With movies like The Matrix, Speed, John Wick, and several others, Keanu Reeves has become one of the top actors in Hollywood. He is often jokingly considered immortal because of how little his appearance changed over the decades, and also because of striking resemblance to Paul Mounet, a 19th-century French actor, and Vlad the Impaler or Vlad Dracula. That wasn’t the only instance of what his looks inspired. Did you know that in 1994, the original character design for the superhero Green Lantern was based on him? Here are some more such interesting facts about Keanu Reeves and his life.
1. Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon. He has English, Chinese, Irish, Native Hawaiian, and Portuguese ancestry.
Reeves’ mother, Patricia Taylor, is English and originally from Essex. His father, Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr., is an American born in Hawaii and of Chinese, English, Irish, Native Hawaiian, and Portuguese ancestry. Reeves’ paternal grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian, and as a child, he was around Chinese art, furniture, and cuisine growing up. His mother imparted his English manners to him, which he says he retained even after growing up. Two of his favorite shows as a child were The Two Ronnies and Monty Python.(1, 2)
2. Reeves’ first name “Keanu” means “cool breeze over the mountains” and was derived from the name of his great-great-uncle Keaweaheulu.
Reeves was named after his paternal uncle Henry Keanu Reeves. The name of his great-great-uncle means “the soft breeze raising” in Hawaiian. When Reeves first came to Hollywood to be an actor, his agent thought his name was too exotic and suggested he changed it. So, in the early movies in his career, he was sometimes credited as K.C. Reeves (after his full name Keanu Charles Reeves), or Norman Kreeves, or Chuck Spadina.(1, 2)
3. Reeves’ mother was a showgirl and costume designer, and his father was a drug dealer.
After leaving England, Patricia Taylor worked as a showgirl in Paris and then in a Beirut casino where she met Reeves’ father, Samuel Nowlin Reeves Jr. They later moved to Toronto where Taylor began working as a costume designer. One of her clients was rock star Alice Cooper who used to babysit Reeves. His father used drugs and was addicted to heroin for two decades. He abandoned his family when Reeves was three years old. Reeves last met him when he was 13 years old and never kept in touch after that. His father was arrested in 1992 at Hilo International Airport while attempting to sell heroin to someone. He received 10 years in prison but was paroled after two years.(1, 2, 3)
4. Reeves was a successful ice hockey goalie which earned him the nickname “The Wall.” He dreamed of playing hockey for Canada but had to give it up because of an injury.
Reeves had to move around a lot due to his mother’s marriages and was often expelled from school for being “just a little too rambunctious and shot [his] mouth off once too often.” In just five years, he attended four high schools, including Etobicoke School of the Arts, Toronto. Though he did not do well in academics in which was challenged by dyslexia, he excelled at sports. While at De La Salle College “Oaklands”, a private Catholic school in Toronto, he became a successful ice hockey player earning him the nickname “The Wall.” Because his mother was a costume designer and his first stepfather, Paul Aaron, was a Broadway and Hollywood director, Reeves’ interest in films began early on. One of his early jobs was working as a production assistant in Aaron’s films. After leaving De La Salle College, he attended Avondale Secondary Alternative School while working as an actor, but later dropped out and pursued acting full time.(source)
5. During the early 1990s, Reeves was the bassist and backing vocalist in the grunge band Dogstar which released two albums: Our Little Visionary and Happy Ending.
Dogstar was formed in 1991 after Reeves’ chance encounter with TV actor Robert Mailhouse who was wearing a Detroit Red Wings hockey sweater. Being an avid hockey fan, he asked if Mailhouse needed a goalie. Soon they became friends and started jamming together. In 1992, they were joined by Gregg Miller, the band’s lead guitarist and singer, and in 1994, by Bret Domrose, vocalist/guitarist. In 1995, they opened for Bon Jovi in Australia and New Zealand, and in 1996, released four tracks followed by their debut album Our Little Visionary. Despite having individual work commitments, they managed to release their second album Happy Ending in 1999. They performed to a worldwide audience until 2002. Reeves left the band because of his work schedule following a few intermittent performances.(source)
6. There is a movement called “Keanu Code” which claims that you can know about the hidden forces that control and influence the world by studying the movies Reeves starred in.
A man named Bo G has created a philosophy called “No-Way Neo-Duddhism” which is about taking the metaphorical “red pill” to “wake up” from the metaphorical Matrix we live in. The purpose of it is to seek enlightenment and deeper self-awareness. The term “No-Way” is short for “Know Way” and its basic principle is to find the truth about oneself. “Neo” refers to Reeves’ character in The Matrix franchise. The term “Duddhism” was derived from Daoism, Buddhism, and Druidism. According to Bo G, “Duddhism is a way of life as well as a philosophy that practically swims in the very essence of Being Excellent to Each Other and Partying On!”
Part of this philosophy is the analysis of films Reeves starred in, which Bo G refers to as the “Keanu Code.” It draws parallels between various philosophical and theological concepts and the symbolism in Reeves’ movies. For example, the films The Matrix, The Devil’s Advocate, Constantine, and Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure suggest that there are “unseen sides to our reality.” It also suggests that maintaining or living in illusions, in other words “our illusionary understanding of the world,” would only lead to suffering. The only way out of it is to “wake up,” learn to live well and have fun.(source)
7. Keanu Reeves wrote a book of sad poems titled An Ode to Happiness as a joke after a photo of him looking sad and eating a sandwich alone on a bench went viral.
When one of Reeves’ friends, Janey Bergam, was at his house listening to sad, self-pitying songs in the spirit of poking fun at them he began to write a poem. The first few lines went, “I draw a hot sorrow bath/In my despair room/I wash my hair with regret shampoo,” along with mentions of his “pain soap,” “I hate myself face cream,” and “alone again silk pajamas.” Six months later, Bergam made it into a handmade book and gifted it to Reeves. The book was illustrated by Los Angeles artist Alexandra Grant. Reeves and Grant went to Germany to work with renowned arts books printer Gerhard Steidl to publish 4,000 limited edition copies. About the book Reeves said, “Hopefully looking at this you can come out of [sadness] and become objective about what circumstances you’re going through and maybe have a smile about it.”(source)
8. Reeves had his daughter (2000) and girlfriend (2001) pass away within 15 months of each other.
Reeves’ girlfriend Jennifer Syme was an American actress and personal assistant. She worked for director David Lynch for a while and was a personal assistant to Dave Navarro. She also starred in a few minor roles including a part in Lynch’s film Lost Highway. In January 2000, Syme gave birth to her and Reeves’ stillborn daughter Ava Archer Syme-Reeves after eight months of pregnancy. The grief caused a strain on their relationship.
On April 2, 2001, after leaving a party at Marilyn Manson’s house, Syme drove her Jeep Grand Cherokee into a row of three parked cars in Cahuenga Boulevard, Los Angeles. This caused her car to roll over several times, partially ejecting her and killing her instantly. The investigation concluded that she wasn’t wearing her seatbelt and was inebriated at that time. Two prescription drugs were also found which she was taking as part of her treatment for back pain and depression.(1, 2)
9. Reeves forwent tens of millions of salary for many movies including The Devil’s Advocate, The Replacements, and The Matrix sequels so that the money could be used to cast better actors or fund better special effects.
After his success in Speed in 1994, Reeves became very selective of his work. In 1995, he turned down $11 million offer, his largest paycheck to date, for Speed 2: Cruise Control in order to tour with his band Dogstar and to play the title role in Hamlet at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. Later in 1997, he took a pay cut of $1 million so that Al Pacino could be cast in The Devil’s Advocate, which received good reviews and did well at the box office. In 2000, he took a 90% pay cut so that Gene Hackman could be cast in The Replacements, which was received less positively. The next year, Reeves has forgone his share of ticket profits, an estimated $38 million, for working in The Matrix sequels so that the producers will have the flexibility for an extensive special effects budget.(source)
10. Despite that, to date, Keanu Reeves remains the highest paid actor in the world with a total income of $156,000,000 for The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
Most of the highest paid actors receive anywhere between $20 and $30 million as salary. In addition to that, some of them also receive a percentage of the film’s profit which adds to their income for that film. Though The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were released six months apart in 2003, they were filmed under one production to reduce cost and time. For the movies, Reeves’ salary was $30 million and his total income was $156 million. Reeves is followed by Bruce Willis who received $14 million in salary and $100 million in total income for The Sixth Sense. Willis is followed by Tom Cruise for Mission: Impossible 2 and War of the Worlds, Will Smith for Men in Black 3, and Sandra Bullock for Gravity.(source)