Keanu Reeves‘ career in the early ’90s was going incredibly well – almost too well, as far as he was concerned. While roles like Speed and Chain Reaction were making him a household name among action hero fans, that wasn’t what he’d envisioned for himself as an actor and he was desperate to escape it. After turning down a role in Speed 2, Keanu learned the consequences of saying no in Hollywood and had to fight to ensure he continued to have a career at all.
From The Telegraph:
“When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this’,” he recalls. “And I said, ‘I read the script and I can’t. It’s called ‘Speed’, and it’s on a cruise ship’.”
When he was next in Los Angeles, William Mechanic, the then-head of Fox Filmed Entertainment, tried to persuade him with a $12m pay cheque. “And I told him, ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again. I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”
So Reeves turned down Speed 2, and also the role of Chris Shiherlis in Michael Mann’s Heat, which eventually went to Val Kilmer. Instead, he took off to Winnipeg, Canada, for a season at the Manitoba Theatre Centre. The role he played, of course, was Hamlet.
As a result, Reeves was effectively blacklisted by Fox for more than a decade, only working with the studio again in the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, which was hardly worth the wait.
So would Reeves make the same decision again, in the full knowledge of how things would pan out? “Yeah. Y-ee-aa-h,” he says, before rumbling with laughter.
“That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, ‘Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’” He waggles his right hand, an invisible cigar clamped between his knuckles.
Things did eventually work out for Keanu, obviously – he now has 56 film credits to his name and even has his own meme! In all seriousness, Keanu is an okay actor and seems like a pretty cool guy, so he’s alright in my books. Also, now I really want to watch The Matrix.