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'It's good to be the anti hero again' interview He wanted to be a race car driver, an inventor, conductor of an orchestra or a nuclear physicist. Yet, despite mixed reviews, Keanu Reeves has made a successful career out of acting, reports JON HARRY ...

Byline: JON HARRY

HE has been described as one of the most inscrutable actors to ever hit the big time. His acting has been criticised as 'wooden', and he has been nominated for a number of 'worst actor' Razzies.

Yet nearly 20 years after making his name playing loveable dimwit Ted in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure, Keanu Reeves is still getting plumroles in big movies.

Not bad for someone who many have dismissed as an unintelligent, bad actor.

In the flesh Keanu is, in fact, articulate, with a knack of successfully deflecting questions he doesn't want to answer.

Although he can't explain the secret to his career longevity, he is still enjoying himself, he says.

"It's not the same, but when it works, it's still really rewarding and fun," he says.

"I'm still kind of curious about it, and it's ever changing."

In his latest role, in gritty and violent movie Street Kings, Keanu stars alongside Forest Whitaker and Hugh Laurie as street-wise LAPD cop Tom Ludlow.

Tom is a bit of a rule bender, but his life is turned upside down when he is implicated in the murder of a fellow officer. What follows is a probe into the dark underbelly of LA policing, with Tom making murky discoveries of corruption and murder.

"I liked Tom Ludlow," says Keanu. "I liked his complexity, I liked the violence. For me it was a nice reach and stretch playing someone very different than myself, so that had an attraction.

"The violence is an expression of what you're feeling," he explains. "Policing does have a sense of control and power, whether it's dominance or you getting what you want, or whether you're acting out an emotion.

Also, at the same time, it is not ultimately satisfying. Ludlow is kind of trapped in it." But the weaving of a high level of violence into the story raises questions about its morality.

Is it justified to act outside the law for the greater good? Can violence be the answer? Is it okay to have a gun?

"It's about checks and balances and I think you have to have real checks and balances within policing," muses Keanu.

"Without those it seems there's abuses. Should the citizen be able to have a weapon? Yes, why not?

It's not, not-okay. You know what I mean? I could argue both sides.

"I'm not fundamentally against a citizen having access to a weapon," he continues.

"But it has complications. It's probably not the wisest thing - there's consequences. Sometimes violence is a very practical solution but I don't think it's the ultimate solution. Obviously, I'm talking about when the Huns are coming over the hills. So I guess it would be in defence perhaps. Personally, I don't own a weapon, so I can't really say."

Despite the cop movie genre being explored in multitudes of Hollywood movies, Keanu still believes Street Kings has enough about it to make it different.

"It has a lot of different voices in it," he says. "It wanders perspective - Hugh Laurie's perspective, Ludlow's perspective.

The characters are just allowed to be, without anything kind of judging them or guiding them to any perspective.

"It allows the complexity in all these different characters, these threads, as opposed to just having just one milieu. You get archetypes where it's us and them. But this one has a lot of greys. It's a little more sophisticated."

Researching the role, Keanu spent time with officers from the real Los Angeles Police Department, where he learned, not only what life was like on the job, but how cops deal with its implications. "One gentleman in particular was really helpful about what it was like to go home," says Keanu. "He gave me this book called Hypervigilance, and it's a state that a lot of people in law enforcement have to deal with. Basically, you're always in a kind of fight/flight mode.

"You're adrenalin is up, you're in a kind of heightened world. And then you have to come home. How do you deal with that?"

Although he is happy to discuss his role, work, and co-stars with charm and grace, Keanu won't be drawn on his personal life. It's unsurprising when you consider what he's been through in the past decade.

His sister has battled leukaemia. In 1999, he and then-girlfriend Jennifer Syme had a stillborn baby.

In 2001, after the couple had split, Jennifer tragically died in a car accident.

At present, the rumour is that he's not in a serious relationship. When asked whether he wants to marry and have children, he merely says "sure, why not?" and dismisses a question on whether his celebrity gets in the way of making romantic attachments: "I don't have that."

For a while he had a stint playing bass guitar in grunge band Dogstar, but now only plays recreationally. And as for the infamous LA paparazzi, they can be a pain sometimes. "It's a situation that's gotten a lot more intense than it used to be, so that's a drag. It doesn't bother me on a daily basis."

He does admit that acting wasn't always his ambition. "The story when I was a kid was that I wanted to be a race car driver, an inventor, conductor of an orchestra or a nuclear physicist," he says. "That was it. That was what the little kid was saying."

Now 43, Keanu's choice of roles has matured with him, and he's happy to play the anti-hero - Neo in The Matrix and now Tom Ludlow in Street Kings.

"They are good roles to play," he says. "The anti-hero or the hero. It's interesting to see what's going to happen. What are they looking for? What do they want? What will they do? Sometimes what they do comes below it, it comes as a sacrifice and at a price. Maybe the way they do it isn't so great, and that's when they become an anti-hero." He finds it difficult to pick a stand out role in his career but cites playing Little Buddha in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1994 film as particularly memorable.

"For me to work with Bertolucci and to be playing a role which I could not have possibly imagined I'd be playing," Keanu says. "Just being introduced to Buddhists, and that whole world of where I went. Going to Bhutan and Kathmandu, that whole experience, and playing the role, was an adventure.

"I went to places in the world I'd never been, and being introduced to a religion, philosophy, way of being that I hadn't been exposed to before was a revelation."

Street Kings is released on Friday

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STREET TOUGH Keanu Reeves stars in Street; Kings with Chris Evans (left) and Martha Higareda; REEVESIE DOES IT: Keanu
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 13, 2008
Words:1127
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