The name evokes visions of a rain-soaked Johnny Utah from Point Break or a very bronzed Prince Siddhartha in Little Buddha or the cancerous and weary John Constantine in the 2005 eponymously named film where hell and heaven is a day at the office. Reeves is a name so renowned that he played himself in Always Be My Maybe and the voice of a namesake kitten in the 2016 Key and Peele film Keanu.Chicago authors Larissa Zageris and Kitty Curran have penned a homage to Keanu in For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves. They are also the authors of My Lady’s Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel (2018) and the novella Taylor Swift: Girl Detective — The Secrets of the Starbucks Lovers (2016).
Their latest book, an essay collection that’s part of a new series on celebrities from Quirk Books, dissects Reeves’ celebrity on many planes: through the lenses of conspiracies, memes, fan fiction, ethnicity and artistic collaboration. It’s a pop-culture smorgasbord that reveals the hows and whys of the celebrity’s staying power in the film industry since Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989). “We live in a world where you feel like if you don’t have it figured out, you’re done, hang it up and that’s not true. You keep at it,” Zageris said. “That’s kind of a metaphor of (Reeves’) story. Yes, people loved him, but culturally he was a joke for no good reason, but it turned around. He’s lived quite the life, but we’d all be friends with Keanu. I think that’s part of what you bring to watching a performance — a trust and an enjoyment and a curiosity to see what he’s going to do next. It’s a very beloved, spanning fandom.”
He’s a celebrity “all the fangirls and secure fanboys” can get behind because he’s just a nice guy, the authors said. We talked to Curran and Zageris about their book and Reeves’ career, in all its John Wick-iness and Neo-ness, and why we just can’t get enough of the actor. The following conversation has been edited for space and clarity.
Chicago authors Kitty Curran (left) and Larissa Zageris wrote a book of essays about the staying power of Keanu Reeve’s celebrity career in For Your Consideration: Keanu Reeves (Quirk Books)
Why does Keanu warrant this book?
Zageris: Keanu is one of the good guys, and whenever he’s trending it’s because he did something great or (someone is) discovering he was great in the past. I think he has this vibe that he’s one of the good guys at a time where every time you turn around either men are emboldened to behave bad or you’re finding out something about them where you’re, like: ‘Seriously?!’ Keanu is someone who hasn’t let anyone down.
Curran: He’s been big for 30 years now and he got big at a time when the pressure was to lean into the machismo and he resisted that, which is now appreciated. I feel now all the things that people belittled him for are actually things that now people are, like: maybe we should respect that about him, actually.
Which film really put Reeves into the acting stratosphere?
Curran: We grew up with Bill & Ted, and I have yet to meet anyone who is part Asian, part white who grew up in the ’90s who wasn’t slightly obsessed with Keanu, because he literally was the only celebrity like us. It was very rare in the ’90s to have someone of Asian descent whose storylines weren’t all about being Asian. As a kid, my options were: Jubilee from the X-Men cartoon and Keanu. Those were my Asian diaspora icons that were like me.
Zageris: I think Speed and The Matrix made him a household name. Point Break is what people might think, but initially when it came out, people were, like, this is ridiculous. It’s become a belated cultural juggernaut since. But, in my soul, it was Speed and Constantine.
Curran: I think that’s the one that turned him into an icon/star, like a movie star.
Zageris: He just keeps going. Every decade he has some big turn. I think he’s someone that people have long treasured, that people can get into. He’s done beautiful work in My Own Private Idaho and he’s a lovely, sweet-hearted fool in Parenthood. He’s really played a lot of shades; … way more than people expect.
Is there enough material there to create a Keanu Reeves amusement park?
Curran: There probably is. We have Bill & Ted world with all the time travel; then you have Matrix land, where you go on a quest in some sort of altered reality; then you have John Wick world, which is the nightclub area for the adults and also with a little shooting range. I think we can do this pretty easily.
Zageris: You can do a lot of air guitar competitions. You can have an emotional roller coaster that can be his career track — a roller coaster through different worlds, an emotional roller coaster.
Curran: And he’s been in enough spooky things for there to be a killer haunted house: You have the Bram Stoker area, the Constantine area, and you have the guy from The Gift.
If you get the chance to meet him, what would you ask him?
Curran: May I touch the hem of your garment?! I think there would be a lot of hyperventilating.
Zageris: I think I would ask him what his dream project would be, because then I would be like: How are we going to write that for you? I would want to weasel my way into a creative collaboration with him. I would be, like: ‘Let’s do an Inside the Actor’s Studio with every single one of your movies.’ Tell us tales. — Chicago Tribune/TNS
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