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Further Phoenix
at Rio's Attic:

Hollywood

California

Music Hobby

I Love You To Death

My Own Private Idaho

Gus Van Sant

Keanu Reeves

Portland

Flea

Brad Pitt

Academy Awards

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Crucible, The

Arthur Miller

California Pasadena

Brad Pitt

Chris Nickson

US Magazine

Keanu Reeves

Stephen Prina

Michel Foucault

Feeling Minnesota
Rio's Attic: Celebrating the Life and Times of a Dearly Missed River Phoenix
American EnglishEn Français

Keanu Reeves

by Chris Nickson.
First published in 1997.


ISBN 0-312-95885-4 (Paperback, 200 Pages)

After Brad Pitt in 1995, the celebrity biographer Chris Nickson turned to another young actor, Keanu Reeves and tried to discover the roots of his success, the characteristics of the man and the reasons why he plays the characters he does. Like the other portrait, this one seems to be faithful and focuses more on what is known to be true than about rumors or sensationalism. This small book also includes in the middle several pictures from different movies and some shots from real life.

But what about the man himself? He keeps incredibly busy, and is always in demand, virtually moving from film to film without pause. It's as if he has no real life beyond acting. In some ways that's true. Outside his profession, his interests are very few - his motorcycle and his band are about all. Although he's long been able to afford it, he's not interested enough to buy himself a house. So instead he lives in a hotel - although admittedly, a good one.

Keanu has fallen into success, and embraced it somewhat warily. It's there, it's happened, but he's not sure he really wants it.

He's certainly not interested in the trappings that accompany fame. If pressed, he'll present an award at the Oscars, but you won't find his face haunting the gossip columns or the tabloids. For one thing, he's too busy most of the time. And when he isn't, he stays well away from that world of raving cameras and reporters out for a story.

Nevertheless and perhaps to his own surprise, his fame has had unexpected results.

The press was beginning to take him seriously. Even academia was staring at him. At the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, instructor Stephen Prina had begun a course on the films of Keanu Reeves. On the surface, the course could have been taken as one of those very California type of jokes, but Prina was deadly serious. This wasn't an easy course, or a setup for a quick credit and a good grade. Instead it used Keanu as a means for analyzing modern film and contemporary culture, focusing not only the movies he'd made, but also the philosophical texts of Michel Foucault and others, and showing the place they all took in modern life.

It was hardly no calorie popcorn fare. Instead, it was three months of very solid work. And it made Keanu the first of the younger generation of Hollywood actors to have a course taught about him, which perhaps offered him small measure of satisfaction for having been the butt of critics' scorn for so long. But the honor was more than justified.

Describing very precisely his career since his first play, The Crucible by Arthur Miller, to the film Feeling Minnesota, Nickson gives for each work a summing-up of the story, the way Keanu entered the character, the reaction from the media and from the audience. He doesn't hide the flaws of his career but also shows Reeves' progression in the art of playing. With a tone that seems to guarantee sincerity and neutrality, Nickson makes a portrait of a rather nice young man, completely dedicated to his job, undoubtedly very private, who seems to like loneliness, but who was able to appreciate a rare and deep friendship.

More importantly for Keanu, though, working on I Love You to Death introduced him to River Phoenix, who'd end up becoming a close friend. Keanu didn’t really have friends in the business, preferring to keep work and social life separate, but in Phoenix he found something of a kindred spirit.

In some ways they are very much alike, with Keanu, six years the elder, acting as a kind of "older brother", as Phoenix once described it. The two of them had a great deal in common. Both had had unconventional childhoods (although Phoenix's was by far the stranger), and both were very serious about their acting. They were both musicians. And both had their wild sides.

Chapter seven describes how that friendship deepened during the shooting of My Own Private Idaho.

When not in front of the camera, many of the actors spent time at Van Sant's house outside Portland. Since both Keanu and Phoenix were musicians, and the cast also included Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, jam sessions in the basement were a common event, often lasting until the early hours. It all helped make the shoot seem a pleasant, friendly affair.

But whatever baggage either of the stars might have brought to this movie, their work together elicited superb performance. And part of it was because of the friendship they shared in real life. "River is my buddy, dude," Keanu said during an interview to publicize the movie. "I've always loved you, River. River is my best friend, and, to be honest, I don't have many of them."

The tenderness between them came across. Scott, the elder, looked after the person who'd become his charge as best he could, even though he knew he'd be leaving that life very soon. And he wasn't going to carry anything with him when he left.

We know that ultimately, in real life, it was not Scott who left. Keanu Reeves, always a very private person, didn't talk much about River's death perhaps because some pain is so unbearable that it cannot be expressed - a last useless attempt to deny reality.

The pressures of work kept them from seeing each other much, but the affection between them remained. Phoenix's death came as a blow to Keanu. As he said, it "scared the hell out of" him. "I think of it as an accident," Keanu said. "I can't make sense of it."

Expressing his feelings about it was difficult. The emotions were there, bottled up inside; articulating them was much harder. "I was terribly, terribly sad," he told US. "Incredibly sad. And, um, I miss him very much."


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