Keanu Reeves: Must-Know Details About Hollywood's Nice Guy

With a cool name and even cooler attitude, Keanu Reeves is one of the most beloved men in entertainment. "His personality has just transcended life, in a lot of ways. You wouldn't have ever guessed that the guy from 'Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure' would turn out to be this thoughtful, kind man," director Peter Atencio told the Los Angeles Times. He referenced one of Reeves' big breakthroughs in the 1989 time traveling buddy comedy, which surprisingly featured the gold standard in Regency costumes. Reeves and co-star Alex Winter returned for the 1991 sequel, and reunited in the 2020 finale "Bill & Ted Face the Music." 

More than the trilogy, Reeves has been in almost every genre of movie imaginable, working with famous directors like Francis Ford Coppola, and Kathryn Bigelow. "They're just such wonderful people and wonderful directors," the humble Reeves told Esquire. Including his action-packed films from "The Matrix" series and "John Wick," Reeves built up a devoted fan base who even created KeanuCon, a 2019 film festival held in Glasgow, Scotland to binge some of his finest roles, GQ reported.

While building up his impressive resume and stellar reputation, Reeves was also dealing with tremendous hardships. The actor repeatedly dealt with tragedies of people close to him, all while still in the spotlights of fame. Yet, Reeves continued to thrill fans with his style, performances, and genuinely chill demeanor. This is everything you need to know about Hollywood's nice guy.

Inside Keanu Reeves' childhood

Keanu Reeves grew up traveling the world. First, he was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and hopped around all over the globe from Hawaii to Australia, to New York City. Reeves was still a kid when his mom Patricia and sisters all moved together to Toronto, Canada. The moving continued as young Reeves attended four different high schools and he wasn't exactly a stellar student, according to Parade. "I don't think he ever got to a class on time and when he did arrive, he wasn't quite, well...with it," one of Reeves' former teachers told People about the actor. "He always left his books at home or forgot his homework. But he'd just smile and go back home to get them. And somehow he did pass his classes," the teacher added. 

Outside of school, Reeves played street hockey and would get in chestnut throwing fights with friends, per Esquire. He also interacted with celebrities thanks to his mom, who was a costume designer for music stars like David Bowie and country legend Dolly Parton. For example, a childhood friend recalled him and Keanu "trying to take on Alice Cooper. He tied us up like a human knot."

Reeves remembered growing up surrounded by songs. "My mother loved music at the time. When she sat at her sewing machine, there was always some kind of record spinning in the background on her record player," he told Penthouse Magazine (via Whoa Is Not Me).

Brotherly love from Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves' biological sister Kim remembers moving around often as a child. "I have no idea why. It's not like the houses got bigger or anything," she told People about her and Keanu's upbringing. Both siblings grew up with their mom Patricia dating other men while their father lived in Hawaii, and only saw him a few times a year. "Paul, our stepfather, was pretty cool. My sister Kim and I actually liked him. But like all puberty-laden teenagers, we thought that the world would be much better if we could be with our biological father," Reeves told Penthouse Magazine (via Whoa Is Not Me). Though Reeves went on to become a Hollywood star, he stayed close with Kim and would often stay at her house, enjoying time together by watching movies, cooking, and catching up. "My brother is my prince. He listens to every word, to every comma after every word that you are saying," Kim told People about her famous brother.

In her late 30s, Kim was diagnosed with leukemia. This forced her away from her life as a horse breeder as she needed to be at the hospital for treatments. Reeves, ever the prince, was supportive during Kim's health issues. "When she was in the hospital he was there with her all the time, sitting at her bedside, holding her hand," Reeves' friend told People. "Sometimes, it's almost like he doesn't trust himself to have a relationship with anyone," the friend added.

A terrible tragedy for Keanu Reeves

Just before the new millennium, Keanu Reeves' sister Kim was in remission from her leukemia diagnosis and he was dating actor Jennifer Syme, the Mirror recapped. The two actors met in 1998 at a party and began dating. Then, Reeves and Syme were expecting their first child Ava together when, sadly, Syme delivered a stillborn in 1999. 

This tragic event caused a strain between the two actors, who split only a few weeks after the heartbreaking moment, per Paper Magazine. According to the Mirror, Reeves and Syme may have been in the process of reconciling the relationship a few years later but the two never got back together. Sadly, in 2001, after Syme left a party at Marilyn Manson's house, she died in a car accident. A representative for Reeves claimed that at the time of her death, the two were not dating, per ABC.

Even if the two weren't together, Syme's death was difficult for Reeves years after the tragedy. "Damn it! It's not fair! It's absurd," Reeves told Parade (via People). "Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, 'It's gone, and I'm better.' They're wrong. When the people you love are gone, you're alone," Reeves said. He added, "I wonder what the present would be like if they were here — what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be."

The charitable side of Keanu Reeves

Part of Keanu Reeves' nice guy charm is his philanthropic side. In 2009, Reeves revealed, "I have a private foundation that's been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children's hospitals and cancer research," he told Ladies' Home Journal (via Whoa Is Not Me). "I don't like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does," he added.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Reeves participated in an online auction supporting Camp Rainbow Gold, a non-profit organization in Idaho for children with cancer. The actor auctioned off a private 15-minute Zoom call where he would "share a glass of wine, tell stories, answer questions or even teach a few karate moves," according to the press release, per KTVB. According to CNN, the bidding opened at $10,000 with the winner donating $75,200 for the chance to meet with Reeves. 

The actor has a way of inspiring people to donate to charity. For example, Reeves was on a commercial flight that made an emergency landing in Bakersfield, California. While in a van with fellow passengers headings towards the flight's destination of Los Angeles, one passenger posted a video of Reeves reading facts about Bakersfield, calling him a humanitarian and urging people to be generous like the actor. Reeves also supports a wide range of other causes including education and the environment. "I'm being touched by all those things and appreciate having the opportunity to contribute," Reeves told Parade.

Ride away with Keanu Reeves

In the movie "Toy Story 4," Keanu Reeves is the voice of a motorcycle-riding daredevil character named Duke Caboom. According to People, Reeves was so inspired by the bravado of the character that he jumped onto a table in excitement at Pixar Studios. Outside of animated worlds, more often than not, Reeves is riding a motorcycle. "It's my preferred mode of transportation," Reeves told Esquire. According to the actor, he loves to drive on two wheels because "it's the physical sensation of riding, the wind, the smell, the sights, the connection to the machine, the living-in-nature." He also sees riding as more than a way to get from one place to another. "It's also good to go out and think a little bit, so you can get lost in the now. Or you can also kind of reflect. You're moving on the surface of the planet," Reeves added.

Reeves recalls first being intrigued by motorcycles when he was growing up in Toronto. He remembered gangs of bikers, which he affectionately called pirates, often driving into town, per Parade. The actor first started riding motorcycles at age 22. "I was taught by a young lady when I was filming in Munich," Reeves told Vanity Fair. In 2011, Reeves and Gard Hollinger co-founded the brand Arch Motorcycle. "It's not a celebrity vanity project in the least — he's truly passionate about motorcycles, and he saw the opportunity to leave something behind that is meaningful," Hollinger told the Los Angeles Times about the actor.

The most generous guy in Hollywood

There are numerous stories of Keanu Reeves being a nice guy. "Keanu's infamous for his generosity," one Hollywood producer told Page Six. According to this producer, Reeves once gave $20,000 to a crew member on "The Matrix" who had some money issues. After filming a grueling scene for "The Matrix Reloaded" over seven weeks, Reeves gifted each of the 12-person stunt team a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, declaring to Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "[It's] a bigger thank-you to all these guys who helped me make this, I think, one of the great movie fights in the history of cinema." 

Then, while filming "John Wick: Chapter 4," Reeves gave everyone on the movie's stunt team Rolex watches (via Page Six). Even the cheapest models from the famous luxury watchmaker go for over $5,000. Once filming ended for "The Matrix Resurrections," Reeves reportedly paid for the entire cast and crew to visit San Francisco to celebrate, per The Hollywood Reporter.

This generosity and humble attitude didn't just start after Reeves became a leading man. For example, he appears to be kind to people beyond those affiliated with movies. Like when he reportedly gave a staff member from a hotel money to cover their rent. He likely knew about their financial situation because workers claim he makes sure to learn all the staff members' names and personal stories. A foodie at heart, too, Reeves will supposedly send notes to chefs thanking them for a great meal, according to the Mirror.

Details about Keanu Reeves' love life

Earlier in his career, rumors speculated as to what Keanu Reeves' sexual orientation was, with Interview Magazine asking him in 1990 if he was gay. "I'm not gay, but who knows the things that can still happen in my life. I don't want to be nailed to a particular lifestyle," he told Penthouse Magazine (via Whoa Is Not Me). "I like to live in hotels, but it's possible that I may buy a house someday. I can't say today how I will live tomorrow," he added. Reeves' co-star Charlize Theron from the movie "Devil's Advocate" recalls him living in a hotel during production of the film. When the two reunited to work on "Sweet November," she asked if Reeves' was still living a solo hotel life and he responded, "No, I'm ready to put some roots down somewhere ... You know, the kid, the horse, the dog ... and the wife," Theron told Rolling Stone.

His sister Kim recalls young Reeves being rather shy when it came to romantic relationships but as he grew older, the actor was all-in for love. Kim told People about her brother, "his philosophy is, 'If it's not real, why bother?'" Sandra Bullock, his friend and "Speed" co-star told Esquire, "Keanu's a guy who, I feel like, is friends with every woman he's ever dated. I don't think there's anyone who has something horrible to say about him." In 2019, Reeves and his girlfriend Alexandra Grant made their red-carpet debut.

Keanu Reeves' early years acting

While growing up in Canada, Keanu Reeves enrolled in the Toronto School for the Performing Arts. After only a year at the school, Reeves was reportedly kicked out of the program for arguing with a professor. He then continued into high school but dropped out in 1983 to attend the Leah Posluns Theatre School. The school's director at the time recalled being "blown away" by Reeves' audition, she told People. This passion came at a young age because when he was 15 years old, Reeves was sure he wanted to become an actor. "My favorite experiences in high school were doing Shakespeare in English class. I really enjoyed playing Mercutio," he told Parade.

His first role was in a short clip for the National Film Board of Canada called "One Step Away," per GQ. By the time he was around 20 years old, Reeves moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time. "I was fortunate enough to start working at a pretty young age and support myself," he explained to Parade. Reeves then landed a role in the TV series "Hangin' In."

His quick success wasn't by chance, as Reeves soaked up all the knowledge he could when it came to entertaining. He took acting classes in Canada as well as improv comedy classes with Second City in Toronto. Reeves even drove all the way to New York for acting classes from the same studio that developed Robert De Niro, per Esquire.

Keanu Reeves is a wordsmith

Keanu Reeves can clearly act but he also enjoys writing as a creative outlet. In 2011, he released the book "Ode to Happiness," which contained his poems accomplished by drawings from artist Alexandra Grant. The aim of the project was to be a "grown up children's book," the BBC reported. According to Grant, Keanu began writing poetry for fun and so she and editor Janey Bergam turned those words into a book as a present for the actor. "I thought it was fantastic. Holding it I just had this moment of looking at it and going 'Wow, if I'd like to have this, then other people would like to have this,' so we tried to make it work as a book," he said. Grant and Reeves then collaborated again in 2016 for an art book called "Shadows," the Los Angeles Times reported.

More than poetry, Reeves also enjoys novels. During an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit, Reeves let fans know some of his favorite books. When he was young, he enjoyed "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Lord of the Rings." Reeves also revealed he likes the sci-fi adventures from Philip K. Dick and the "Rabbit Series" by John Updike.

At the 2022 Comic Con in San Diego, Reeves announced he would be collaborating on a BRZRKR comic book. The series about a warrior named B is so popular that Netflix decided to turn it into an anime series, per Entertainment Weekly.

Keanu Reeves lost his close friend

As a young star in Hollywood, Keanu Reeves was close with another up-and-coming actor, River Phoenix whose breakout role came in the 1986 film "Stand by Me" alongside Corey Feldman. In 1993, when he was only 23 years old, Phoenix died from an overdose at The Viper Room in Hollywood. His brother Joaquin Phoenix was with him on that fateful night. 

Reeves had co-starred with River in the 1991 Gus Van Sant film "My Own Private Idaho." According to Reeves, he and River were unsure about the script at first so the two made somewhat of a pact to be in the movie together. "I remember there was a kind of conversation had on Crescent Heights, south of Sunset," Reeves told Esquire. "Oh, I recall so much," of those days with River, Reeves said. So, after River's death, the actor was understandably distraught. "I miss him dearly. F***ing sucks. I know so many people miss him dearly," Reeves revealed. "It's something he thinks about all the time, something he never really talks about. Friends know not to go there with him," one of Reeves' friends told People about the tragedy.

Looking back, Reeves was grateful for first meeting River while filming "Parenthood" in Florida, not far from where the late actor lived at the time. "He was a really special person, so original, unique, smart, talented, fiercely creative. Thoughtful. Brave. And funny. And dark. And light," Reeves remembered about River to Esquire.

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Keanu Reeves enters the matrix

When "The Matrix" came out in 1999, the movie was a revelation for its special effects and new take on the sci-fi genre. The film became a cultural phenomenon, with iconic moments like the slow motion "bullet time" effect. It was also a huge hit with fans and stayed in movie theaters for over five months

Looking back, Reeves remembered being hooked from the first time he read the screenplay from the Wachowski siblings. "I just mainlined it. I thought, 'Well, this is up my alley,'" Reeves told Esquire. According to the actor, "I'd had some of that thought training, reading about multi personality universes and perspectives. So when I came across the script, thinking about this reality and this matrix, and then anime agents and the idea of thought control or what's reality, and virtual reality – yeah, I felt pretty at home in those," he explained. Following the success of the first movie, Reeves returned as Neo in the follow up "The Matrix Reloaded" and "The Matrix Revolutions," both released in 2003, before concluding with "The Matrix Resurrections" in 2021.

One of the film's stars, Carrie Moss, remembered Reeves was the same nice guy as always when working on the movies and kept an eye out for her, even as his celebrity increased. "His work ethic is unlike anyone I've ever met ... He trains harder, works harder, cares more," she told Esquire.

Keanu Reeves comes from a multicultural family

Keanu Reeves' family tree and history has a wide range of ethnicities and nationalities. "My father was Hawaiian with Chinese blood in his veins, but primarily he was an American," Reeves told Penthouse Magazine (via Whoa Is Not Me). His mom Patricia is British, born in Essex, England. Reeves' dad Samuel met Patricia in Beirut while there on vacation. Reportedly, Patricia was a showgirl at one of the clubs in Middle-Eastern city, per People. Then, in 1964, the two welcomed young Keanu. "I don't have any memories of it," Reeves told Esquire about his time in Lebanon. "I think I was only six or seven months old when my parents left," he added. In Hawaii, Samuel was arrested in 1994 for selling illegal drugs and spent 10 years in prison. Reeves was 13 years old the last time he spoke with his father.

Patricia then linked up with American director Paul Aaron while she and her children, including Reeves, lived in Toronto. "When mom was married to Paul, we dressed in white every Friday night and sang Shabbat songs, and we went to Jewish camps in the summer," Kim recalled to People. Reeves then moved away from home to pursue acting full time in America. Even though he lived in Los Angeles since 1985, he was still technically just a Canadian citizen as of 2022. In an interview on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," Reeves said he would like to become an American citizen.

The hard-rocking Keanu Reeves

In the "Bill and Ted" movie trilogy, Keanu Reeves plays a joyfully aloof teenager who loves rock and roll. In real life, Reeves also loved to shred on the guitar. He and two other musicians, Robert Mailhouse and Bret Domrose, then went on to form an alternative rock band called Dogstar, per People. In the band, Reeves played bass guitar and backup vocals. At its peak, Dogstar opened for huge acts including David Bowie and Bon Jovi. "This is my first band, and it would be really satisfying if the music actually got heard. I'm striving to be 'the guy who plays bass in Dogstar,'" Reeves told the Los Angeles Times. Some critics were obviously fixated on Reeves, the actor in the band, Domrose noted. "A Dogstar review shouldn't just be a Keanu fashion report," he noted. In 1996, the band released an EP and its debut album "Our Little Visionary." 

Though Reeves was starting to appear in more and more movies in the '90s, music remained one of his top priorities. Reportedly, Reeves would often skip glamorous Hollywood events to play with his Dogstar bandmates, per People. Even when Reeves went on to become a major Hollywood star, he still liked to play music with his old buddies. "We get together once in a while to jam," Reeves revealed to Parade in 2019 about Dogstar. As far as a reunion show, Reeves said, "I won't say no, but I won't say yes."

How Keanu Reeves became John Wick

Keanu Reeves remembers first reading the script for "John Wick," the action-adventure movie released in 2014. "I really liked the character. I liked John's grief, I liked his will, I liked his fighting for his self-agency," Reeves explained to Esquire. The actor then recalled how he met Chad Stahelski and David Leitch from their stunt coordinating work on the first two movies from "The Matrix" series. After reading the script for "John Wick," Reeves sent them the screenplay "with hopes they would at least do the action. I was secretly hoping, though, that they would direct it," he told That Shelf

Stahelski went on to direct the revenge thriller with Reeves as the title character. The actor's work from "The Matrix" series and other action-packed films helped him prepare for the intense fighting sequences, but even this old dog picked up some new tricks while filming. "I learned a lot of new things, especially the Ju-jitsu and the driving," Reeves said. The formula was a hit, and as of 2019, the franchise's three films already neared $600 million from box office sales, per Forbes.

After the release of the third film, Reeves watched the movie in theaters to gauge fan reactions. "I didn't know if I was going to get the chance to do another one, and I just wanted to see if people liked it," he told Esquire. "It was cool when people started laughing during the knife fight in the opening," Reeves recalled.

What Keanu Reeves thinks about fame

Already in 1991, Keanu Reeves had a discerning attitude towards Hollywood. "I don't want to be superfamous, man. That would be awful," he told Newsday (via People). Many fans adored Reeves and considered him a young heartthrob. When asked what it was like to have underwear thrown at him, Keanu admitted, "I had a little of that. I mean, I probably should have taken more advantage but I didn't. You know, I was a little self-conscious about that," he told Esquire. According to Reeves, he preferred a quieter lifestyle, even with his public-facing career choice. "I came to Hollywood to be in movies. I feel really grateful that I've had that opportunity, but I'm just a private person, and it's nice that can still exist," the actor told Parade.

Just when it seemed Reeves would follow a typical path in Hollywood, he found ways to surprise. For example, following the success of "Speed" in 1994, the director and his co-star Sandra Bullock implored Reeves to return for the sequel. "I said, 'I read the script and I can't. It's called 'Speed' and it's on a cruise ship,'" Reeves recalled to Esquire. He turned down the reported $5.5 million salary for the movie and instead went back to the theater in Canada to play Hamlet for under $2,000 a week. Fox, the production studio for the "Speed" franchise, blacklisted Reeves for 15 years following his decision. "It's a jungle out there," Reeves said about Hollywood.