Keanu Reeves is one of the most compellingly watchable actors ever. There’s just something about him that draws you in; he can often be positively hypnotizing. Whether he’s maneuvering the matrix, seeking bloody vengeance for the murder of his beloved puppy, or anchoring a more dramatic role, is one of the finest -- and most underrated -- actors working today.
His newest film, “Siberia,” is the type of movie they rarely make these days; a romantic thriller that is unabashedly adult. Reeves plays an underworld diamond dealer who gets in over his head while searching for some elusive blue diamonds. While on this quest, he falls in love with a café owner (Ana Ularu in what should be a star-making turn) and, like a dog caught in barbed wire, tears himself apart while trying to break free.
It’s a haunting, elegant film, with an uncomfortably ingenious screenplay by the great Scott B. Smith (who wrote “A Simple Plan” and “The Ruins”) and direction by Matthew Ross that mixes subtle stylization with the naturalistically arctic. (Ross told me that, “Every wonderful story you've heard about Keanu is 100% based on truth, I can confirm that. He's a wonderful partner and a wonderful actor.”) If you want a healing balm from all the summer blockbusters, “Siberia” is your antidote.
We were lucky enough to speak to Reeves about how the film came together, what the appeal was for him, and pried for updates on “John Wick 3,” the next “Bill & Ted,” and what character he’d like to have portrayed one more time.
Moviefone: How did 'Siberia' come together?
Reeves: The idea came from a producing partner of mine named Stephen Hamel. He found the writer Scott B. Smith. And then they worked on a script for a year, a year-and-a-half. And we got the script to a place where we were going out to filmmakers. I had a meeting with Matthew Ross because I really liked his film "Frank & Lola." We met in New York, he asked what I had going on, I talked to him about a couple of projects. He said, "Send me 'Siberia.'" So I sent him "Siberia." And he liked it and we had a big meeting. I really liked his film and we went off and we made a picture.
Was this ever something you considered directing yourself?
For "Siberia?" No. This one, I think just because of the dramatic and romantic nature of it, I needed a director for that.
There aren't a lot of movies that are made like this, with a kind of romantic thriller vibe. Was it hard to get people on board?
Yeah, from the financial side of it … Well, you never have enough money and you never have enough time. That's true of every film that's ever been made. And I would say that it had challenges when it came to financing but we were able to find enough interested people in it to have enough to make the picture.
As an actor what drew you to the story?
Well, speaking to what you were saying, it was kind of a grown-up movie. And what I mean by that is its tone and its ambition. I liked the thriller aspect of it. I liked the romance. I liked that my character, Lucas Hill, is trapped by his own life. He's trying to hold it together but it's falling apart and it's out of his control. And then something else happens – he meets someone and falls in love. He's a married man but he has this affair and he meets, well, it's a great term, but his soul mate, somebody he connects with. And I liked that tragedy of it, in a Shakespearean, "Romeo & Juliet" way, that they're both of different worlds. These worlds are impacting each other. Her family is saying, "get away" and my life is not allowing me to stay with her. So I find it's a romantic tragedy.
Can you talk about working with Scott? He's an amazing novelist and doesn't write that much. So I imagine getting him for something like this was difficult but rewarding.
Yeah, it was really the work of Stephen Hamel. He reached out to Scott and we met. The way that the script is and that humor that's laced through it, the tension in it, and there's a lot of dialogue and people are communicating with each other, but I like that everyone is at odds except for the lovers. And Scott I think just really liked the premise. He was a great collaborator and it was a great experience to come up with that script.
You're in New York shooting "John Wick 3," right?
How is that going?
We have a great cast. We have a lot of action! We have a lot of ambition! We have a lot of new characters. It's a very intense film shoot for me and physically demanding. But I love the character and I love that he's fighting for his life. If you're a fan of the films, we're opening up the world, we're learning new things, we're meeting new people. And there's some very fun sequences.
And it seems like you're finally doing "Bill & Ted Face the Music." How excited are you and what can we expect?
Yeah, I mean I hope it happens. We've been trying to get it made for seven years. But we're closer. I love the character and the writers, Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson, wrote a great script. So there's a reason to do it. It's not some kind of forced concoction or a money-grab. There's a great story about what's going on with them now. It's funny, it's moving, I hope we get a chance to make it.
Steven Soderbergh is listed as an executive producer on the new “Bill & Ted.” Has he helped move it along at all?
I haven't really been a producer on this endeavor. I know he got involved. There are people who are friends of his. I don't know to what extent. But thank you, thank you Steven, for all that you are doing!
You're doing sequels to some of your most popular movies now. Are there any other characters or films you'd like to revisit?
I always wish I'd had a chance to make another "Constantine." I really like that film. I tried to talk to them about it. But there were so many producers and rights issues and nobody really grabbed the bull by the horns. I guess it didn't make enough money.
"Siberia" is in theaters and on VOD this Friday.