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Why Keanu's Career Wasn't The Same After Turning Down This Role

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Aug 15, 2019

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Why Keanu's Career Wasn't The Same After Turning Down This Role
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  • If there's one thing that movie fans everywhere seem to be able to agree on, it's that Keanu
  • Reeves is a pretty awesome guy.
  • But although his career is going great nowadays, Reeves once spent over a decade blacklisted
  • by one of Hollywood's biggest studios.
  • So just why was he thrown into "movie jail" for 11 long years?
  • Before you can really understand why Keanu Reeves spent so long out in the wilderness,
  • you've first got to understand the events leading up to his exile.
  • And for that, you've got to start at the beginning of his career.
  • After featuring opposite Rob Lowe in a forgettable yet strangely successful hockey movie called
  • Youngblood, Reeves caught the world's attention with River's Edge, a controversial movie about
  • apathetic teens and the killing of a young girl.
  • Soon, Reeves was showing up in way bigger films — such as Dangerous Liaisons, which
  • starred the likes of John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, and Michelle Pfieffer.
  • Then, of course, he was cast as one of his most iconic characters: the laid-back, time-traveling
  • wannabe rock star, Theodore Logan of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
  • "Excellent!"
  • From there, he went on to prove his action skills by catching waves and busting bank
  • robbers in Point Break.
  • Granted, Reeves also made a couple of missteps early in his career — for example, he proved
  • to the world he's incapable of doing an English accent with back-to-back performances in Bram
  • Stoker's Dracula and Much Ado About Nothing.
  • But by this point, Reeves' career was speeding forward nonetheless... and the actor was about
  • to make a huge leap from up-and-comer to blockbuster king.
  • The year 1994 was pretty phenomenal for film in general, with the release of classics like
  • Pulp Fiction, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lion King, and Forrest Gump.
  • Plus, adrenaline-junkies got their fix with a whole slate of awesome action flicks such
  • as The Crow, True Lies, Leon: The Professional, and of course, the movie that made Keanu Reeves
  • a bona fide star: Speed.
  • Directed by Jan De Bont, Speed follows Jack Traven, a police officer who finds himself
  • up against a psychopathic terrorist who's rigged a bus to explode if it drops below
  • 50 mph.
  • Along with courageous commuter Annie Porter, Traven has to defuse the bomb, catch the bad
  • guy, and save the day.
  • Really, Speed is everything you could possibly want from an action movie.
  • Reeves and Bullock have a whole lot of sizzling chemistry, the leading man did most of his
  • own stunts, and yeah, they really jumped that bus.
  • As a result, the movie impressed critics, turned Reeves and Bullock into A-listers,
  • and earned $350 million against a $38 million budget.
  • Unfortunately, there's always a dark side to success — and Speed's box office victory
  • was about to send Keanu Reeves to the cinematic slammer.
  • When a movie enjoys as much box office success as Speed did, what happens next is pretty
  • much inevitable.
  • And sure enough, the very week the money started pouring in from Speed, Fox gave the go-ahead
  • for part two.
  • As a result, director Jan De Bont started reading new scripts and sounding out potential
  • ways for the story to go.
  • Inspired by a recurring nightmare in which a cruise ship crashed into an island, De Bont
  • decided to set his sequel at sea.
  • The movie would start off with Jack Traven and Annie Porter as a married couple, with
  • the two going on a tropical cruise that is rocked by a major terror attack, courtesy
  • of a vengeful hacker who was fired by the cruise line.
  • Of course, if you're going to make a Speed sequel, you've got to bring back your original
  • stars.
  • Bullock signed the dotted line after Fox promised to finance Hope Floats, a romantic drama directed
  • by Forest Whitaker in which Bullock plays a spurned housewife trying to take charge
  • of her life.
  • But if you switch on Speed 2: Cruise Control these days, you might notice that Keanu Reeves
  • is nowhere to be found.
  • Instead, Jason Patric is playing some new cop named Alex Shaw.
  • So what's up with the switcheroo?
  • Why did Reeves say no to Speed 2?
  • Obviously, Fox wasn't happy when their star abandoned ship, and the movie studio immediately
  • started spreading "propaganda" about him — saying he was off touring with his rock band, Dogstar,
  • instead of making movies.
  • According to Reeves, however, that couldn't be further from the truth.
  • There were several reasons he didn't want to square off against Willem Dafoe's bug-eyed
  • terrorist, but playing the bass wasn't one of them.
  • So what did prevent Reeves from signing onto the sequel?
  • Well, first off, he was all actioned out.
  • Reeves had just finished filming on Chain Reaction, a thriller starring Morgan Freeman
  • and Rachel Weisz.
  • The movie has Reeves starring as a scientist who invents a new power source, only to find
  • himself framed for murder and on the run when the FBI comes calling.
  • Critics weren't crazy about the action flick, and neither was Reeves.
  • He described the process of making the movie as "really unsatisfying," lamenting the fact
  • that he had to do so much running and action.
  • All in all, it was a disappointing experience for Reeves.
  • The experience left him exhausted and unwilling to make Speed 2 so soon after working on another
  • action movie.
  • On top of all that, the star had also recently broken his ankle in a motorcycle accident,
  • so doing all the stunts that would be required of him for Cruise Control probably didn't
  • sound like much fun.
  • Before casting Jason Patric as the lead in Speed 2, Fox offered Keanu Reeves a hefty
  • paycheck of $11 million to reprise the role of Jack Traven.
  • But Reeves turned them down.
  • Not just because he was tired of action films, but also because he had his eye on new, more
  • exciting projects.
  • Reeves was particularly interested in playing the lead role in the satanic legal thriller
  • The Devil's Advocate.
  • This movie finds Reeves playing a hotshot lawyer from Florida who's invited to join
  • a successful Manhattan law firm.
  • When he shows up in the Big Apple, he meets his new boss, a devilish wheeler and dealer
  • named John Milton, who seduces Reeves' character into a life of sin, both in and out of the
  • courtroom.
  • The Devil's Advocate was filming at the same time as Speed 2: Cruise Control, but in Reeves'
  • mind, it was a pretty simple choice between the two.
  • He could act across from Al Pacino and scream at Satan in a penthouse suite, or he could
  • get soaking wet doing aquatic stunts all day long.
  • Obviously, the choice was easy; better to rule in Hell than swim in Speed 2.
  • At the end of the day, however, there's one reason above all that kept Reeves away from
  • Cruise Control: he thought the movie's script absolutely sucked.
  • In 2015, Reeves went on Jimmy Kimmel Live to promote an upcoming film, and the talk
  • show host asked just why Reeves wasn't on that cruise ship with poor Sandra Bullock.
  • Reeves answered honestly.
  • "It was just a situation in life where I got the script and I read the script and I was
  • like, ‘Argh!’”
  • Of course, trash-talking Speed 2 wasn't a new look for Reeves.
  • As far back as 1997, he was telling The Toronto Star that "the script wasn't great."
  • So Reeves bowed out and let the Speed sequel sail on by.
  • And, as it turns out, he wasn't the only one who thought Cruise Control was a really bad
  • idea.
  • According to many, Speed 2 is the worst thing that's happened to cruise ships since the
  • Titanic plowed into that iceberg.
  • Hoping to recreate the success of the original movie, Fox executives gave director Jan De
  • Bont a budget of $100 million for Speed 2 — which is $70 million more than the first
  • film.
  • But De Bont's Speed 2 still went over-budget, with some suggesting the movie cost a whopping
  • $165 million to make.
  • The studio poured a near-endless amount of cash into this high-octane sequel, but nobody
  • wanted a part two without their lovable leading man.
  • So Speed 2 bombed — hard.
  • The movie made $164.5 million at the box office, which is exactly what you don't want to happen
  • when you've just made a movie with a budget of $165 million.
  • On top of that, the critics circled Speed 2's shipwreck like sharks, and wasted no time
  • in tearing it to pieces.
  • Over on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a shockingly low approval rating of just 4 percent.
  • With Speed 2 sinking in theaters, it was suddenly crystal clear that Keanu Reeves made the right
  • decision by staying far away from the doomed sequel… but he wasn't to escape the disaster
  • without a scratch.
  • In the wake of Speed 2's disaster release, 20th Century Fox apparently decided it was
  • time to blacklist Keanu Reeves.
  • Speaking with GQ in 2019, the actor claimed that the company tossed him into what he called
  • "movie jail," banning him from starring in any of their movies as retribution for turning
  • down Cruise Control.
  • Reeves spent 11 years on Fox's bad side, and during that time, the studio released some
  • pretty high profile films — such as X-Men, The Phantom Menace, and Minority Report.
  • And you can't help but wonder how different Reeves' career might look if the studio had
  • considered him for any one of those projects.
  • Sadly, Fox didn't shine its spotlights his way until 2008, when Reeves played an environmentally-conscious
  • alien in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • And while he's not in the cinematic slammer anymore, Reeves still doesn't do that many
  • studio films these days.
  • The last time he worked with one of the big companies for a live action, leading man role
  • was 47 Ronin with Universal Pictures, and since then, he's taken to showing up in smaller
  • fare like The Bad Batch and The Neon Demon.
  • Even the John Wick movies are relatively low-budget affairs, distributed by the independent production
  • company Lionsgate.
  • While we'll never know what movies Reeves could have starred in had he remained in Fox's
  • good graces, the good news is that the actor's career wasn't damaged too badly by the whole
  • Speed 2 fiasco.
  • Just because Fox didn't want to work with Keanu Reeves, didn't mean the other studios
  • wouldn't, either.
  • After all, he was a hot young actor with a whole lot of promise, and in 1999, Reeves
  • teamed up with Warner Brothers for a weird little sci-fi flick called The Matrix.
  • With its epic gun battles, leather outfits, and fascinating philosophical beliefs, the
  • movie landed with the impact of a well-placed kung fu punch — and everybody started paying
  • serious attention to the man they called Neo.
  • The Matrix revolutionized science fiction, gave birth to two sequels and continues to
  • influence pop culture to this day.
  • In other words, Keanu Reeves was doing just fine without Fox.
  • And sure, there was a period post-Matrix where Reeves wandered in the wilderness, making
  • a slew of subpar films like The Watcher, The Lake House, and Street Kings.
  • But the guy was also making some interesting choices too, with quirkier projects like Constantine
  • and A Scanner Darkly.
  • Of course, the Keanu Reeves renaissance really began when a group of Russian gangsters broke
  • into his home, killed his puppy, and stole his car.
  • "People keep asking if I’m back and yeah, I'm thinking I'm back."
  • John Wick was a sleeper hit that spawned a franchise full of incredible fight choreography,
  • amazing worldbuilding, and some of Keanu Reeves' greatest moments as an actor.
  • Today, he's bigger than he's ever been, popping up in huge movies such as Toy Story 4, making
  • hilarious cameos in quirky comedies, showing up at conventions, and receiving all kinds
  • of adoration on the internet.
  • All that, and he never did have to do Speed 2.
  • Could have been worse.
  • Check out one of our newest videos right here!
  • Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite movies are coming soon.
  • Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the bell so you don't miss a single one.

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Description

If there's one thing that movie fans everywhere seem to be able to agree on, it's that Keanu Reeves is a pretty awesome guy. But although his career is going great nowadays, Reeves once spent over a decade blacklisted by one of Hollywood's biggest studios. So just why was he thrown into "movie jail" for 11 long years?

Before you can really understand why Keanu Reeves spent so long out in the wilderness, you've first got to understand the events leading up to his exile. And for that, you've got to start at the beginning of his career. After featuring opposite Rob Lowe in a forgettable yet strangely successful hockey movie called Youngblood, Reeves caught the world's attention with River's Edge, a controversial movie about apathetic teens and the killing of a young girl. Soon, Reeves was showing up in way bigger films — such as Dangerous Liaisons, which starred the likes of John Malkovich, Glenn Close, Uma Thurman, and Michelle Pfieffer. Then, of course, he was cast as one of his most iconic characters: the laid-back, time-traveling wannabe rock star, Theodore Logan of Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

From there, he went on to prove his action skills by catching waves and busting bank robbers in Point Break. Granted, Reeves also made a couple of missteps early in his career — for example, he proved to the world he's incapable of doing an English accent with back-to-back performances in Bram Stoker's Dracula and Much Ado About Nothing. But by this point, Reeves' career was speeding forward nonetheless... and the actor was about to make a huge leap from up-and-comer to blockbuster king.

Watch the video to see why Keanu's career wasn't the same after turning down this role!

Killing it | #
The need for Speed | #
Cruising for trouble | #
Time out | #
The devil's in the details | #
Script problems | #
Shipwrecked | #
Movie jail | #
Life behind bars | #