Throughout the history of Hollywood, the comeback story has been one that both the industry and audiences have loved. From Robert Downey Jr. to Matthew McConaughey, seeing actors rise back to the top has always been fun. The latest actor to enjoy a comeback story is 80s and 90s icon Keanu Reeves. After a string of small roles in the early 80s, Reeves rose to prominence with the cult classic comedy Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. While the film was not very successful financially, Reeves was about to jump from that role into a successful career in the early 90s, with parts in action films such as Point Break and Speed. He also tackled more prestige fair, such as Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and a divisive performance as Jonathan Harker in Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (a film on which he may have accidentally married his co-star, Winona Ryder.) Through these roles, audiences got to know Reeves’ signature cadence, which is often lovingly imitated and has allowed the actor to retain cult status.
Keanu Reeves also established himself as a sci-fi icon in films such as Johnny Mnemonic and, of course, the cyberpunk classic The Matrix. The Matrix set a new standard for what the science fiction and action genres could accomplish and sent the actor to a new level of stardom. Like most fans, I’ve watched Reeves in this landmark film many times, reveling in the action scenes over and over again. I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next. However, Reeves wasn’t able to maintain his status, and after a few roles – most notably Constantine and the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still – he all but disappeared from the Hollywood limelight. That didn’t seem to bother the perennially easy-going actor, as he went to work developing the film that would be his directorial debut, entitled Man of Tai Chi, as well as a documentary Side by Side, which served as the first interview Matrix directors the Wachowskis had given in many years. As for the critically-acclaimed but little-seen Man of Tai Chi, I was glad to see Reeves expand his horizons as an artist. Despite this, Reeves was far from done with acting and soon became attached to the film 47 Ronin, which was a box office failure and was derided by fans and critics as a black mark on his résumé.
At first, it looked as though John Wick was going to be another misfire for Keanu Reeves, especially since the trailer for the film was not released until a month before the film hit theaters. Little did fans realize that this would be a new beginning for the veteran actor. There was something incredibly fun and nostalgic about seeing Reeves kick butt across the screen. John Wick got very meta in certain scenes, particularly the “I’m back” line acknowledging Reeves’ many fans’ desire to see him front and center in the Hollywood pantheon once again. While the first John Wick film didn’t necessarily blow the doors off the box office, it did particularly well for a movie that only cost 20 million dollars to make, and a sequel was soon green-lit. Amid all the success for his newfound franchise, Reeves also explored going to premium cable via an adaptation of author Barry Eisler’s John Rain assassin book series, which was said to have been set up at Cinemax. While this adaptation never came to fruition, an expansion of the John Wick franchise is in development, aptly titled The Continental, which is said to feature Reeves in some capacity.
Despite his new television ventures, Reeves still had more John Wick films to make. While it would easy to consider John Wick the crux of his much-heralded comeback, the last few years have arguably been a prelude to a brand new era for Keanu Reeves, beginning when John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum came out. The film has been the biggest success of the series so far and proved that a mid-budget franchise could work. Throughout the press tour for the movie, we’ve gotten several pearls of wisdom from the actor, most notably in an interview with Stephen Colbert. Somehow, amid all of his success, Reeves was able to remind the world to be peaceful and keep joy in their lives, something that will be furthered by Bill and Ted Face the Music’s 2020 release.
But it was this year’s surprise roles that solidified Keanu Reeve’s resurgence, the first of which is the film Always Be My Maybe. Reeves is featured in a cameo where he essentially sends up his off-screen persona in what may be some of the funniest scenes I’ve seen so far this year. In addition, fans can see him in Toy Story 4 playing Duke Caboom, probably one of the oddest yet most perfect developments yet. I can’t wait to see Duke interact with our beloved Woody and Buzz. Perhaps the biggest shocker was the recent E3 announcement that Keanu Reeves would be joining the cast of the long-awaited video game Cyberpunk 2077. Considering his extensive history with the genre, this is a homecoming of sorts for Reeves. As has been well-publicized already, the reaction to the actor’s casting has been one of unbridled joy, which he shared with all of us. So, for the first time in a while, I think I’m gonna dust off my Xbox One just so I can play this game. As far as I’m concerned, seeing this icon back on the cyberpunk landscape makes it an absolutely worthwhile purchase, regardless of the fact that this game was already intriguing to me.
Keanu Reeves is an actor worthy of the word “icon.” With roles in Speed, The Matrix, John Wick, and all the other projects he has on the horizon, I can’t wait to see what the nicest man in Hollywood will do next. Hopefully, this is only the beginning of a brand new phase for the actor, and he continues to bring joy to fans for many years to come.