Although you’d never know it to look at him, Keanu Reeves turns fifty today. In a career spanning nearly 30 years he’s played an eclectic mix of characters from Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny in Dangerous Liaisons to Theodore “Ted” Logan Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and, of course, Neo in The Matrix. Yet unlike many Hollywood actors, Keanu is as loved as a person as he is for his acting. To find out why scroll on down.
1. His first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian.
2. Early in his career, his agent thought his name was too exotic. He has been credited in some films as K.C. Reeves, Norman Kreeves or Chuck Spadina.
3. He loves ballroom dancing.
4. His English mother, Patricia Taylor, designed costumes for rock stars like Alice Cooper.
5. He reportedly wrestled with Alice Cooper as a child. His childhood friend said that Alice “tied us up like a human knot.”
6. He was best friends with River Phoenix, who passed away in 1993.
7. He’s not too concerned with how much he earns. He took pay cuts on The Replacements (90%) and The Devil’s Advocate ($2 million) so that Gene Hackman and Al Pacino could be cast in each film.
8. In fact, he gave $50 million of his $70 million earnings from The Matrix sequels to the special effects and makeup staff, saying “Money is the last thing I think about. I could live on what I have already made for the next few centuries.”
9. He’s dedicated. He learned over 200 martial arts moves for The Matrix Reloaded.
10. He’s still good friends with Alex Winter from the Bill & Ted movies.
11. He’s also still good friends with Speed co-star Sandra Bullock.
12. The Simpsons’ Jimbo Jones is based on his character from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
13. He still has the coat from The Matrix.
14. He’s played bass in the bands Dogstar and Becky.
15. He’s left-handed, but plays the bass right-handed.
16. He played an on-and-off again hockey game that lasted 10 years with strangers he happened to meet on the street one day.
17. Before that, he played ice hockey in high school.
18. His hockey nickname was “The Wall”.
19. He has a sense of humor about the Sad Keanu meme, saying “”My first experience with [memes] was Sad Keanu, and I thought it was funny!”
20. He speaks French.
21. He loves motorcycles, and has been riding them for years.
22. He claimed to see a ghost when he was a child, saying “I remember just staring at this suit which had no body or legs in it as it came into the room before disappearing. It was a double-breasted suit in white and I looked at my nanny, who was just as shocked as me. I just couldn’t get back to sleep afterwards.”
23. He became his sister’s caretaker when she was diagnosed with leukemia.
24. He has also donated millions of dollars to cancer research and hospitals.
25. He remains diplomatic when it comes to serious debates:
@lastkajen: “Hi, what do you like the most, cats or dogs?”
@_KeanuReeves[S]: “Apples and oranges. I’m going to say some days cats, some days dogs. Depends on the cats and dogs you meet.”
26. Not only does he ride the subway, but he also gives up his seat.
28. He turned down a role in Heat to play Hamlet at a small theater in Canada.
29. He wrote the text for “grown-up’s picture book” Ode to Happiness.
30. Some people think he’s immortal (read the quote in #8 again).
31. He will turn down roles that he feels are too violent, such as the role of Pvt. Chris Taylor in 1986’s Platoon.
32. His films have inspired him to pick up related hobbies, like horseback riding and surfing.
33. He hand delivered the film treatment for My Own Private Idaho to co-star River Phoenix in 1990, after River’s agent refused to show it to him. Keanu did this by riding his motorcycle from Canada to Gainesville, Florida.
34. He lost his daughter Ava, who was stillborn, in 2000.
35. He lost his ex-girlfriend the following year in a car crash. He later remarked that “Grief changes shape, but it never ends”.
36. He starred in a Coca-Cola commercial when he was 16.
38. Despite having dyslexia, Keanu loves books and is a voracious reader.
39. He’s humble about his good looks, once even saying “I am not handsome or sexy”.
40. He’s not only an actor and musician, but he’s a director as well. He directed Man of Tai Chi in 2013.
41. He bought the Holy Shotgun prop from Constantine and gave it to director Francis Lawrence as a gift.
42. He initially turned down the lead in Speed as he found the original script to be too much like a Die Hard clone. He signed on after Joss Whedon was brought in to retool the script.
43. To prepare for his role in The Devil’s Advocate, Keanu spent time hanging out with defense attorneys in New York.
44. Remember that scene in The Matrix where Neo climbs out of the office window while on the phone with Morpheus? Keanu performed this scene himself, 34 stories up.
45. He has played Ohio State quarterbacks in two movies, Point Break and The Replacements.
46. He knows how to live well. When asked in 1995 about his idea of happiness, he replied “Lying in bed with my lover, riding my bike, sports, happy times with my friends, conversation, learning, the earth, dirt, a beautiful repast with friends, family with wine and glorious food and happy tidings and energy and zest and lust for life. I like being in the desert, in nature, being in extraordinary spaces in nature, high in a tree or in the dirt, hanging out with my family, my sisters.”
47. Although he is half English and was born in Beirut, Lebanon, he has both US and Canadian citizenship.
48. He received his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame in 2005.
49. One of his bass guitars, a yellow fender, was used by Kim Gordon in Sonic Youth’s video for “100%”.
50. Perhaps now that he’s 50, we’ll get another Bill & Ted movie. Keanu has said “I have spoken about it to Alex (Winter), who is a good friend of mine, and we came up with this idea of the characters in their forties,” he says. “Now that I am already in my mid-forties, we might have to wait until we are in our fifties to do it. Still, it could happen.”