Keanu Reeves, star of new samurai movie “47 Ronin,” talks to us about “The Matrix” and clarifies that “Sad Keanu” meme.
How did you get involved in “47 Ronin”?
I was offered it by producer Scott Stuber and Universal about four years ago. I really like the script and they began looking for a director and chose Carl Rinsch. I met him and loved his approach of film-making and his vision of making it like a painting.
The theme of the movie is close to your heart?
I would say yes. I love when it’s all about honor, a dramatic love story, revenge. Vengence in real life is dirty business. But in movies, it’s great, especially for the sake of honor. Plus, I could not miss the chance of working with a samurai sword, and tell the story of a ronin [warrior]. I do respect the history of these rogues, so for me the role of Kai — a man of honor — impressed me because of the history’s motive, because of being in exile.
Did you know the original story of the 47 ronin before filming?
To be honest, I didn’t. I have been in Japan a few times, but I never came across it.
I heard that you’re one of the most beloved American actors over there.
Really? I do love going there, in fact. I cherish their arts and culture, which I discover for myself out there.
You mean, the samurai code of honor?
I’m trying to learn bushido. What does it means to live by the bushido code; it’s sacrifice. But I only understand it in a romantic way. If we’re talking about honor, and being honorable to oneself and others, I react very seriously about it. Duty, responsibility — all of that is important.
I can’t leave it out, but in the past 14 years, “The Matrix” is one of my favorite movies.
We all know how it ended, but if the opportunity arose to do something else in this thread, would you want to participate?
Oh, damn. I love this movie and the entire trilogy; it’s a very important part of my life. If the Wachowskis asked me to do something else, I would say yes. But I cannot imagine what else it might be. For me, for the hero Neo, for Thomas Anderson, to go the way he did — absolute self-sacrifice for the sake of peace for all living beings — is a great way.
Many of your friends commented that Neo is very similar to you — is that true?
I believe that our views on the world are similar. The Wachowskis were questioning reality and all the forces that govern our world; they explored the idea of who we are as individuals. This is exactly a part of my worldview. What’s more, I played an outsider.
So you can call yourself a rebel?
I don’t know about that. The world has real rebels and insurgents.
Your name Keanu in Hawaiian means “cool breeze over the mountains.” Do you feel like a free wind?
Yes, I think I used to live like the wind. The truth now is that I already feel a little closer to the ground. Apparently, the wind dies down. [Laughs]
In 2010 you were infamously photographed eating alone on a park bench. It spiralled into an insanely popular internet meme.
Oh yeah. “Sad Keanu.”
Why were you there alone and looking anxious on the bench?
It was lunch-time, between filming “Henry’s Crime.” I decided to have something to eat during the break and began thinking about something. You know, sometimes you just start thinking during lunch. And that’s exactly what I did, but people seem to have decided that I was very sad. It’s interesting: photos can generate a thousand words, but none of them would be true! [Laughs]
In less that a year’s time you will be 50. Can you summarize what you would have liked to have done and not done?
There are many projects that need to be done and stories that need to be told. As an actor, I’m still searching and looking for something new to implement. If we’re talking about my personal life — I want to spend some time at home, see friends. I opened a company that will produce motorcycles — hopefully it will be cool. And yes … Yes, I just love being here!