Keanu Reeves is a Hollywood icon and has redefined himself time and again through a range of gritty, intense and action-packed roles. Shattering expectations and challenging himself at every turn, he has proven his status as one of the greatest and most versatile actors of his generation.
To celebrate the release of his latest crime thriller, Exposed, in which he plays veteran New York cop Scotty Galban, we revisit the best and toughest characters from throughout his career…
Johnny Utah – Point Break (1991) Point Break follows Keanu as undercover FBI agent Johnny Utah who infiltrates a group of adrenaline-junkie bank robbers led by Bohdi (Patrick Swayze). As their crimes escalate, iconic 90’s cinematic action ensues! Keanu learned to surf for the film and remains an avid surfer today. His role also required him to throw a football or two since his character was an ex-college football star. UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel was recruited to mentor him but it proved too tough. Director Kathryn Bigelow ultimately used a stand-in as Reeves couldn’t complete a single pass!
Jack Travern – Speed (1994) If Point Break put his name out there as an action star, Speed firmly secured him amongst the pantheon. Keanu plays the role of a bomb squad officer who must board a public bus fitted with a device set to detonate if the speed drops below 50mph. The high speed action that follows had Keanu perform 90% of his own stunts in this action classic. However, we nearly didn’t get to see him in the film since he felt the initial script was too similar to Die Hard and, it was only after a near total rewrite by Joss Whedon, that he finally agreed to take the role.
Kevin Lomax – The Devil’s Advocate (1997) Moving away from straight action and towards the great dramatic roles he was also becoming known for, Keanu takes the reigns as young hotshot lawyer Kevin Lomax who is recruited to a powerful Manhattan practice by Al Pacino’s dark, mysterious John Milton. Keanu took a reduced fee so the production could bring in Pacino and benefit from his now legendary, colourful co-starring performance. Rather topically, a scene inside the gilded apartment of real estate mogul Alexander Cullen, accused of a triple murder, was shot inside the a Fifth Avenue apartment belonging to none other than Republican presidential candidate and property tycoon Donald Trump.
Neo – The Matrix (1999) Undoubtedly his biggest movie to-date and one of the most enduringly iconic sci-fi movies of the 90’s, Andy and Lana Wachowski’s cyber punk classic sees Neo discover that reality is a simulation and humanity has been enslaved. Keanu had neck surgery before filming and trained for months beforehand in a neck brace. He also risked breaking his neck permanently when during the cell phone conversation between Morpheus and Neo in the Meta Cortex office he climbed out of the window without a stuntman, 36 floors up. He also famously gave away a huge amount of his earnings (£50m) from the film trilogy to the special effects and costume teams.
Bob Arctor – A Scanner Darkly (2006) The dark horse of this list, A Scanner Darkly is a brilliantly offbeat rendition of the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name. Using animated live action this paranoid picture set in a totalitarian world of the near future sees undercover agent Bob Arctor, played brilliantly by Keanu, trying to hunt down the distributors of a dangerous drug called Substance D. The animation which made this film so unique took 18 months to complete, compared to the 23 days of actual filming.
Donaka Mar – Man of Tai Chi (2013) In this, his directorial debut, Keanu took the opportunity to expand on his passion for action and martial arts. Adopting a secondary role as villain Donaka Mark, Keanu offered top billing to his instructor and stunt double from The Matrix, Tiger Chen, who played the hero underdog battling through the underground world of Beijing’s fight clubs. Staying true to classic martial arts cinema, the action was also choreographed by the famous Yuen Woo-ping who had previously choreographed The Matrix movies.
John Wick – John Wick (2014) John Wick is a super stylish assassin genre tale of redemption and revenge, in which the titular character hunts down the gangsters who killed his beloved dog, a final gift from his dying wife. Keanu trained extensively for months prior to filming the many fight scenes and was so dedicated to the shoot that he filmed the nightclub fight sequence with flu and a 40 degree fever. He also championed co-directors(and former stunt men) David Leitch and Chad Stahelski to take the directorial reigns for the project after working on several films together, including The Matrix trilogy, Constantine, Man of Tai Chi and more.
Scotty Galban – Exposed (2015) In his latest thriller, Keanu plays Detective Scotty Galban who is called in to investigate the brutal murder of his partner. Among the limited evidence, he finds a photograph of a young teacher who he believes may also be a witness. Marking a new and gritty role for him, Keanu was praised for a restrained, quiet performance which still showed a multi-faceted character suffering throughout the story. With all the traits of cinema’s classic cop films, Exposed is another fine string to the bow of Keanu’s acting portfolio.
Exposed is at Cinemas and On Demand from 26th February