July 31, 2002
To thine own self be true

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.

KeanuWeb has a great thorough page on Keanu's Hamlet, complete with pictures and quotes.

To check out a couple articles, click "MORE"...


Kenneth Branagh, who cast Keanu as Don John in Much Ado About Nothing, had this to say about Keanu in this interview.

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...

I have.

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 a review from the Toronto Star, found at Heather's Keanu site

Here's one of the better reviews, thanks to wrygrass for this article.


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

media spot | from inside the mind of krix at July 31, 2002 12:56 PM .

Wait, I have seen it performed well, In Much Ado. I enjoyed that very much as a matter of fact.
I have yet to see it live, it's just reading it that I don't really enjoy.

Posted by: krix on July 31, 2002 01:11 PM

Perhaps, he is one of the writers that, for you, are better to be seen performed. Or, maybe, you should just give him a rest and try reading the plays later on...

I know what you mean about teachers. I used to read Batman comics on my lit. classes.... this was the only way I found not to poison my love for Will. :)

Posted by: Beatrice on July 31, 2002 01:55 PM

In defense of English teachers everywhere, I LOVED my senior Eng. lit. teacher and my drama teacher in HS (he also taught Eng.), and they are surely two reasons I love Shakespeare so much today. I was even inspired to write my senior term paper on Shakespeare ("A Man for All Seasons" - yeah, I know, really original, but HEY, I was 17!) Make the effort to see the plays (any and all of them) live, krix, and I'll bet you will be transformed!

Posted by: Lori on July 31, 2002 04:57 PM

Krix it is really too bad your first introduction into the world of W.S was portrayed as dry and arcane. I do hope you can give it another go and see what Mr. Reeves sees. If I could make a suggestion, I would recommend buying a Good guide to accompany the play. Something like Arden's Guide to Shakespeare, for example. It can give you insight as to the Elizabethan dialect and meanings. Also, I might suggest, starting with something a little less involved. Start with some of the comedies such as The Merchant of Venice, or The Tempest, then start on some of the History Plays. Hamlet is THE Play as far as Tragedies go. I have the upmost respect for Mr. Reeves for tackling all 1500 lines. I also believe Keanu would be fantastic as the Scotsman. I, however, am more well-suited to play one of the three Witches!

Posted by: Rhonda on July 31, 2002 05:06 PM

Sigh...I know, I know. I should have made an effort to go to the very popular Utah Shakespearian Festival this year, before I got trapped in 6 day work weeks.

Posted by: krix on July 31, 2002 05:28 PM

Also, when I was in theatre in high school and college all the stuck up people were all "blah blah Shakespeare, so grand". I always thought it as showing off. So part of it is just rebellion, part of it is stubborness.
Kind of an "it's popular so I must go against it" mentality.

Posted by: krix on July 31, 2002 05:41 PM

Well, a big part of your problem is trying to read Shakespeare on the page. It was never meant to be read that way, it's meant to be heard. That's why I always tell people, "Invite a couple of friends over and read it aloud together." You do have to hear it aloud. Even better, of course, is to go see it performed. In Elizabethan times, when people planned a trip to the theater, the expression was "going to HEAR a play", not see it. Putting it on the page just sucks all the life right out of it...

Recommendations: "Othello", with Laurence Fishburne and Ken Branagh (WOW, is Fish great in that one!!), "Hamlet" with Mel Gibson (new take on the Dane - very physical, very crazy), "Looking for Richard", Al Pacino's documentary on staging Richard III, (which includes scenes from the play with Al, Alec Baldwin, and other stars), "Richard III", with Ian McKellen (brilliant re-imagining of this play!), "Romeo + Juliet", Baz Luhrmann's souped-up, wild rollercoaster version. The 1968 R&J and Taylor and Burton's "Taming of the Shrew" are also lovely...

And then there are the modernizations: "O" and "Ten Things I Hate About You" are favorites of mine. Kurosawa's "Ran" is an interesting Japanese take on "King Lear". There are lots of wonderful interpretations of this stuff...

And I sure would LOVE to try the role of Lady MacBeth next to Our Boy. Evil women are so much fun to play...

Posted by: Sparrowhawk on July 31, 2002 06:45 PM

But of course, Sparrowhawk,
"Screw your courage to that sticking place, we'll not fail!"

Posted by: Rhonda on July 31, 2002 07:13 PM

It's all just poetry, krix, and you like that stuff! Isn't all poetry best when read aloud?

Posted by: Lori on August 1, 2002 05:44 AM

I know this is not true Shakespaere, but I loved the movie 'Shakespaere In Love'. It helped me understand that whole era. I even read "Dummies Guide to Shakespaere" once, which was very helpful in sorting some things out. Shakespaere is hard to understand sometimes because of all the slang, the rhymes and backward talk, which makes it poetry. Just like today, half the time I have to really think when my kids talke to their friends, because it's meaning is not what the words mean to me! I think they call that the dreaded generation gap!

Posted by: Anne on August 1, 2002 07:38 AM

I didn't mean to imply I hated it, or couldn't understand it. My taste just runs differently.
Thanks you all for trying to show me the way, though! :)

Posted by: krix on August 1, 2002 08:36 AM


Sorry, I guess I should have offered more information with my last post. I wasn't implying that I though you didn't understand Shakespaere, I was just giving my own personal account and experiences in dealing with his writings.

If given the choice, I would prefer to read something else. You couldn't get me to read some of his longer plays, and I prefer the romantic comedies myself.


Posted by: Anne on August 1, 2002 08:55 AM


Posted by: free on March 9, 2004 06:38 AM
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