Keanu Reeves is pumped. In talking with him about his new film “Henry’s Crime” Reeves, who has had an entire Internet meme created around his seemingly endless sadness, was — dare we write it? — excited. As a first-time producer, Reeves helped usher the film through its writing, to casting, to, finally, four years later, filming in Tarrytown, N.Y. In the film, Reeves portrays the titular Henry, a hapless Buffalo tollbooth collector who, after serving time for a bank robbery he did not commit, decides to rob the bank for real. To do so, he must worm into a local theatre company’s production of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” Although he gets help from an ex-con (James Caan), but his scheme gets complicated when he falls for the company’s lead actress (Very Farmiga).
Reeves was so jovial and proud of “Henry’s Crime” he even put up with some off-topic questions about his private life during our interview.
You’ve been with “Harry’s Crime” since the very beginning.
Yeah, absolutely. “Henry’s Crime” was developed by the production company I partner with. It all started with an idea for the tag line: “Robbing the bank that you already went to jail for robbing.” From that idea sentence to five years later was “Henry’s Crime.” I helped collaborate in the writing as well as [help] in terms of casting and trying to raise the money.
It’s nice to see you laughing and joking in a film, if I may say. Usually you seem so stoic.
Stoic? I am?
Well, for instance, I was laughing out loud at this film. I wasn’t doing that during “The Matrix.”
You mean Morpheus didn’t crack you up?
Okay, well, is it fair to say you don’t have the reputation for starring in romantic comedies?
Well, I don’t know. I don’t know if you saw “Thumbsucker” and “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.” If you haven’t seen those movies, go see those movies! [Laughs]. But, yeah, I haven’t had a chance to do many studio films that are comedies. I haven’t had that chance for a long time.
You seemed to have a really good time with this.
Yeah, we had a fun time. It was nice to be a part of a film where all of the actors and everyone involved had such affection for the work and each other.
Your romantic foil in “Henry’s Crime” is the excellent Vera Farmiga. When she appears, it’s like a ray of sunshine.
Yeah! She totally changes the film, right? I mean, she has a great entrance with the “Buffalotto!” commercial and then the car crash. She has such a lovely abandon. For her, it was a nice role for her to use some of her comedy chops like that.
And also a strong female lead.
Thank. God. It doesn’t happen enough. But yeah, it was nice to have her intelligence and spirit used in the role of Julie. We wanted to have a kind of tragic character — well, not tragic really. But a woman with a past. She brought some baggage, let’s call it. Some fear baggage.
And James Caan?
[Pauses] He’s a beautiful man and a great actor. He’s a special cat. He’s a very generous actor and he’s kind of like Vera in that he kind of lights up a room.
As a bit of back story to your character for our readers: In order for Henry to gain access to a secret tunnel leading from a theater dressing room to a bank vault, he has to land a role in a local production of “The Cherry Orchard.” I feel the film really captures the essence of community theater. And you dupe the actor who is currently in the role by making him believe he’s been tapped for a production in the West End.
[Breaks into a British accent]: It’s a Ken Waterstone production! The West End! [Laughs]. We wanted to play to the vanity, you know.
Right. Even when you’re just doing community theater, there is still a smart part of you that thinks someone, one day, will spot you and make you famous.
It’s interesting. Everyone wants to have a good break. How can we get this guy to leave this role? It was kind of criminal to have this actor and sabotage this role. But then we figured that he had so much vanity he’d go for it.
But Henry IS a criminal.
Julie says that. “You’re a bank robber. A bank robber, Henry!” [Laughs] It’s so madcap.
But you’re not the kind stereotypical bank robber that’s always shown in those Boston-type films.
[Laughs]. Boston-type films. I like that.
What is your relationship with your fans, do you think?
I don’t know. You make it sound like there is one relationship. Like, there’s only one. It’s good?
You think it’s good?
Here’s the thing: You have appeared in such iconic films. Most readers have grown up with you, but yet we don’t know much about you but you still draw us in.
I don’t get out much but I get out once in a while. I’m pretty private person. But hopefully I can make a career in spite of that.
You’ve done a pretty good job so far.
I hope so. It’d be nice to be able to sustain a career from the work you do. As opposed to constantly hustling but yeah, I don’t go out of my way to seek publicity. To do publicity for a film or anything like that, I feel fortunate. I call it, “putting posters up.” [Softly] We did a good job. We did what I think is a pretty cool film. So thanks for coming by.
Follow Dorothy Robinson on Twitter at @DorothyatMetro.