Sitting across from Keanu Reeves during interviews for “The Matrix: Reloaded,” it is quite clear that he is no longer the same boy from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” even if he does use the word “stoked” occasionally.
Dressed casually in a black t-shirt with a suit jacket, Keanu comes across like an actor who takes his work very seriously, not to the point of being obnoxious, but definitely more seriously than the Keanu from “Bill and Ted,” shot nearly 15 years ago.
“Adolescence … I mean characters like Rimbaud got a handle on it I guess pretty early on, but, in my quiet I was working something out,” Reeves smiles at the changes he’s undergone since he first started acting in the early ’80s.
At the moment, Reeves is focused on his current project, the first of two sequels to his 1999 film “The Matrix.” It’s clear the film brings out the boy in Reeves; his energy for the work is contagious. But the actor comes across as a very expressive person in general, often using his hands while talking and often quoting lines from the films (and sometimes with a French accent).
“I’m very excited. I can’t wait to see it,” he says about the premiere of “Reloaded.”
Later in the interview, he enthuses about a key scene in the film; “Don’t you think it was neat, the Architect scene? Isn’t that? I don’t want to give away plot, but the aspect of what Neo finds out about being the one. I love that.”
“Reloaded” may just be the most highly anticipated film of 2003, thanks to the success of the first film. While fan expectations are high, Reeves says there were only two people he was trying hardest to please in the making of the film.
“I’m just trying to live up to what the brothers, Larry and Andy Wachowski, the directors and writers, want. I’m trying to realize their dream. That’s the pressure I felt. To be able to do what they wanted me to do,” he says.
“Reloaded” continues Neo’s story, after his discovery in “The Matrix,” that what he thought was the real world was instead a computer program called The Matrix. After meeting Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), he is awoken to the real world and there finds out that he is “the one,” the one person with the ability to change the codes in The Matrix with his own will.
“It’s the development of the birth of a messiah and the identity of a man,” explains Reeves. “I think Neo in the beginning of ‘Reloaded’ is full of a lot of fear about what he has to do and the responsibilities that the community is asking of him.”
While many have tagged Neo as a reluctant hero, Reeves doesn’t see the character that way.
“I don’t think the character is such a reluctant hero. I think he’s accepted it, but I don’t think he’s accepted it without question,” he says. “Neo is trying to find out ‘what is my life’ and he’s not just taking it … he says, ‘What if I fail?'”
Part of the success behind “The Matrix” was its innovative action scenes.
For “Reloaded,” the directors upped the ante, not only increasing the number of action scenes, but also their length and bravado.
“I’ve got five fights in the second one, and I have more moves in the fight with the Smiths than I did in the whole first movie. Probably twice over,” he laughs, admitting that much of his time off between shots was spent learning moves for another fight scene.
Another reason behind the success of “The Matrix” is that the film doesn’t try to be a simple action or science fiction fantasy. Instead, the Wachowski brothers filled the story with religious and philosophy context, ranging from Catholicism to Taoism, and the writing of Nietzsche, just to name a few. While the famously private Reeves is reluctant to reveal his own beliefs, he does admit that they are similar to many brought up in the film.
“I don’t have my list in front of me, and I should probably make a list but then I’d be doing what the brothers don’t want to be doing, ‘Here’s my literal thing,'” he says. “Yes. My answer is yes … but they don’t propose a finality to it; they don’t say, ‘Here’s the answer.’ Except for, and this will be revealed more in ‘Revolutions,’ they do come to something and I think, it sounds really goofy, but it’s about love.”
But it says it’s the questions that the film brings up that make it so appealing to audiences.
“That’s one of the great things about film, it’s a public medium. It’s a great thing of sharing and sharing ideas and points of view, I love that about the film,” he says.