At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, I was able to land an exclusive interview with Keanu Reeves for his movie Henry’s Crime. Premiering at the festival, Henry’s Crime stars Reeves, James Caan, and Vera Farmiga. The film was directed by Malcolm Venville and it’s about an aimless guy who ends up serving time for a bank robbery he didn’t commit. After he gets out, he decides to rob the bank for real. Things get complicated when he falls for a girl.
While you normally associate Reeves with big budget Hollywood blockbusters, you might be surprised to learn Henry’s Crime is a true indie as they don’t yet have distribution and Reeves was instrumental in getting the film made.
During the interview, Reeves talked about why he wanted to make Henry’s Crime, casting, acting techniques, upcoming projects, and a lot more. If you’re a fan of Reeves, I think you’ll like the interview as I tried to ask him some questions I’ve never heard him answer. Read or listen to what he had to say after the jump:
If you’re a fan of reading transcripts, the entire interview is below. However, if you’d rather listen to the interview, you can click here for the audio.
As of now, there are no clips or trailers for Henry’s Crime, but with Reeves as the star and actors like James Caan and Vera Farmiga involved, I’d imagine someone will pick this up very soon.
Collider: I saw your movie just a few hours ago and thought you were great in it. What’s great about the movie is that it has this fun, breezy tone. When you were told about the film, was that what you guys were aiming to make?
Keanu Reeves: Absolutely. I was part of developing the screenplay. So, I’ve been with the project from the ground up. What we were trying to do with Henry’s Crime was to make this kind of existential, romantic-comedy, caper movie.
When you talk about how long you’ve been working on this project, it seems that Hollywood has really begun to go through a paradigm shift. In terms of financing, the availability of credit, and just all that stuff. Yet you’re an A-list actor and you guys don’t have distribution yet. Can you talk about how the industry has changed over the last few years even for you?
Reeves: Yeah. About 7 years ago I decided to try and develop my own material, and here we are in 2010. Making this film in 2009, while having a script, trying to raise the money, and go independently. To me, it was not out of circumstances, but trying to have another way of performing and getting material. In this “new environment” you don’t have domestic distribution. That’s part of what being an independent movie is. Sometimes you can get picked up by Sony, or Fox Searchlight. Sometimes, they make films, but not all the time. I don’t know, to me, it’s just another way to make a movie.
Can you talk about your preparation as an actor? How important is rehearsal for you and how important are multiple takes?
Reeves: Yeah. Takes are good. Like on Henry’s Crime sometimes you get two or three takes.
That’s a little different than The Day the Earth Stood Still or other bigger films
Reeves: Yeah, where you might get twelve if you want. You know, you’re boarded differently The amount of page count that you have to do a day is different. But there is never enough time and there is never enough money. It’s circumstance. For me, the most takes I’ve ever had have been in action sequences in the Matrix films where you are just trying to get what I call “super perfect” and we had a chance to do that. To me, you just really have to know. Like with Henry’s Crime, you have to really kind of know. We rehearsed theater stuff trying to get the blocking with the plays. We went in on the weekends to try and get that right. You just prepare. Do you sometimes want more takes? Yeah. But then sometimes the process is that you’re not supposed to have takes. It gets a little zen out there.
How involved were you with the other casting, like, with James Caan and Vera Faminga? Since you’ve been involved with the project so long, did you envision these people in these roles for a long time or did the financing all of a sudden happen and you had to go find people?
Reeves: Well, we had the financing with me. We didn’t really have any real financing issues because of the scale of the film. We didn’t have to go cast another movie star. We were lucky that James Caan responded to the material and Vera loved the script. So that was great. They’re such excellent actors and I thought they enjoyed the roles. I mean, when was the last time you saw James Caan do a comedy like that? He’s funny, right?
He’s very funny and your chemistry with him is great. I think that you’re obviously a fan of his work too. Do you get impressed by anyone when you’re acting against them?
Intimidated or just impressed?
Reeves: There’s a sequence in the film where Henry says to Max that he can’t go forward with the plan. That he can’t do it and leave the girl. He has this great moment where he’s like “Look. You ask me to help you, I’m going to help you.” and looking at him I was just like “Yeah. That’s James Caan right there. He’s a movie star!” It’s admiration and it’s gratitude.
When your friends know that you’re working with James Caan, is that the kind of thing where they are like “Maybe I’m going to visit you on this shoot”
Reeves: [laughs] Yeah, except they don’t let anybody come visit me on the shoots. Well, we had some table reads and James was really cool about coming to my house and doing a table reading of the script. He’s an old school guy. He does whatever it takes.
I would be very happy to have him come to my house to do a table read.
Reeves: Yeah! It was awesome!
I wanted to touch more on the preparation process for even other roles that you’ve done. What’s the most you’ve ever done for any of your roles?
Reeves: Are you talking about time or are you talking about…?
With some actors I’ve spoken to, they say that as soon as they get the script they are on it. They are really ripping it apart and figuring it out. Chris Cooper talks about that. He mentioned to me that he really rips it apart. I’m just curious, for you, do you start putting your head in front of it a month before shooting or are you breaking it down as soon as you can?
Reeves: If it’s a role that has been offered to me, or any project, it’s about the “why?” of making it. If there is an answer to that “why?”, then I’ll go forward with just trying to do the script work that Chris is talking about. I try to understand who I am, who the other characters are, and what’s my place in the story. You have different obligations as an actor sometimes. If you look at my performance in Something’s Got to Give, my role there is that I’m basically not the lead singer and I’m not the chorus. But I have to do something, I have to bridge the relationship to the whole film and to these characters. I have to play my part, which is a different kind of thing than what I have to do in The Day the Earth Stood Still, or to go way back, The Devil’s Advocate. It’s a different kind of presence and presentation. I also try to familiarize myself with whatever the character does. You know, if there is some kind of job or if there is some kind of headspace. What are the emotional parameters and concerns? Basically, it’s “What are they thinking? What are they feeling? What are they doing?” And then you try to figure out as much as you can and after someone says “action” you’re going to know what’s going to happen.
You were attached to Cowboy Bebop for a little while. Any update on that?
Reeves: I haven’t heard anything back. They turned in the script and it was very expensive. I don’t know if they’re going to…it would cost, like, half a billion dollars to make that script. So, I don’t know where it’s at right now.
How about 47 Ronin?
Reeves: We are hopefully going to make 47 Ronin.
Is Carl Rinsch still on it?
Is it creeping forward or is it an express train forward?
Reeves: I think it’s a creeping express train. Which means that they’ve done pre-production, we’re still working on the script, they’re done pre-viz, and they’re doing location scouting. It’s ready to go. It’s a bullet train in waiting.
What about Passengers?
Reeves: Passengers is a spaceship in waiting.
You just started filming Generation Um. How is that going?
Reeves: Two days in and it’s going great.
For people that don’t know, can you talk a little bit about what it’s about?
Reeves: Yeah. It takes place over 24 hours. You follow this character named John. It’s basically the relationship between him and two call girls. He’s the driver and he ends up stealing a video camera and hanging with them in an apartment. It’s kind of about the interpersonal dynamics of this family.
Are you already thinking further ahead of that? Now that you’ve had a taste of developing with Henry’s Crime, are there other things that are sitting there that you’re thinking about doing?
Reeves: Yeah. Absolutely. I’ve been working with a writer named Mark Hyman on a project called It’s Not Me It’s You. It’s kind of a romantic-comedy. I’m working with a writer named Kristen Gore on another project called Psyched about two psychics who fall in love. I’m working on this film but it’s all with my partner Stephen Hamel who is doing our production company, Company Films. So, there’s other stuff trying to get done.