Keanu Reeves talks Generation Um

Keanu ReevesSince blazing the world stage in the late 80s in films like Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and Parenthood (1989), Keanu reeves has veered between the arthouse and the multiplex and reinvented himself so many times it’s amazing to realise his stardom is only 25 years old.

It’s particularly perplexing because when the 48-year-old sat down in LA to talk to Moviehole about his latest film Generation Um (in which he co-stars with Aussies Adelaide Clemens and Bojana Navakovic), he looks as though he hasn’t aged a day. There isn’t a hint of grey in his jet-black hair and scruffy/sexy beard and he cuts a very trim and youthful figure.

To some, he’s forever Ted ‘Theodore’ Logan. To others, FBI agent Johnny Utah on the trail of the ex-Presidents. To most, he’s the unflappable Neo leading the human resistance against the machines.

But when you look over his CV, you realise Reeves has been more things to more people in more genres than most actors with careers twice as long. In Generation Um he plays John, a passive professional escort driver with a dark side.

You’re character’s kind of a kleptomaniac.

Yes, he steals a video camera and some chocolate.

What did that aspect of the character mean to you?

He’s explained to this other character how he’s felt trapped in his life, he’s always dealing with locks and directions. And when he’s watching these people do this improvisational dance, he sees an opportunity in the camera they have nearby for something he’s interested in. It’s one of the times he steps out of himself and takes it.

John’s a guy of very few words. What’s the challenge about portraying emotion without talking?

It was a wonderful opportunity. The scariest scene was where John and Violet come together [Reeves and Navakovic share a very tense, awkward embrace] because I had no idea how that could actually happen. How could this person feel so vulnerable and insular and want to reach out have so many questions?

Because there wasn’t a lot of dialogue, was there a lot of improvisation?

There was no improvisation in any of the scenes with dialogue, but we really had to figure out how to do those scenes. Mark {Mann, writer/director] was really collaborative and shared his perspective and then it was about your perspective on your character.

How was the dynamic between the four of you putting the film together?

There was a real camaraderie between us. Mark asked me to go out on the street and take some pictures, then Adelaide and I went to a bar and took pictures that are on the fridge in the movie. So there was a lot of life in our coming together and when you’re making a film that’s one of the coolest things. It’s great when artists of like mind come together about the work and Mark really fostered that.

How would you characterise John, Violet [Navakovic) and Mia [Clemens]?

I’d say they’re in a state of shock. These characters are shocked and in transformation, in trying to change, to reach out to have a kind of intimacy, to have a kind of connection. It’s low and communal. It’s personal and inherited. It’s conflict and collaboration.

What did you appreciate or take away from the movie the most?

There are so many pleasures Mark’s story offered me as an actor that was to my taste. I loved this idea of hope for these trapped characters. I also love the way he was trying to tell the story in a non-traditional way, not reinventing the wheel but painting homage to a lot of levels cinematically and contextually that also respected the audience. It was great to let the characters play and let me shoot scenes and be creative.