Actor Keanu Reeves was born in Beirut, Lebanon to an English mother and a Chinese-Hawaiian father ("keanu", pronounced key-an-oo, is Hawaiian for "cool breeze over the mountains"). By the time he was two, Reeves had been in virtually every country in the world, thanks to his father's job as a geologist. He ended up in Canada as a teenager, where he briefly attended Toronto's High School for the Performing Arts, and then studied with the famed Second City improv group. His first paid appearance was on a Canadian TV show; after making his screen debut in 1986's Act of Vengeance, he had his first significant film role in The River's Edge the following year.
Reeves rocketed to stardom as an air-headed, air-guitar-playing teenager in the amiable comedy/fantasy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989). He could have remained in this zoned-out vein for the rest of his career--significant slacker/stoner roles in films like Parenthood (1989), I Love You To Death and Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) would have made this easy enough--but he was instead determined to prove his versatility. He did just that with compelling performances in Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Point Break (1991) and the Kenneth Branagh version of Much Ado About Nothing (1993). Nothing could have been farther from the amiable teen in the Bill and Ted pictures than Reeve's compelling portrayal of a disillusioned, morally ambiguous hustler in Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho (1989). The film did a great deal to enhance Reeves' reputation as a serious actor, something that was further assisted by his appearance in Bram Stoker's Dracula the following year.
In 1994, Reeves switched gears once again, first rather unexpectedly becoming a pumped-up action star in the runaway hit Speed, and then playing a Buddhist mystic in Bernardo Bertolucci's Little Buddha. Unfortunately, he chose to follow up this very successful year with Johnny Mnemonic (1995), which proved to be a critical and commercial failure. Subsequent roles in the largely unseen A Walk in the Clouds--in which he played a kindly AWOL husband who helps a troubled pregnant woman--and the similarly unseen Feeling Minnesota (1996), which paired him with Cameron Diaz, failed to help matters. However, the actor bounced back, first as a drawling Southern lawyer in The Devil's Advocate (1997), and then with The Matrix (1999), a hugely successful film that cast him as a futuristic messiah.
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