A Life You Wouldn’t Wish On An Enemy: The Tragic And True Story Of Keanu Reeves
If you told me, a year ago, that I would be willingly writing an article about Keanu Reeves, I would have called you a liar. Yet, I found out about his life, and my whole perspective on him changed forever. His is a life accentuated by constant tragedy, and it is hard not to admire his bravery once you find out what he has been through. He is also incredibly generous and altruistic, and these acts often get overshadowed, or never spoken of at all. So I figured I would take some time to talk about a man whose life you would not wish on an enemy. A man whose strength, in real life, greatly outshines some of the heroes he plays on the big screen. This is the staggering true story of Keanu Reeves. Might want to keep some tissues nearby. These are Shakespearean levels of tragedy at play here.
So what really started all the hubub was the sad Keanu meme. You know, someone took this photo:
I thought maybe his egg salad went bad or something.
And people quickly latched into it, and did all sorts of awesome things to it.
Sad Keanu hates when the opposing team scores.
It is hard to be depressed around that many cats.
But the picture begged the question: Why was Keanu so sad? Especially when he is eating? Eating is awesome!
So some people began to look into it, and wouldn’t you know, he is sad. And with damn good reason, too. Every single moment of the man’s life has been marred by tragedy and loss. Loss on such an epic scale, that if you read about it in a book, you would honestly think the author was “overdoing” it. Allow me to put it in perspective. Think of every major moment in a person’s life. Now add a tragedy to every one of those situations. Honestly, I wish I was kidding.
Start in his youth, when his Dad abandoned his family. Obviously that will instill trust and abandonment issues in someone right away. An act like that sets the tone for whole play, unfortunately.
He isn’t scorning their love. He just can’t relate to it.
Next up, his best friend and fellow actor, River Phoenix, dies outside The Viper Room from a drug overdose when he was just twenty three. Coming from someone who lost his best friend around the same age, that is something you never, ever get over. It crawls inside your heart and dies like a wounded animal, and that scent of death and that sense of lingering sadness NEVER goes away from that kind of loss. You starting to see the trend now? Wait, it gets way worse.
River Phoenix was an undeniable talent, with James Dean levels of cool, and was a massive loss for all when he passed away so young.
Fast forward to 1998. Keanu meets a woman, Jennifer Syme, and he falls madly and passionately in love with. She gets pregnant with his child in 1999. In his eyes, this is the ultimate. His life is complete. Then, in 2000, the unthinkable happens. His baby is delivered stillborn. As the result, Jennifer falls into a deep postpartum depression, which Keanu can do little to shake her from. Their romance cools off a little as a result of the loss, but the couple remain close. But in 2001, his world is torn asunder yet again, when Jennifer is killed instantly in a car accident. Alright, we need to stop for a second and assess everything I just said.
I want you to really try to put on his shoes for a second. That is a world painted black, floor to ceiling. A world cast only in shadow. I felt loss on one-tenth of the scale he did, and thought it was the worst a world could offer. Yet, his is a world where EVERYONE he ever loved is taken from him. And brutally, no less. Even writing this, I can feel my muscles tensing and a knot in my stomach. How can one world be so cruel to one person? And you know what, there was ONE moment, in ONE film, that stood out to me, even before I knew any of this. One moment, from one film, that hinted to me there was much more going on under the surface than anyone could have thought. This moment, from The Devil’s Advocate.
The grief he displays in this scene foreshadowed his own by four years.
I always thought Keanu Reeves displayed very few emotions when he would act. But that scene, even before I knew his story, I knew he wasn’t feigning that grief. He pulled that from a place that was real. And even then, the movie came out in 1997, which was three years after the loss of his best friend, but four years BEFORE the rest of his world would turn to ash.
Regarding the loss, Reeves has said that the death of his child and his lover was “unfair” and “absurd”, but even then, would you have handled it with such grace? I would have flipped a thousand chairs, punched out twenty windshields, peed myself and then fallen into a deep, drug-fueled depression, that would only end in my untimely death. Yet, he just went on living. And acting. Never took a break. And in that time, he played heroes. Always, the quite heroes. Could you have worn a face like that amid all of that sadness?
Does the fact that he plays characters with a flat-affect make more sense to you now?
Also, his sister has Leukemia, and his brother has been in and out of jail his whole life.
And while it may seem I am just telling you all of this just to tell you, that is not the case. I want you to think about his acting career now. First off, in all honesty, when have you seen him smile in the last decade? I had to think about it, but you really don’t. Yet, he never takes time off. Never takes a breath. But, when asked about happiness, Keanu Reeves does not mislead anyone. He looks sad in pics because he is, justifiably. He has admitted that is loss on such a massive scale, but you don’t run from it. Rather, you embrace it and accept it as a part of life.
” Other people need happiness to live, but I don’t.”
There is a real, palpable sense of sadness in that statement, but this is where I switch up the tempo the piece a little bit. You see, this is not a piece about death, but a piece about life. And this is not a piece about loss, in so much as it is a piece about resiliency. You see, Keanu Reeves is INCREDIBLY kind. He gives away a great deal of his money, and rarely says a word about it. Hell, just look at this photo:
“Here, homeless guy. Have a cigarette.”
That photo is one in a series you can see here, in which Keanu hangs out with a homeless dude (in preparation for his role in My Own, Private Idaho). You can see just how genuine he is, just by looking at those photos. But no website or news show wants to talk about that, because it is genuine and endearing. As you all know, genuine and endearing are two traits that do not sell magazines.
And how about all the amazing shit Keanu did, which is nicely contained here, for your reading pleasure? In case you are too lazy to read them, let me help you. In one example, he donated seventy-five million dollars to the special effects and costume design team of The Matrix films for, quote, making him look good. I can’t get my friends to buy me a fucking pizza, and this dude tossed out seventy-five mill to say thank you.
At this point, if I ever saw the guy, I would just hug him and say: It’s okay man, take a breath. I bet he would cry and I would hold him. It would be intense.
My main question of you is this: Would you be so generous and kind to a world that took everything from you, so violently?
The reality is, I don’t know too many people who would. My Mom. A few of my friends. But honestly, mostly, no. And THAT is why I wrote this. I wrote this for the next time I am feeling bad for myself. Oh, poor me, no one reads my shit or hugs me enough. Waaaah! And you can save this article and do the same. Next time you feel under appreciated as Mother, or one of your friends lost their internet connection and is screaming about how much their life sucks, show them this. Fact of the matter is, the world has beaten this dude down, relentlessly, some would say. And yet, he gets up. And brushes himself off. And he walks back into the ring, somehow.
Even after all he has been through, all the loss he has felt, he never shows that. He never asks for compassion or pity. He just keeps on living. And if that is not the sign of a true hero, I don’t know what is.
Here Keanu. Have some bunnies. You have earned them, man.