“I wish I could say something classy and inspirational, but that just wouldn’t be our style. Pain heals. Chicks dig scars. Glory lasts forever.” — quarterback Shane Falco.
When Keanu Reeves delivers those words in the climatic scene of The Replacements, he does so with such conviction you want to jump from your seat and give yourself CTE just to win the big game for him. Yet, like the characters of the film’s title, Keanu gets no respect. Why is that? Is America so racist it can’t accept a part-Asian, Lebanese-born leading man? Or is something deeper at play?
To date, his movies have grossed $1,959,397,287 domestically, or a staggering $3,384,158,800 if adjusted for ticket price inflation; his net worth exceeds $350 million. How can a star so successful be so continually mocked, ridiculed, and called a talentless douche?
That’s easy. In the age of selfies and YouTube celebrities, Keanu Reeves threatens people by being unpretentious. Or put another way, Reeves is the coolest actor to barrel across the cultural landscape since Steve McQueen tried to escape the Nazis by attempting to throttle his stolen motorcycle over a barbed wire fence.
It’s no coincidence that Keanu starred in the two coolest, most stylish film roles of the past twenty five years: Neo in the Matrix trilogy and John Wick in the John Wick franchise. That he effortlessly pulled off each without trying to seduce the audience by winking at the camera or telling snarky topical jokes (I’m talking to you, Ryan Reynolds) is a testament to Reeves’ brilliance. In all his movies, he never over-emotes, nor has he become a parody of himself. Nay, Keanu Reeves is the epitome of acting restraint. (Now I’m talking to you, Mr. DeNiro, Pacino, Depp, Nicholson, Cage, and Walken.)
Only Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson rivals Reeves in coolness, and the Rock coasts by relying on his Gold’s Gym physique and animatronic eyebrows. Reeves, on the other hand, exudes a more genuine unobtrusive charm.
The hardest role for any actor to play is himself, yet Reeves continually nails this part with stoner grace. The now famous video where he gives up his seat to a woman standing next to him on the New York subway proves that he’s a both gentleman and also comfortable enough in his own celebrity skin to actually ride the freaking subway without a posse of ass-kissers protecting him. My own brief encounter with Keanu confirms his everyman approach to fame.
Back in 1992, our paths crossed on the Sony lot while Reeves was there filming Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I went up to him and said, “Hey, Keanu. You were awesome in Point Break.” He struck an awkward yet completely natural stance I recognized from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, nodded slightly, and replied, “Why, thank you, sir.”
We were both 28 at the time. Somehow, he simultaneously made me feel like a giddy school boy, a thespian peer, and an elder statesman of Hollywood. How cool is that?