Keanu Reeves returns to screens with a vengeance later this month in the outstanding action thriller John Wick, but he also has some long-brewing projects waiting in the wings, including playing another professional assassin in the TV show “Rain” (based on the book series by Barry Eisler), the sci-fi romance Passengers (in which Keanu wakes up in the middle of a 90-year journey to another planet) and, of course, Bill & Ted 3.
We also touched upon Marvel’s Doctor Strange, which he had little awareness of and is a bit too close to his previous role in Constantine. Don’t count him out though, since he did The Matrix after the similarly-themed Johnny Mnemonic to far greater success! Just saying.
ComingSoon.net: A sequel you always wind up talking about is Bill & Ted 3, you’re very candid about it. One big draw is having the original writer/creators back, Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon. Their voice, their sensibility is so off the wall and fun. There’s a story about Solomon getting fired and rehired multiple times by Walter F. Parkes during Men in Black because his sensibility was so weird, but that made that movie click. Is that oddball sensibility part of what’s holding a third Bill & Ted back? Keanu Reeves: We have to get the script in the right place. Chris and Ed have been working really hard over a couple of years to get the draft in the right place. What is the reason to make this movie besides nostalgia or the love of these characters. Where can they be in their life that can be a story that is worth telling or has something in it and is funny? They have that. It didn’t help that the first script that they brought in was probably budgeted at $150 million dollars. I don’t know if Bill & Ted carry that much weight. Part of the argument is that it’s not that popular internationally, that’s where so much of the funding for movies comes from these days. They’ve worked on the script and the budget, just trying to get the right script and then get the business side wrapped up, financiers and rights, all the show business stuff.
CS: The director you guys picked out originally, Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) was a great choice. Is he still involved? Reeves: Yeah, Dean’s re-read it and I think he likes it. It’s kind of like I call it “gravity,” you have to get this mass together to make it happen. In terms of the writers’ voices being too peculiar, in this case no. I think they’ve really crafted something that’s funny. [Bill and Ted have] been weighed down by the burden of having to save the world by the song, and they just can’t write it. They’re losing their wives and their children, they’re losing their families.
CS: Just getting too wrapped up in their own dilemma? Reeves: Yeah, they’re just like, “Dude, we have to write the song!” The future comes back and says if you don’t write the song by this certain time the universe is going to unravel and history and everything is going to change and dinosaurs are gonna walk the Earth. Jesus is playing baseball! All sorts of weird things start unraveling and wormholes are twisting. We have to kind of bring order back, and it’s connected into bringing our families together by writing a song.
CS: Obviously you don’t want to homogenize that to the point where it’s not even worth doing anymore. Reeves: No! I mean, it’s edgy. There’s a great scene where Bill and Ted are in jail and we’re seeing our future us’s and they’re all tatted and hard. They’re like, [tough sounding] “What’s up, dude? Hey dude. Hey guy.” “Stop calling me dude!” They want to beat up Bill and Ted because they’ve inherited the life that they f**ked up. They’re miserable and they hate Bill and Ted. There’s some funny stuff!
CS: I’m super psyched, but a project I’m excited for even more is Passengers. I’ve read a lot of Black List scripts, and that one is probably the best I even read. I describe it to people as like WALL-E for grown-ups. Reeves: Yeah, with edge.
CS: A lot of edge, just beautifully crafted, very satisfying. It’s shocking you’ve had so much trouble putting it together. Reeves: This is where you read, “Keanu does a heavy sigh.” [sighs heavily] Yeah, I know. We’re still trying.
CS: Is the road block just finding the right leading lady? Reeves: Yeah, it’s leading lady and financing and all that show business sh*t. We need someone who’s a financier who believes in the movie at the budget and we haven’t been able. We’ve come close to that and we’ve had some hard luck with actresses not being able to do the film.
CS: Reese Witherspoon was the last one, right? Reeves: No, there was Reese then there was Rachel McAdams.
CS: It’s such a really rich world, and it did great stuff for the writer, Jon Spaihts, who’s now doing these big tentpole movies. There’s a reason he got hired for Prometheus or The Mummy or Doctor Strange, and that’s because Passengers is such a damn good script. Reeves: Yeah, he’s a great writer and a cool guy. Hopefully in five years we can be having a conversation, “I saw ‘Passengers’! It’s better than the script I read!”
CS: During the screening, you did a Q&A at the other night somebody actually shouted out “Doctor Strange!” at you. Did Jon ever talk to you about that property? Reeves: No, is he doing it? He’s doing that! I didn’t now that. I didn’t know that Doctor Strange was a comic book, I never read it. Do you know the character?
CS: Yeah, he’s a doctor whose hands get mangled and he winds up going to a temple in the Himalayas and training with a master sorcerer to get powers. It’s set in the world of the occult I feel like that’s territory you already explored with Reeves: Constantine? Is Doctor Strange a good guy or is he good and bad? What’s his thing? Is he a loner?
CS: Yeah, he’s a bit of loner, he lives in Greenwich Village. Reeves: Oh groovy. So he’s a New Yorker? Is he keeping evil magic at bay? Is he like the protector of the threshold? (laughs)
CS: Exactly, you know the deal. And recently they announced “Rain,” your TV show about another cunning hitman. It’s fascinating because you see big stars like Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson and now you going to TV. Do you guys know something we don’t know? Is this like rats fleeing the sinking ship that is cinema? Reeves: (pause) I don’t know. I hope not. I mean, there’s so many opportunities in terms of content possibilities, right? There’s so many ways to view content and those people are producing content. There’s a lot of great writers. I think, in a way, television is taking on the cinematic language and using movie language to tell television stories, which is fun. The serialization, you’ve got great creators doing fun stuff, cinematically and writing-wise. Television has always been a great proving ground for writers and filmmakers. I don’t think movies are dead. I don’t think the 90-minute storytelling form has run its course, but in order to have that four-wall experience, to go to the movies and see that, I don’t know if that’s the goal for everyone anymore. That used to be the goal.
CS: Conversely, the quality has gotten so good that a show can’t just be “good enough for TV,” it has to be “better than a movie.” How is “Rain” better than a movie? Reeves: Yeah, I mean I think it’s using the cinema language and having the chance to explore the character MORE. To serialize that, not to tell one story but to tell for me our going into it is really just to tell a man’s life. The books cover, like, ten years of his life, so the vision of this series is we’re investigating this man’s life, not just a part of who he is but his life.
CS: The whole span? Reeves: Yeah, this whole journey with him. Also, television is using the same tools as movies. They’re using the same camera, they’re using the same lenses.