Keanu Reeves He has not only left his mark in the hearts of viewers with his humble personality and absolute dedication through his films, but also in the film industry as one of the most generous and committed figures in the seventh art.
When Keanu wanted to perfect himself alongside established actors like Al Pacino (The devil’s lawyer) o Gene Hackman (Team to the force), or was aware that the aftermath of Matrix They did not have enough budget to invest in better costumes and special effects, he offered part of his salary as an artistic sacrifice so that the productions could pay the salary of his colleagues. And years ago even He drove almost 2,000 kilometers on a motorcycle just to bring a script to one of his best friends, River Phoenix, before the desire to shoot the film at his side.
The script was none other than My Private Idaho, one of the great classics of the filmography of both and a title that has earned a place in history as an influential piece in the birth of the new queer cinema as part of the industry mainstream from Hollywood.
Keanu, who decided to dedicate his life to acting when he was 15 years old, had a relationship with the Phoenix family through Joaquin because they had worked together in Sweet home … sometimes! (1988) under the orders of Ron Howard. A short time later he would change his brother to collaborate with River in the Lawrence Kasdan comedy I will love you until I kill you (1990). But in 1990, when the anecdote that I tell below takes place, neither of them had been fully consecrated yet, but were in full rise as faces to pay attention to in the film industry. In Keanu’s case, shortly afterwards he received his first blockbuster as a leading actor, They call him bodhi (1991) while River came from having captivated the eyes of Hollywood with his brief appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).
Keanu and River Phoenix were six years apart, with 26 the former at the time, and 20 the latter. Perhaps because of that age difference and because he has been in the industry for longer, the actor from John Wick he would have had more freedom in dealing with his agent about the projects they offered him. However, it seems that River’s agent controlled more which papers to comment on.
And it is that when Gus Van Sant finally finished the script of My Private Idaho after almost 20 years drawing inspiration from the works of Henry of Shakespeare, tweaking it, discarding it, taking it back again to change it again, he found that River’s agent did not want to hand it over to his client.
The director sent it to the agents of both actors convinced that they would not be interested. However, Keanu read it and accepted right away but River’s one refused to send it to the rising young interpreter. Perhaps, and this is my conjecture, because it was a very small film with a tiny budget for River’s star potential, and because it was a daring story for that traditional Hollywood on the subject of male prostitution and homosexuality that proposed. Convinced of the perfect signing that they would form together as Mike and Scott, two friends in search of their identities while engaged in prostitution, the filmmaker asked Keanu to bring the script to the young Phoenix. And the actor complied to the letter, mounted on his 1974 Norton Commando motorcycle during the Toronto Christmas cold and crossed the US to Micapony, north Florida, to stand at his friend’s house with the script in hand. Nothing less than 2,000 kilometers.
And after reading it, River also accepted.
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The only drawback is that he also wanted the role of Scott Favor, the privileged young man and street hustler who prostitutes himself and abandons his friend in search of his mother. But since Gus Van Sant had already selected Keanu for said character, they had to come up with ways to convince him to accept the role of the vulnerable Mike who suffers from narcolepsy. I don’t know how they convinced him, but they did, running into a few complications later to get the project off the ground.
As Van Sant commented some time later, the history of homosexual representation and the avant-garde visual techniques that he wanted to use, made that “Certain people will hesitate in the Hollywood community. I mainly think it was the scam gay man look. It wasn’t a hot topic at the time. ” (via Out). Initially, neither studio wanted to fund the project, but the signing of both performers helped generate interest until New Line Cinema, which was expanding through independent films, offered a budget of $ 2.5 million.
The result was an artistic work that brought out the talent of both, but especially that of River with a character that he himself altered before his own need to cling to the emotions of his roles. Van Sant had written the role of Mike as an asexual young man who saw sex as his bargaining chip, but it was River who developed the legendary campfire scene, where his character confesses his homosexuality because of the love he feels towards Scott, but who It breaks her heart by telling her that she does not believe that two men can love each other. River won the Volpi Cup for best actor at the Venice Film Festival and other awards, while condemning his image as an actor of restless and daring characters.
The film was not a box office smash but it served as an example to learn more about the talents of both performers, earning a place in film history as one of the productions that sparked the queer movement in the independent Hollywood industry.. And this 2021, My Private Idaho turns 30, having become a cult classic and masterpiece in its own right.
That road trip for Keanu (by the way, passionate about motorcycles and co-founder of his own line through his Arch Motorcycle Company) sentenced that passion for the projects he believes in. Years later they would arrive Drácula, Speed, Matrix and many more, establishing himself as one of the interpreters most loved by the public. Instead, River Phoenix came to savor the sweet taste of applause and recognition with this film and other works, although his fate would be sentenced on Halloween night 1993 when he died of an overdose at Johnny Depp’s nightclub, Viper Room. , At 23 years old.