Keanu Reeves is really deep. And complicated. And smart. Well, secretly smart. At least that’s what Details magazine wants you to think. I’m not sure I can buy that from anyone who still says, “Dude” as frequently as Keanu seems to throughout the interview. He has a long interview in the upcoming issue – where he and a Details reporter spend most of their time in a bookstore talking deep stuff. Keanu rattles off a litany of books he loves. And I’ll admit, it’s an impressive list, but there’s something so overly laid back about his approach that it can come off as a little put on.
“He is the opposite of dumb,” says Scott Derrickson, who directed him in December’s The Day the Earth Stood Still. “That is a word that has no application to him. This is not just a director trying to defend his actor and say, ‘No, really, he’s not dumb.’ He’s fiercely intelligent.”… So could it be? Is Keanu Reeves some kind of . . . stealth genius? “I’ve swapped a lot of books with him in the last nine months. He is one of the most voracious readers I’ve ever met,” Derrickson says. “He’s very unpretentious about it. Nobody really knows, and he doesn’t really care that nobody knows.”
No. It becomes clear after 30 seconds of watching Keanu pinball around the aisles of Book Soup that he approaches the printed word as both a glutton and a gourmand: He inhales a lot, and he’s game to order off-menu. He tells me he just finished all of the novels in John Updike’s Rabbit series. “So fantastic,” he says with a reverent hush. I mention another work about suburban crisis, Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, and he rears back and slides the helmet onto his head so that he can free up his left hand. “Oh, YES!!!” he shouts. “Let’s high-five on Revolutionary Road!” We slap palms. This prompts a rumination from Keanu on the primary characters in that book, Frank and April Wheeler, and “the identities that they’re wearing—you know, their authentic self and then their external self and that dialogue that’s going on.”
As we pass Proust, Keanu reveals that he devoured every page of the meticulous colossus that is Remembrance of Things Past. “It took a couple of years, but I did it,” he says. The grin has straightened itself; it’s ear-to-ear now. “I didn’t do the Moncrief, I did the newer translation. Some books would come in between. But I found that it was a thread—like time—that you could walk away and come back to. I didn’t feel like I had lost the momentum of the story at all. It was like meeting a good friend or someone that you like, and you’re like, ‘Hey, dude! How’s it goin’?'”
The article goes on with an analytical discussion of the word “dude,” and an epic trip to a deli for a sandwich that is said to be incredibly good, because, as Keanu notes, “‘I was told that it’s got the shredded lettuce,’ he rhapsodizes. ‘It’s like, you know, a good sandwich.’” Only it is Monday and the deli is closed Mondays, but Keanu has forgotten what day it is until he and the reporter make the 45 minute trip just for this miraculous shredded lettuce-filled sandwich.
The guy is clearly without much pretense, and I think that’s why he doesn’t make a big deal of his love of literature. Combined with his lingering “Bill & Ted”-like persona, it’s hard to take him seriously, but it’s pretty clear he’s actually really smart, and has a deep passion for reading. Not something you hear a lot of celebs talking about unless they’re trying to sound deep. However when you’re reading the article you can tell it’s something real for Keanu. But somehow it’s hard not to get stuck on that shredded lettuce.
Here’s Keanu leaving his home in L.A. on a motorcycle on November 5th. Images thanks to Bauer-Griffin.