"I am afraid of the dark," admits Keanu Reeves. "But I mean that in a real philosophical way." Whoa. Keanu has earned a reputation in Hollywood for his simple ways he counts gazing blankly out of windows among his favourite pastimes but his film choices have been anything but mindless.
The Speed actor passed on the blockbuster's sequel to star in the indie The Last Time I Committed Suicide. He also turned down the chance to work with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat in favour of playing Hamlet on stage in Winnipeg, Canada. And with 1999's The Matrix, Keanu firmly established himself on the Hollywood A-list.
Keanu Charles Reeves was born on September 2, 1964, in Beirut, Lebanon, shortly before the bombs began dropping. His parents, Samuel Nowlin Reeves, a Chinese-Hawiian geologist, and Patricia, an entertainer, divorced early and he and his mum moved to New York before settling in Toronto. He and his dad have no relationship. "I feel like I got my father's blood, and I am not that happy about it," he told Rolling Stone magazine in 2000.
Never a particularly keen student, Keanu which means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian attended four high schools before abandoning academic life for good. After scoring a part in the Rob Lowe classic hockey flick Youngblood he headed for LA in search of glitzier pastures.
In 1988 he dazzled opposite Michelle Pfeiffer and John Malkovich in Dangerous Liaisons, but confounded critics and audiences alike the following year by starring as one half of the dim-witted duo in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. The film was a hit, as was its inevitable sequel, and Keanu began alternating between big budget Hollywood flicks like Bram Stoker's Dracula and offbeat fare such as Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha, none of which raked in much cash.
The heart-throb remained a fixture at the MTV Awards, but elsewhere his work was failing to generate much excitement. The surprise 1994 hit Speed restored his star power somewhat, but ill-fated popcorn flicks like Johnny Mnenonic and Chain Reaction tanked, and the critics' favourite whipping boy was seemingly a Hollywood has-been.
All that changed with the groundbreaking special-effects romp The Matrix, however. The film grossed $171 million in the US alone and, with two Matrix sequels in the can, Keanu's Tinseltown cachet not to mention his bottom line seems secure. He earned $30 million, plus a percentage of franchise profits, with the second instalment, The Matrix Reloaded, much of which he gave away to the special effects team.
After maintaining no permanent residence for most of his adult life for years the closest thing to a home was LA's Chateau Marmont hotel in 2003 the enigmatic hunk finally invested in a modernist estate in the Hollywood Hills. He is frequently away on tour, however, with his band Dogstar, whose following of screaming fans may have something to do with their movie star bassist. "On a good night, I get the underwear, bras and hotel room keys thrown onstage," he says. "You start to think you're Tom Jones."
How many of those keys Keanu has picked up is anybody's guess. In fact, little is known of Keanu's romantic life, though for years rumours persisted that he wasn't exactly the marrying kind. He did step out with one fan, however, Jennifer Syme, whom he met at a Dogstar bash. Sadly, in 1999, the couple were devastated when their baby was stillborn. Shortly afterwards the pair parted ways and tragedy struck again in April 2001 when Jennifer was killed in a Los Angeles car accident. She and Keanu had reportedly rekindled their romance just before her death.
"Keanu Reeves, the person, has a sort of void," says Hardball director Brian Robbins. "He's a guy sort of needing something, looking for something." Exactly what that is remains as puzzling as the Matrix plot.