken seriously.

Even Reeves admits, "The line has definitely been blurred."

He's known more for his sex appeal - to both men and women - a wild streak, dirty jeans and hair and Norton bike than for his film performances, which, from "My Own Private Idaho" (1991) to the "Bill and Ted" efforts, "Much Ado About Nothing" (1993) and "Little Buddha," have been uneven, at best.

But now, Reeves seems poised for the ultimate unlikely development in his most unlikely career: to break out as the next Arnold-sized action star with the release of "Speed," which opens today, and follow that up with next year's "Johnny Mnemonic."

"He's an action hero for the '90s," gushes "Speed" director Jan De Bont, who set Reeves up with an Olympic gymnast trainer to effect the transformation from dude to stud.

"I think he easily can go up against"Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, De Bont says.

In addition, he has remarkable, if not curious popularity.

Last semester, the Arts College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., offered a 12-week course in the 29-year-old's oeuvre, "The Films of Keanu Reeves."

"The first time I heard about it, I didn't say, `Oh cool,' " Reeves says. "It was just something that existed. I hope the kids learn something worthwhile."

When Reeves - who plays bass - and his band, Dogstar, made their debut at a northern California bar last fall, 75 percent of the audience was women, one of whom ran on stage and promptly fainted.

There are so many wild rumors about his personal life that at movie premieres he's often besieged by TV crews asking, "Are you gay?" and "Are you a drug addict?"

Reeves refuses to answer.

The basic facts about Reeves' personal life include these: His mother is English and his father is half Chinese and half Hawaiian.

He was born in Beirut, then moved to Australia, New York and Toronto, and now stays at the Chateau Marmot when he's in Los Angeles.

He has an apartment in New York. He has two sisters, was voted the most valuable player on his high school hockey team, but dropped out before graduation.

So, who is Keanu Reeves, really?

"He's like a really sweet, kind person," Sofia Coppola says. "He has his own group of friends, and he's not a scenester . . . He's smart, too. People don't give him credit. He's definitely not like Ted. But he sounds like him sometimes."

Bearing up under the comb and gel of a stylist on the set of "Johnny Mnemonic," Reeves is gaunt and severe, but genial as Ted.

In fact, it would be easy to confuse the two, except that in his new sharp-but-sinister persona, he's more like Ted's evil twin. …

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