Why Keanu’s lost count of the kills
As the peerless assassin John Wick, Keanu Reeves is a blur of activity, constantly dodging bullets, gunning fast cars and taking down foes as the body count mounts around him.
But as he prepares to play the indomitable and seemingly indestructible character for a third time in the sleeper hit franchise, Reeves the actor is an altogether different proposition.
He begins by sitting quietly in a New York City hotel room meditating, before a full day of promotion for John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum.
"I fall into it once in a while," he explains of his calm attitude and state. "I don't meditate regularly, but I highly recommend it."
The new film picks up after the conclusion of the second chapter, with hitman Wick still on the run from the world's top assassins and a $20 million bounty on his head.
Now in the worst predicament of his life, having been declared excommunicado by the criminal underworld in punishment for killing the sister of a mafia boss, Wick must somehow extricate himself from New York.
In contrast to the laid-back, Zen-loving persona Reeves has built in a career stretching back to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Point Break, his alter ego, Wick, unleashes a constant barrage of carnage on anyone who stands in his way. Indeed, the movies claim one of the highest death tolls in cinematic history.
"I don't know how many bodies I've killed," Reeves says with a chuckle. For the record, the first film counted 84 bodies, the second amassed 128, and the final movie outstrips both with a death tally of over 200.
"They're trying to kill me, so I'm not really concerned about the body count," he says. "I'm more concerned with how many bodies are still alive."
Directed by Chad Stahelski, who has helmed all three parts of the franchise, the film also stars Ian McShane, Laurence Fishburne, Halle Berry, Jason Mantzoukas, Lance Reddick and Anjelica Huston. With the previous two films grossing over $370 million, making the third instalment was a no-brainer for the studio.
"After we finished Chapter Two, Lionsgate wanted to do another. We were like, 'Yes!' Chad had the idea of having ninjas in the film and a motorcycle chase with swords." He laughs. "With John Wick, you can pretty much do anything."
The ongoing theme of the franchise is Wick's revenge vendetta after the sudden death of his wife in the first film. Subsequently, a Russian mobster (Game Of Thrones' Alfie Allen) took his beloved 1969 Mustang, then killed the dog gifted to him by his wife before she died, prompting Wick to spiral into a path of retaliation and destruction.
Halle Berry's character's dogs, meanwhile, play a pivotal role in the new film. Playing another assassin with a complex alliance to John Wick, she is often flanked by two German Shepherds, her armour-wearing attack dogs. And by all accounts, they were just as fierce off-camera.
"I was told not to look them in the eye," Reeves confirms. "It was serious. By the end we got comfortable, but for Halle it was different because she had been working with them for four months."
Reeves' name is now synonymous with martial arts due in large part to the classic Matrix trilogy as well as Man Of Tai Chi, 47 Ronin, and now the John Wick franchise. But he downplays his own prowess.
"I don't have a martial arts background, I just know movie fighting," he insists. "So with John Wick, all the people who trained me and the choreography, used a lot of styles."
His scenes with Mark Dacascos, who plays Wick's nemesis, Zero, provide some of the film's highlights.
"Mark brought a lot to the role," Reeves says. "He was a real pleasure to work with and as a martial artist and a movie action performer, it was really great to work with an expert because he can help you look good."
Born in Lebanon to an English mother and Hawaiian-American father, Reeves grew up in Canada, the country with which he most identifies. After three decades working in Hollywood, he remains revered and in high demand. This interview even coincided with KeanuCon, the inaugural Keanu Reeves Film Festival being held in Glasgow. A man of few words, he is somewhat bemused by the tribute.
"I wanted to know what films they were showing, then I was like, 'Cool'," he says. "Then I was like, 'That's weird'. And then I was like, 'Cool'. That's how it went."
Did he ever consider a surprise appearance?
"Well, I didn't receive an invitation," he laughs.
His name is famously of Hawaiian origin and means 'cool breeze over the mountains'.
In recent years, it has shot to popularity on baby name lists.
"I've met a couple of boys named after me," he nods. "At first, it was like, 'Wow'. And then sometimes if the child is there, I've said, 'How do you do, Keanu?'" He laughs. "It really is an honour."
Reeves lives in West Hollywood and his home has become a tourist attraction.
"There are tourists, vans, trucks. They visit everybody's homes and sit outside. So I'll come out in the morning and get my newspaper [and they're there]. So you feel like an animal in a cage. They look at you like, 'There's one!' And I get it. But walking around LA, no one cares pretty much."
He pauses, and adds with a shrug: "I'm pretty boring."
John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum opens on Thursday.