I have a confession to make.
I'm really not big on Shakespeare.
Not sure why, maybe I can blame the whole semester I had to take in high school of it, taught by one of the most boring teachers I ever had. I imagine I'd like it, had I ever seen it performed well. But I haven't. I like the Sonnets, but I just can't get into reading the plays. I hear you should read them aloud. In any case, I'd much prefer something by Sartre or Shepard.
Keanu has many times professed his love for The Bard. Maybe someday he can teach me an appreciation. You know...after I've flung the chessboard at him enough times.
In the beginning of 1995, Keanu took on the role of Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Canada. It's choices like this that makes me have so much respect for him as an actor.
Fans came from literally all over the world to see him. I certainly would have liked to have been there, just for the experience. Hopefully sometime in the future he will again choose to hit the stage. I would like to see him in something more contemporary, but the idea of him doing the Scottish play has been mentioned.
To check out a couple articles, click "MORE"...
What if Keanu Reeves is Hamlet? Would that qualify as agonizing?
I didn't see it. [smiles coyly] But I commend Keanu enormously for his courage and his commitment to it. He's, to me, a very genuine individual and I think a much more talented actor than anybody gives him credit for.
You have worked with him...
And you got a lot of flack for casting him in Much Ado About Nothing.
Yeah. I personally think it's just because people find it much harder to drop the baggage that actors may have. Maybe because movies are so huge here in America. When people are in a successful movie, the image from that picture goes with them. [Keanu was in] Bill and Ted, those two movies, and that image of Keanu is one that people carry. And actors that don't fall naturally into a way of presenting yourself in all this circus of media, you know, so that people think, well, that's who he is. I think, for instance, he did a beautiful job in that Bill and Ted film, but actually doing that kind of stuff is not remotely as easy as it looks. If it were, everybody would be doing it much better. It has real charm, real lightness of touch, real kind of comedic ability. I mean, he worked like a dog on Much Ado, he's really easy to work with. And I think when you're in his position and you know that you're gonna get flack out of every corner for doing something like Hamlet, people would say it's an act of hubris or vanity, I'd say an act of great courage.
Here's one of the better reviews, thanks to wrygrass for this article.
media spot | from inside the mind of krix at July 31, 2002 12:56 PM .
Keanu Shines as Hamlet
by Stu Slayen
When movie giant Keanu Reeves signed on to play Hamlet at Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Centre the critics, and some fans, were skeptical. He's a little more than skin, some said of the heart throb. They were less than kind. The were also less than correct.
The 30-year old Reeves has proven himself a legitimate acting force time and time again in film hits like Speed, Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, My Own Private Idaho, River's Edge, Dangerous Liaisons and more. His performance as Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, on a midwinter prairie stage confirmed what I already believed-Keanu Reeves is a most excellent actor.
William Shakespeare's Hamlet has long been considered one of the theater's most grueling roles. Demanding an exhaustive emotional range, physical agility and the delivery of some 1 500 lines, the role is reserved for the select few. Reeves proved himself worthy of the part with fluid body movement, convincing facial expressions and clean, well-enunciated delivery of the bard's script. Most of the cast was strong (Gary Reinke was brilliant as the ghost of Hamlet's father) with exception of Liisa Repo-Martell who played Ophelia, the love of Hamlet's life. Keanu Reeves outperformed her by miles and their scenes together were somewhat uneven as a result.
Hamlet, as I recall from my Coles Notes, is the story of a prince whose mother and uncle marry after the death of his beloved father. His father's ghost comes to Hamlet and reveals that he was poisoned by Uncle Claudius who wanted the queen and the throne. The ghost wants Hamlet to take revenge on his step-father, the new king.
To see his uncle/step-father's reaction, Hamlet stages a play wherein a king is killed. Uncle Claudius is scared out of his tights and banishes Hamlet to England where he is to be killed. Hamlet escapes, returns to Denmark and finally gets to fulfill the ghost's wishes.
But the real story here wasn't the prince, the poison or even the performance but rather the presence. The fact that Keanu Reeves was here at all was big news.
The show sold out and people came from all over the worked to catch a glimpse of Keanu. One of the local newspapers had a "Keanu Hotline" so people could calling when they spotted the guy. A local TV station interviewed the manager of the restaurant where Keanu spent New Year's Eve. The newspaper reported how he accidentally left his credit card at men's clothing store. Mall security paged him and shoppers flocked to the store in anticipation of him coming to pick up the card. (They were disappointed when a friend returned instead.) One of our music writers saw him alone eating a piece of cake at a local pastry joint on Christmas Eve. His every move was watched of this eight week stay.
My favorite story is about a couple of young girls who saw Keanu and some fellow cast members eating lunch at a restaurant on a rehearsal break. They pad the busboy two bucks for Keanu's cutlery and even dove into a garbage can after his half eaten bread roll.
Keanu Reeves' visit was big news, but apparently not big enough to tell the world. The theater, Reeves and the actor's managers decided that there would be no national or international media interviews during his stay. He's uncomfortable being interviewed, rumor has it, and his management probably didn't want to make a big deal about their $7 million per movie star doing regional Canadian theater.Keanu did eight interviews-ten minutes each-with two local papers, four local TV stations and two local radio stations. The interviews were done on the day he arrived (December 8), probably before the plane had even cooled on the tarmac. What! A Magazine's request for an interview was turned down as were request from People, A Current Affair and other international media.
(I watch two of the local TV interviews. During one particular, Keanu was so uncomfortable it looked like he was sitting on thumb tacks. And the interviewer asked such riveting questions like, 'what do you like better, film or stage?'. Keanu must have stunned the viewers when revealed that he likes them both.Wow! I hope the National Enquirer doesn't get a hold of that tidbit! It could be splattered allover supermarket checkouts!)
So Keanu was here. Canadians didn't get to hear any great insights and only a few spent any time with the man. But we did get to see a true master at work. And that's what's important. After all, it was Shakespeare himself who wrote- "The play's the thing."
~What! (Ca), February/March 1995