What comes to your mind when I say ‘the one’? I mean, apart from your significant other, who else pops in your head? Still feeling a little lost? Well, I am talking about theundisputed king of immortality- Keanu Reeves and his very awe inspiring life, which we all know the least about.
The actor obviously made a tremendous place in my heart after the first time I watched him on screen in ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. Two young lads, go back in time and bring back history to complete their school project-what’s there not to like in this movie? And as any young teenager with developing levels of oestrogen, I started crushing on Ted aka Keanu the minute I laid my eyes on him and there was no looking back.
But the man is a lot more than a crush for some teenage boys and girls and when you do get to know his story, you will realise just how strong someone needs or has to be, because being strong is the only choice they’re left with.
© Orion Pictures
In 1999, Keanu Reeves achieved heights of fame for his science fiction blockbuster ‘The Matrix’. Of course, some of us had to watch it more than once to actually get the literal context of the Wachowski brothers’ hit wonder. Neo (Reeves), also the anagram for ‘one’ (from ‘one one’), was the prodigy child of the virtual world, who was the only one who could end the war between humans and machines in the Matrix. Everything about this movie was just about right; the production, the effects, the storyline, the soundtrack and the actors and of course, the movie won four Academy Awards, making it a beautiful and a successful journey for everyone. Everyone except Keanu.
© Warner Bros.
There wasn’t a dearth of doubt about the fact that Keanu was happy receiving much recognition and acclaim for his role in the film, but with all that success, there was emptiness that surrounded him, every given day. His life wasn’t easy and neither were his aspirations to achieve an ounce of happiness, but as we all know it, he always pushed forward and did the best he could, to never let anything deter his spirit.
This is his story, as we know it.
Being 50 today, I am sure Keanu looks back at life in a more grateful way than any of us do, ever. At the age of 3, Keanu’s father left their family but he was still in touch with Keanu for a few years, but because of the divorce and the family moving around a lot, his father eventually lost touch with him, leaving Keanu to grow up without a father figure. Schooling was not aces for him either. He had a major struggle with dyslexia and not the kind we imagined to have when we were kids, but a more serious and pronounced disorder. He changed 4 schools in the span of 5 years and eventually had to leave school, without earning himself a diploma.
One would hope he made it okay and of course he did! He found his love in reading and he’s an avid reader now, but back then he found his solace in sports, when academics seemed tough for him. He picked up ice-hockey and quickly became the best goal keeper, so much so, that he was nicknamed ‘the wall’. Well, perhaps he was the Dravid for his ice hockey team back then but as fate would have it, his sports career was shot-lived too and due to some injuries, he couldn’t play ice hockey for Canada. But it’s true that there’s nothing that deters a true sportsman’s spirit and he didn’t stop from playing local tournaments!
At a recent Reddit AMA (ask me anything) Keanu truly expressed how he felt when he lost his closest friend River Phoenix, an actor and a musician from Oregon, at 23, due to a drug overdose.
© Fine Line Features
“He was a remarkable human person and actor. We got along very well, and I miss him. I think of him often.”
His best friend’s death left him completely broken but he was still doing what he did best- keeping his heart open and embracing life as it came to him. In 1998 Keanu met Jennifer Syme and the two fell beautifully in love and a year later in 1999, Jennifer gave birth to their baby daughter. The sad bit? Their daughter was a still born. They’d named her Ava Archer Syme-Reeves and she was buried at the Westwood Village Memorial Park cemetery. Due to the burden of this loss, Jennifer and Keanu started drifting apart and finally ended their relationship.
“Grief changes shape, but it never ends.” It’s a lesson that we’ll all likely learn”. Keanu told a popular publication in 2006.
A decade of abandonment from his loved ones, one would think he’d have had enough for a lifetime but that’s what’s overwhelming and surprising for all us ardent ‘fans’.
He smiled and waved at everything that life brought along his way and never gave up, not even once. The only real thing that changed about him was how he thought about money. After the tragedies that he went through, life wasn’t completely unkind and he was on a blockbuster marathon in Hollywood. From ‘The Matrix’ to ‘Speed’ to even ‘Constantine’ and ‘John Wick’, Keanu Reeves was the new Harrison Ford and everyone loved him. But all that fame and money didn’t really matter to him and at the Reddit AMA he told his fans that he likes to keep it simple.
“Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.” Keanu told a popular publication.
© Warner Bros. Pictures
Keanu, is by far the most charitable, grounded and humble actors present in Hollywood today and he doesn’t think twice before making generous contributions towards charity. After the success of ‘The Matrix’ and its sequels, Keanu gave $80 million, out of his $114 million earnings for the special effects and the makeup staff of the film because he thought they were the true deserving recipients of the money the movie generated. He took pay cuts for films like ‘The Replacements’ and ‘The Devil’s Advocate’, so that the films would have enough budget to feature stars like Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. That’s the kind of humiloty we wish to witness in our Bollywood stars and wonder, if it really exists within their realms.
But more than the amount of pain he’s gone through, seeing someone else suffer is what really saddens Keanu. Apart from the loss that he’s seen all his life, he was not ready to face another one, when his sister was suffering from leukaemia for over a decade. He stood by her every waking hour and even donated a large portion of his ‘Matrix’ earnings to cancer-related charities all over the world and even set one up to help people with lesser monetary aids to fight cancer. For him, it was true charity and the thought of it, truly began at home.
Being one of the biggest stars Hollywood has had, Keanu Reeves is a man made of steel and would easily give Superman a run for his…okay maybe not Superman but he’d give any fallen hero a reason to rise again. The man’s net worth is $350 million but you will never see him show off. Heck, he still rides the subway and is really humble and nice about it and offers his seat to people who are standing, gasping for breath, seeing him being a nonchalant ‘commoner’.
He makes an effort to know everyone’s name in the movie he is starring. From the set designers to the helping aids, he’s friendly with everyone, making sure no one thinks he’s above all of them. He doesn’t wear flashy clothes, doesn’t drive a fancy car and he doesn’t age! He’s another species altogether! He rides round on his motorbike and up until ten years ago, he was still living on rent!
What does it take to become so grounded and kind in life? A bunch of traverse tragedies to shake your very core, so you realise what human existence is all about or a huge amount of loss around you, to make you take each day with nothing but gratitude? We guess, in Keanu’s case both these possibilities sound fair. He’s living his life, a bit morbid at times (yes, we’ve made fun of his sadness through memes and he’s taken them very kindly, thank you) but why shouldn’t he be internalising sadness while radiating joy all around him? While, most stars throw lavish, grand birthday bashes, Keanu, was spotted sitting next to a warehouse eating a cupcake on his birthday, chilling with people working there.
Why shouldn’t he blame people around him for what he’s gone through? Why shouldn’t he be angry at the world for letting him down every now and then? Well, if we’ve learnt something from his life, it’s to never give up! While, sharing meals with homeless people, he does believe that all humans are equals and no one is above anyone else. That’s living inspiration, for anyone looking for inspiration, right there!
TBH, Keanu Reeves is a one man inspiration and I implore everyone reading this article-if you ever wish to give up, ever in life, read about him and his struggles and his steadfast stance on embracing life as is and I am sure, you will change your mind.