Keanu Reeves went from being one of Hollywood’s most in-demand stars to being left out of the spotlight. Reeves started his career in the late ’80s and graduated to big-time films in the ’90s and early 2000s. But tragedy reared its ugly head time and time again over the course of his life. Not only did Reeves lose his best friend, River Phoenix, his child was stillborn, his girlfriend died shortly thereafter, he was sued many times and his career has fallen on hard times. Take a deep dive into the tragic story that is Reeves’ life.
His childhood was hard
Reeves’ hardships and battles with sadness began as a child. As Reeves tells it, his father abandoned the family when he was a young child. As a result, Reeves’ mother remarried several times and moved the family around.
“I’ve had a vagabond life,” he told Parade magazine (via People) in 2000. “There is a bit of the gypsy in me, and living that way seemed to make sense. I couldn’t settle down. I liked going to new places – renting apartments, staying in hotels. Then I turned 40. That birthday is hard, perhaps because you know you’re grown-up. So now it’s a makeover for me. I have bought my first house. I wanted a home.”
His good pal River Phoenix died of a drug overdose
Reeves doesn’t give many interviews, but when given the opportunity to speak about his late friend River Phoenix, he’ll say a few kind words but rarely more. According to The Telegraph, the pair met on the set of I Love You To Death and developed a close friendship while filming My Own Private Idaho.
“It’s a beautiful film,” Reeves told Rolling Stone in 2000. “And lonely. The way he ends up in the street. His shoes. A stranger picking him up.” When asked about their friendship, which came to an abrupt end in 1993 when Phoenix suddenly died from a lethal mix of heroin, cocaine and valium, Reeves kept his answer short.
“I enjoyed his company. Very much,” Reeves added. “And enjoyed his mind and his spirit and his soul. We brought good out in each other. He was a real original thinker. He was not the status quo. In anything.” Phoenix was 23 when he died.
He lost his daughter and girlfriend
In the late ’90s, everything was going smoothly for Reeves. He met a young woman name Jennifer Syme. By 2000, the couple was expecting their first child together. Unfortunately, their baby girl, named Ava, was stillborn at eight months. According to People, the death of Ava put a lot of strain on their relationship and it soon came to an end. Another tragedy struck Reeves in 2001 when Syme died in a car accident. The magazine states Syme was driving her SUV when it struck three parked cars, rolled over and ejected her from the vehicle.
Speaking to Parade magazine (via People) in 2006, Reeves couldn’t contain his anger. “Damn it! It’s not fair! It’s absurd,” Reeves said. “Grief changes shape, but it never ends. People have a misconception that you can deal with it and say, ‘It’s gone, and I’m better.’ They’re wrong. When the people you love are gone, you’re alone. I miss being a part of their lives and them being a part of mine. I wonder what the present would be like if they were here — what we might have done together. I miss all the great things that will never be.”
He was sued by the paps
The tragedies kept rolling in for Reeves. In 2007, the Porsche Reeves was driving “grazed” a photographer in Los Angeles sending him to a nearby hospital. “Reeves pulled out of a parking space parallel to the curb and grazed a paparazzo standing in the street in front of Mr. Reeves’s 1996 Porsche,” the sheriff said in a statement, according to People. “The man fell to the ground. Paramedics were summoned and treated the man at the scene. He was then transported via ambulance to a local hospital for further treatment.”
By 2008 he found himself slapped with a $711,974 lawsuit by the photographer claiming he caused serious injury. People reports that Alison Silva sued the Sweet November star for medical bills, damages and lost wages. Ultimately, a jury found Reeves not responsible for any damages or costs. Reeves’ attorney showed the court video of the photographer using his injured hand, contradicting statements he was unable to do so.
He doesn’t get offers from studios anymore
In 2014, after years of doing many independent films and not many big-budget studio films, Reeves came to the conclusion that he was no longer hot stuff in Hollywood. Speaking with Indie Wire about the downward turn his career has taken over the years, he confessed it all “sucks.”
“So I haven’t been getting many offers from the studios,” he said at the time. When asked his opinion on it, he added, “No, it sucks, but it’s just the way it is.” But as he carefully explained, not to offend anyone, he doesn’t hate small independent films, but it comes with a trade off. “You can have positive and negative experiences, but what I like about studios are the resources and the worlds that they can create,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of good filmmakers work on studio movies.”
“Even when I was working on studio movies more often, I was always doing independent movies,” Reeves continued. “I want to keep going, making things, and telling stories. I want to be able to do that — to be an actor, a director, to produce, you know? If we’re going to do a delineation between studio and independent, I was always hoping to do both.”
He also dodged a paternity suit
Sometimes becoming a big Hollywood star has it drawbacks. Most would complain they are targets for silliness and lawsuits. In 2009, the Matrix alum was accused of fathering four children with a woman named Karen Sala, according to Us Weekly. Sala claimed he used both hypnosis and disguised himself as her ex-husband in order to impregnate her. She demanded $3 million a month in spousal support and $150,000 a month in retro child support.
A DNA test cleared Reeves of any connection with Salva or her four children. “Karen Sala’s allegations are completely false and absurd,” a rep for Reeves said. Reeves himself had much to say about the wacky incident. “I had to go to court. It was horrible,” he said. “I didn’t do it. I’m not the dad.”
He faced two home intruders
For a few days in September 2014, Reeves faced wacky times when crazed fans broke inside his Hollywood Hills home on two different occasions. The first time, Reeves was sleeping when he heard sounds coming from his library, reports TMZ. Reeves, who is ever calm and collected, approached the woman who was sitting silently in a chair. After chatting, the woman revealed she came to meet him. Reeves then called the police, who took her away for a mental evaluation.
The second incident took place just days later. This time, Reeves was absent but his cleaning crew was on the property. According to a second story, a woman walked onto the property after the cleaning team left the gate unchecked. The unidentified woman showered and then skinny dipped into the pool before the cleaners realized something wasn’t right. They finally called Reeves who called the police. Like the previous intruder, the second crazed woman was taken away for mental evaluation.
Does anyone know how to use a lock?
He’s got drama with a movie company
While Reeves has made it clear the movie roles aren’t rushing in these days, why would he suddenly quit a film? That’s what Millennium founder and chairman Avi Lerner was barking about when he heard Reeves was not doing the film The Detail. According to Deadline, who broke the story, the movie was set to begin filming in October 2017. The script had been completed and shoot locations were being locked down. The film was scheduled to finish filming by Christmas. “I got a call at the beginning of the week and he said Keanu walked away from the movie. I said why? Did he not like the director, the script? No, I was told, he just has a problem with the next movie,” Lerner said of the drama adding there was an alleged scheduling conflict with John Wick 3, which will shoot in early 2018.
Insiders tell the site there was no closed deal. “That’s a lie,” said Lerner. “There was a deal. It was not contingent on cast. We agreed to go over to whomever he wanted to go to…”
A lawyer for Reeves said in a statement, “We did not have a closed deal, and there were several material open deal points. Casting contingency was one of the open deal points so every deal point was not agreed upon, and we did not have signed paperwork.” At time of publication, the matter was unresolved.
He’s the ultimate introvert
Reeves isn’t like most in Hollywood. He certainly keeps to himself and remains out of the spotlight as often as possible. When he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, he only invited a handful of friends to the ceremony. Most attendees were studio executives. His Constantine co-star Shia LaBeouf explained how mysterious Reeves is. “I’ve worked with him for a year and a couple of months, but I don’t really know him that much,” LaBeouf told TIME. “I don’t think he hangs out with other humans that much.” Francis Lawrence, the director of Constantine agreed saying, “Do I really know Keanu after working with him? No. I know things about him: he’s hardworking, he’s generous, he’s a sweet, sweet guy. But it’s all just sort of on the surface.” Erwin Stoff, Reeves’ manager, has known him for decades and can’t seem to crack the surface either. “Keanu is a really private person,” Stoff said. “He’s sort of perfected for himself a way of keeping a distance from people.”
Reeves told the magazine sharing too many private details would distract from the work. “I’m not interested in showing anybody what’s behind the curtain,” he said. “I like watching a good documentary about how something was made. I just don’t want it to be my life.”
He’s feeling his age and is ready for a family
Getting older isn’t easy. Now at the age of 53, Reeves is beginning to feel a difference in his body. It seems all those years of high-impact action movies are finally catching up.
“My knees are well aware of it. Mortality is very different when you’re 20 to when you’re 50,” he told GQ (via Us Weekly). “It creeps in here and there, doesn’t it? You look out the f**king window and then you think about your eyes closing.”
Although his body may be feeling the effects of aging, his heart still desires something he’s never had: a family. “I’m trying not to be alone so much,” Reeves told Parade magazine in 2006 (via People). “And man, it’s a struggle. I want to get married. I want to have kids. That’s at the top of the mountain. I’ve got to climb the mountain first. I’ll do it. Just give me some time.”