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Uploaded:2019-05-21
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In which John Green makes his Keanu Reeves video.

Obviously I've spent a lot of time thinking about Keanu (I have read over a hundred Keanu interview transcripts), but I don't know anything about him. That's the point.

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Good morning Hank, it's Tuesday.

(0:01) So I've seen how the celebrity industrial complex can manufacture heroic narratives around almost any person, or for that matter manufacture villainous ones, whichever if more fiscally useful. And I'm disturbed by corporations commodifying human souls to sell movie tickets. (By the way, I'm on my way to get a hair cut.) And I know the only reason people are talking about Keanu Reeves right now is because he has a new movie out and various P.R. machinations are incredibly good at getting us to give that movie free advertising, but still...

(0:26) I freaking love Keanu Reeves.

(0:29) And haircut.

(0:30) Now listen, I don't believe that Keanu Reeves is like a golden god or anything. If you want people to admire, look to teachers and librarians, not actors, or for that matter novelists. I don't think that Keanu Reeves has like achieved enlightenment or whatever, I just think that from what I know of him, Keanu Reeves has come closer to achieving enlightenment than any other famous person.

(0:48) But let's start with his work: Keanu Reeves is a great actor. Some people don't get his acting, which is fine, some people don't get why Shakespeare was a great play-write but he still was. Speaking of which, when Keanu Reeves turned down $11 million to be in Speed 2 and instead played Hamlet in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the Sunday Times critic called his performance, "one of the top three Hamlets I have seen, for a simple reason: he is Hamlet".

(1:10) Look, I don't labour under the delusion that Keanu Reeves has never been in a bad movie, but I do believe he's never been bad in a movie. He's a great comic actor, Bill and Ted is a classic. He's a wonderful dramatic actor, see for instance his wrenching performance in My Own Private Idaho. And he's an action icon. There's an old line Hollywood producers ask about actors: "Sure he can act, but can he hold a gun?" Keanu Reeves can hold a gun.

(1:34) But what most fascinates me about Keanu is his work off screen, in dealing with the press and in being a famous person who is seemingly able to maintain a sense of self, which I can report is a tricky business, even for those of us who aren't the faces of billion dollar movie franchises.

(1:49) Keanu's the kind of person who might say in an interview the he respects Buddhism but, quote, 'hasn't taken refuge in the Dharma,' or he might dismiss Hollywood gossip by saying that it exists in a another universe that doesn't have much to do with me. Or he might refer to the endless memification of his life as quote, 'that internet deal.'

(2:07) Hank, as you pointed out in your video, what makes Keanu so brilliant at interviewing is that he really listens, he listens to precisely the question that is being asked and then he answers it carefully. Before I knew any actors, I thought that acting was about pretending, like I basically though it was a form of lying. But, really, I think acting is mostly about listening.

(2:27) Right, so because of all these interviews, and because he's been a public figure for decades, there's a lot we know about Keanu Reeves. We know that he's dyslexic, that he attended four different high schools, that he has written a funny book about being sad called Ode to Happiness. We know that has plays the bass and reads Proust and co-founded a motorcycle company.

(2:44) But really, we don't know much at all about Keanu Reaves. As he once noted, "I'm Mickey Mouse. They don't know who's inside the suit." Indeed we don't. When I was younger, I wanted to be famous because I though it would be nice to have people like me. But when my work became publicly known, I never though as if people liked me, I felt as if they liked Mickey Mouse.

(3:03) I became interested in Keanu Reeves because he seemed to have found a way though the complexity and what I've concluded after reading interviews and stories about him is that we don't know who's in his Mickey Mouse suit, but Keanu does, and that's all the matters. And yeah, it is nice to be able to sit on a park bench without having to worry about being photographed. But with that problem, which is very real, comes opportunities, which are also very real. Not just opportunities to lend your voice to causes that matter, but also opportunities to make people's days better by taking selfies with them or by photo-bombing their wedding pictures.

(3:35) Now of course it's easy to make people happy when you're wearing a Mickey Mouse suit, but each of us has the opportunity every day to be kind to other's and to listen carefully to them. Thanks for teaching me that Keanu.

(3:47) Hank, I'll see you on Friday.