If the past four years have been a dark time in your life, it’s probably because Keanu Reeves didn’t really do much during them. He’s an enigmatic guy, that Keanu. You never know what he’s thinking. Anyways, perk up, because he’s already begun shooting an as-of-yet untitled romantic comedy scheduled for release sometime this fall. That’s not interesting, though. What’s interesting is that Andy Serkis has been tapped to bring to life all the facial expressions, emotions, and general life-like qualities presently missing in Keanu’s body of work. It’s a tough job, but if anyone can do it, it’s the guy who mo-capped for a mutated hobbit and a talking chimp.
Serkis is deep in thought with his character as Keanu reads the title page for the eighteenth time
Mum’s the word on any sort of plot synopsis, but I have it on good authority that no stops will be pulled when it comes to the special effects department. In order to understand the process better, I sat down with Andy Serkis on the set of his most difficult task as an actor.
“This isn’t like Lord of the Rings,” Serkis remarked while slowly shaking his head. “There’s no real template to go off of. When I was doing all the Gollum stuff, at least I knew how the character was supposed to feel inside. But when it comes to Keanu Reeves, there’s just not much there to work with. I’m going to have to find a hyperbolic chamber or something so I can get inside his head, you know? I think I need to experience what it’s like to seemingly feel nothing.”
Of course, it’s easy to understand the predicament facing Serkis, and who better to express how important emotions are to a script than the man he’s trying to better: Keanu himself.
Despite his enthusiasm for it, emotive visualization eludes Keanu Reeves to this day
Continuing the theme of emotions and how they’re visually represented, I was able to get a few shots of Keanu expressing certain feelings while on set, with Andy Serkis then bringing them to life.
Keanu’s version of “happy” followed by actual happiness
Keanu tried “scared” and Serkis showed him why it sucked
“Anger” just wasn’t coming naturally to Keanu
After such a horrible display, Serkis was noticeably frustrated with the Chain Reaction star. As he was trying to make his way to the Kraft Foodservice table, Serkis was heard mumbling, “God damn, I don’t understand. Just react. Do something.”
A visibly frustrated Andy Serkis pulls another all-nighter
The next day, Serkis pulled me aside and gave me his new idea on how to get more out of Keanu. It was apparent that he didn’t want to waste another six hours trying to explain to him how to act surprised.
“Here’s what I’m thinking: take him out to a bar,” Serkis said with a Smeagol-esque grin on his face. “Once he’s good and trashed, I’ll do something to really get his goat. Maybe drive him around all crazy while he’s nauseous. That should do the trick.”
All those years of practicing maniacal laughter really paid off
I waited outside the pub for a couple of hours, unaware of how well Serkis’ plan was working out. Then, around 7pm, the duo emerged. Serkis seemed sturdy, but Keanu had obviously lost a lot of mental capacity. He could barely get the car door open once Serkis motioned for him to get in. After only a few minutes of donuts and power-sliding, the inevitable happened.
Serkis’ plan worked, and Keanu became aware of a whole new kind of emotional expression
In the end, it seems the two professionals were able to come together and figure out a solution that works for both of them. I can say first hand that I saw no less than two distinct emotions come across Keanu’s face, and that was just during a reading.
Serkis was finally able to enjoy something emanating from Keanu’s face
I think the most gratifying piece of information I came away with has to do with the change in Keanu’s demeanor after having worked only a few days with Andy Serkis. There was a noticeable step up in the way he reacted to people, and he seemed to be genuinely happy about it. I’m glad, for one, and I hope this movie – whatever it is – pans out for everyone involved.
Keanu learned more than ever before from the experience of acting with Andy Serkis