As an actor, director, film producer, musician, and voice artist, Keanu Reeves has been in show business for more than three decades now. His impressive resumé includes some of the most popular franchises in recent years, such as The Matrix movies, Bill & Ted trilogy, and John Wick series, as well as feature films like Dracula, Constantine and The Lake House. He has had a prolific career in Hollywood, with its ups and downs, but overall he has remained true to himself and has never let go of the calm, amicable and gentlemanlike character he is so well-known and loved for.
Even though he is officially Canadian, Keanu Charles Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon, on September 2nd, 1964. His mother was English; his father was American with mixed Hawaiian and Asian heritage. In 1966, after moving to Australia, Keanu’s parents split up. After a brief period in New York City, the family finally settled in Toronto, Canada, in 1971. Following the separation, Keanu lost contact with his father and remains estranged to this day. His mother remarried three more times.
In his youth, Keanu wasn’t exactly academically inclined, preferring sports over studies. He enjoyed playing ice hockey and considered becoming a professional player, but ended up deciding to become an actor at the age of 15. He subsequently dropped out of high school two years later and eventually moved to Los Angeles at 17 to pursue a career in Hollywood with the help of his former stepfather, an actor and producer himself.
Like many Hollywood actors, Reeves first started to act in theater plays at the age of 9, where he appeared in a production of Damn Yankees. He made further appearances on stage, portraying Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, among other plays, in his adopted city of Toronto. In 1984, he participated in a Canadian TV series named Hangin’ In. During this time, he played a series of minor roles in several Hollywood films, mostly aimed at teenage audiences. He also saw moderate success with the fantasy horror movie Dracula (1982), crime drama River’s Edge in 1986, and his supporting role in Dangerous Liaisons, an award winning movie from 1988. The 1989 movie Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and its 1991 sequel were an unexpected success, and it helped to cement his charming, goofy but sweet and quiet persona in the business.
Keanu’s career was on the rise and, by the 1990s, he was starting to come out of his teen-film period and going into more action-packed thrillers. Afraid of being typecast due to his past roles, he began to take gigs on both high budget and independent films. His career reached new highs when he starred in the action film Speed in 1994. He grew into more mature roles, playing opposite veteran actors such as Al Pacino, Gene Hackman and Robert Downey Jr. He was also known from time to time to defer his salary so high-paying actors could star in the films. An example of this is The Devil’s Advocate (1997), which did well both among the critics and the box office, as well as earning Keanu the recognition as a mature, grown-up actor.
Yet the film that pushed his superstar status through the roof was 1999’s The Matrix, later turned into a trilogy that would become an international success. Another commercial success for him was the movie Constantine (2005). Over the last twenty years, Keanu has proven to be a versatile actor, starring in romance, science fiction, drama and action films—all to various degrees of success, but nevertheless proving that he is one of the biggest and most lovable stars of his generation, with his perseverance and willingness to carry on shining through in every endeavor he embarks upon.