Keanu Reeves is 57 now, and it seems like an excellent time to acknowledge how wrong we were about him for the first two and a half decades of his career. We’re sorry, Keanu!
We Never Acknowledged Him
First, let’s own up to the fact that we never really recognized Keanu as a person of color. His paternal grandmother was Hawaiian Chinese, and during an interview about his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, he revealed that he grew up with an appreciation of his heritage.
“My grandmother is Chinese and Hawaiian, so I was around Chinese art, furniture and cuisine when I was growing up,” he said. “I remember that I really liked haikus. I also liked animé and kung fu movies—so, yeah, I was exposed to Asian culture since I was a kid.”
But be honest: Have you ever thought of Keanu as a multiracial actor? Following his hilarious turn in Ali Wong’s Always Be My Maybe, audiences collectively went “whoa” as they realized that he wasn’t, in fact, a white dude. During press for John Wick 3, he told an interviewer at Essence that although he considers himself to be a person of color, he won’t claim to be “a spokesperson” for Asian actors. Instead, he humbly said:
“I hope that whatever opportunities I’ve had, or the work that I’m doing, in some way can entertain and can also—I don’t want to say teach—but have something of value come out of it.”
We Got Mad When He Wasn’t Ted
No one is arguing that Keanu Reeves has had a less-than-stellar career. But how much did our preconceived notions of him, mostly based on his early roles, hold him back?
Our man got his big break in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989, and the image of him as a goofy, affable doofus proved to be tough to shake. Nevermind the fact that he had already taken on more serious dramatic roles in River’s Edge and Dangerous Liaisons–audiences liked Ted “Theodore” Logan, and they wanted more of the same. He probably could have made a decent career of playing goofballs in 90s comedies, but that was not the path for Keanu.
Instead, he experimented with a wide range of roles throughout the decade. My Own Private Idaho was released just two years after Bill & Ted, with Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula and a villainous turn in Much Ado About Nothing following shortly after. Audiences and critics rejected his attempts at drama, mocking him for daring to stray outside the box they’d put him in.
Is Keanu the best actor in Much Ado About Nothing? No… because he’s up against Kenneth Branagh (widely considered to be the best Shakespearean actor since Lawrence Olivier), Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, and Michael Keaton. In my opinion, Keanu doesn’t far any worse than Kate Beckinsale in the film. Plus, from a purely aesthetic standpoint, he is shirtless, oiled, and wearing leather pants. Truly, we did not appreciate this gift enough.
He’s done comedy, horror, action, comic book movies, and romcoms, too. It’s way past time that we recognize the man’s range and commitment to exploring different types of roles.
We Didn’t Realize What He Was Going Through
When the “Sad Keanu” meme went viral, it served as a reminder of the personal tragedy he’d endured. Keanu’s father abandoned their family when he was a toddler, and his early life was rocked by upheaval as his mother remarried and uprooted their family over and over again. He never graduated high school and was even expelled from school.
As he was breaking out as a Hollywood star, Keanu lost one of his closest friends, River Phoenix, to an overdose. And even as his career took off with Speed, his beloved younger sister was battling leukemia. Thankfully, she won the fight and has been in remission for two decades.
We don’t ever hear much about Keanu’s love life, and there’s a good reason for that. In 1999, just as The Matrix was about to become a massive hit, Keanu’s daughter with then-girlfriend Jennifer Syme was stillborn. Their romance ended, but they remained close friends. Two years later, Syme was killed in a car crash.
As he told Parade in 2006, “Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, ‘It’s gone, and I’m better.’ They’re wrong. When the people you love are gone, you’re alone.”
Like Brendan Fraser, another beloved star done dirty by Hollywood, we’re only just now understanding what Keanu was going through behind the scenes.
We Didn’t Appreciate What a Great Guy He Is
Thanks to the well-deserved career renaissance following John Wick in 2014, Keanu Reeves is back on top of the box office. The internet is totally in love with him, and he seems to be happier than ever. Gotta say, I don’t think anyone in Hollywood deserves it more. Here’s just a few reasons why.
He’s philanthropic! As he once told the Chicago Tribune, “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I’ve already made for the next few centuries.” Keanu is more than willing to share the wealth–and he does it without announcing his philanthropy in a press release. Years after the fact, we’ve learned about how he took pay cuts to ensure that the crews of his films make more money. He donates millions to charities and never brags about it.
He loves his mom! Keanu took Patricia Taylor, his ex-showgirl and rock music costume designer mother, to the Oscars in 2020. In fact, Patricia and Kim, Keanu’s little sister, are both red carpet fixtures at his premieres–as you can see in the photo above. He also reportedly bought his mom a home long before he spent Hollywood money on himself.
He’s respectful! A couple of years ago, someone noticed a small but significant detail about how Keanu Reeves poses in photos with female fans and costars. While many men might place their hands on the waists or ribcages of a woman they’re posing with… Keanu does not. His hands hover behind the other person in the shot without touching. That’s respectful and smart–two qualities that we really should have appreciated about Keanu a long time ago.
He’s not Sad Keanu anymore! We also learned that Keanu has found a partner in artist Alexandra Grant (pictured above). Reportedly, the pair had been friends and collaborators for years before deciding to take their relationship into a romance. They made their red carpet debut as a couple in 2019, and the super-hip, mega-talented (and seriously photogenic couple) have been going strong ever since.