From the archives!
Here is my interview with Keanu Reeves, star of Chain Reaction, first published in December 1996.
In a University of Chicago research lab, a dedicated team of scientists and technicians have achieved an earth-shattering triumph. Finally, after years of intensive research, they have managed to harness a simple yet almost infinitely powerful way to produce a clean, efficient and abundant stream of energy from water. They hope their discovery will have a profound affect, but they haven’t taken into account sinister forces who want to bury their discovery and will murder and torture anyone who won’t comply.
Student machinist Eddie (Keanu Reeves) and physicist Lily (Rachel Weisz) find themselves caught up in a baffling whirlwind of murder, deception and high-tech espionage. The pair are forced to run for their lives when they are framed for the explosive sabotage of their laboratory and the savage murder of their mentor, visionary scientist Dr. Alistair Barkley.
Directed by Andrew Davis, Chain Reaction has the same furious energy and sense of restless pursuit that we saw in his recent success, The Fugitive. Playing opposite Morgan Freeman, an actor with a formidable presence, Keanu Reeves manages to hold his own. Often spoken of as a hardworking perfectionist on the set, Reeves applies the same dedication to touring with his band Dogstar.
How was your recent trip to Europe?
“It was great. Dogstar did 10 cities in 13 days, or 13 shows in 13 days and a lot of the band members had never been before so everyone was, like – ga ga’. One of the special days was in Paris because I got a van for everyone and we all piled in and just spent five hours – we didn’t really get to go inside anything but we got to go around. We saw the back of The Thinker’, That’s the Rodin museum! ‘Okay, I see it!’ and Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacre Coeur.” [Reeves has a good French accent.]
What about getting on stage, was it pressure or was it fun?
“London was pressure because we just wanted to do great, we had a great show. But you get the nerves of just wanting to do well and stuff. It was okay.”
Do you feel more pressure these days from the films than from the music?
“Yeah, for me acting is much more intense. Especially with the preparation. To go on for Hamlet’ is much different than to go on and play a rock show. Or to do the confrontation scene between my character and Morgan Freeman at the end of Chain Reaction. Not that to play music doesn’t take concentration, of course.”
Can you jump from one part, from stage to another part like that?
“Well I’ve had some time off, you know. I finished Chain Reaction a few months ago and now hopefully I’ll get to act in October doing this film called DEVIL’S ADVOCATE and I’ll have a good 6, 7 weeks to prepare, you know, going to rehab and all that.”
You seem to cross fairly readily from independent films, such as Feeling Minnesota to more commercial ones, like Chain Reaction –
“I like acting in commercial films, I shouldn’t say like, I love it and I love acting in independent films, and hopefully I will continue to do just that. Hopefully my acting will be good enough and hopefully the films will be good too.”
In Chain Reaction you have a very protective relationship with your co-star.
“Yeah, I’m kind of possessed, I saw it this morning. The director, Andrew Davis, had made some changes for the better and he wanted me to see it before I had to speak about it. But the guy’s crazy.”
How do you feel about this kind of relationship, with her or with this character. It seems to be a very healthy relationship.
“Yeah, Eddie is — in the party scene, after the success of the experiment, they kind of discover each other, she says, And thank you very much.’ And I’m like, Well, thank you.’ And I’m kind of enjoying her being a little tipsy and then of course, her car won’t start so I’m the guy’, so I get to take her home. So it begins like that, and I think from that moment they’re connected. So yeah, it’s fairly traditional, it does make her a bit of the damsel in distress’ and me the knight – there’s a lot of me in the film saying, Come on!’ and, This way!’ ”
Are you like that in your relationships?
“Mine are a little more sophisticated than what’s depicted in that film. Though there’s stuff in the film that was cut and we didn’t have time to shoot. There was a real battle in the film about the drama of the piece and the action of the piece. There used to be a scene in the script where after they succeed, our two characters are in a bus and she goes, We’ve changed the world.’ And they’re just together alone on a bus, it’s like, Yeah, I know.’ and they share that time but that gets in the way of the chase so it was cut.”
You said with Chain Reaction you actually saw a chance of saying something with the movie.
“You’re not familiar with what we went through to make it. There were 10 writers. I liked the subject matter, the aspect of something that’s positive. You hear stories all the time about products that last forever, like the 200 mile carburettor or the tire that will last forever, and we don’t need to use these fossil fuels and why don’t we change over?’ but there’s a status quo that needs to be maintained. And of all the pictures, at least this chase movie has some substance to it. At least in some subject matter, I know that there’s nothing really in it that we haven’t seen before but it’s not anything that we shouldn’t hear again. It’s nice that there are characters who, in what they’ve created, get to realise the dream of the dreamer, the character that Morgan Freeman plays. Rachel Vice says, Slay the dreamer, eh Shannon?’ And you know, we get it out. And hopefully it leaves it up to that, it leaves it ambiguous to how it will change.”
What are some of the things you would like to change?
“I’m just an actor. I don’t know. The more I think… it’s just, you can only really take care of yourself and your little world. I don’t know, I’m kind of pessimistic.”
Have you ever take a role because it had a kind of message?
“Yeah, of course. Taken a role and also auditioned for. Chain Reaction’ for example, it had a little more to it than some of the other things I’ve seen.”
Is that why you dropped out of Speed II?
“Yeah, part of the reason. There’s a lot to it. We made it, we did it, already. And, yes, it’s entertaining, and you know what? It’s going to be entertaining with another actor and Jan De Bont is a good director at that kind of thing and Sandra’s a good actress, so it’ll be entertaining.”