‘Be more like Keanu’, says Radio 2’s James King
- Credit: PA
Suffolk-based film critic James King had a revelation during lockdown and he has written a book to explain why we need to be more like Zen-like action hero Keanu Reeves
For film writer and BBC Radio 2 cinema reviewer James King, lockdown has provided the perfect opportunity to think deeply about life, the universe and everything and he has come to one groundbreaking conclusion – the world would be a much better place if only we were a little more like Keanu – Keanu Reeves that is – and he has written a new book ‘Be More Keanu’ to help us tap into the action man’s more spiritual side.
James, who lives just outside Woodbridge, and was educated at Ipswich School, has been a long-time admirer of Keanu Reeves both for his acting style and his Zen-like approach to stardom.
“He’s the Hollywood star that doesn’t appear to be all that bothered about being a Hollywood star,” says James. “He doesn’t do social media, he gives very few interviews and when he’s not filming he likes nothing better than disappearing off into the desert riding his motorcycle.”
The genesis of the book came last year when the internet decided that June 15 2019 should be ‘Cheer Up Keanu’ day after a number of social media platforms shared an image of ‘Sad Keanu’ sitting alone on a park bench eating a sandwich.
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“The irony is that Keanu probably didn’t realise he had become the subject of an internet campaign or, in all honesty probably wasn’t sad at all. He just goes about his life and I rather like his independent approach to the world.”
James has followed Keanu Reeves’ idiosyncratic career since he first saw him in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989 and admires his enigmatic approach to fame. “He comes across as a very kind, very thoughtful man and he still is one of the most searched for people on the internet. Last year he was the fourth most searched for Hollywood star and the only one not involved in a scandal.
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“People are drawn to his stillness and his spiritualty and I wanted to look at that in a little bit more detail.”
At first the book was going to be a more of a straight forward spoof, satirizing Keanu’s image as a modern-day guru but as the book evolved James started thinking that maybe Keanu had discovered the perfect work-life balance and the tone of the book shifted.
“I hope the book is both funny and informative as I take a look at Keanu’s enigmatic world – his ways and beliefs – and I genuinely found that all of us could benefit from being a bit more like him.
“He’s all things to all people. He’s the internet’s boyfriend. He’s a poetic petrolhead. The guru on a surfboard. Part Samurai, part Samaritan. He’s an actor, musician, dog lover – he is, quite simply, ‘The One’.”
As James King has followed Keanu’s career, he has realised that not only is he very selective in the roles he takes but he only plays characters that he can make a close connection to. Although he is best known for playing the eponymous hero in the John Wick movies and for playing the leather coat wearing computer nerd Neo in the Matrix franchise but as James explains Keanu has had a very diverse career playing everything from a teenage slacker in Bill and Ted, to a Shakespearean villain in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, to a corrupted innocent in 16th century France in Dangerous Liaisons and was Dracula’s hapless victim Jonathan Harker opposite Gary Oldman’s vampire.
The film that catapulted him to global fame was Speed, which crystallised Keanu’s onscreen persona as the tough but caring action man. “I think his characters reflect Keanu, the man, he’s very genuine, very caring and very honest but also very focussed on getting the job done.”
Each chapter in the book come with helpful bullet points which provide food for thought and guidance how you, the reader, can be a little more like Keanu. “There’s a very close connection between the way that Keanu lives his life in reality and way he appears on screen and I think there are lessons that we can learn.
“This is what people connect to. There’s no show there. Keanu lives a very authentic life and I think this is why people are still Googling him and this is why his films still do incredibly well even though he now only makes about one a year.
“He has a presence about him, an aura, which isn’t put on, doesn’t come across as fake and that is rare in this day and age.”
Keanu’s philosophy chimes very closely with James’ outlook on life. James describes himself as an enthusiastic yoga practitioner and ‘a very amateur life-coach’ who sees films as vital therapy in our noisy, complex and often contradictory lives.
Films have replaced ancient myths and legends and there are valuable lessons to be learned and timeless truths to be discovered when we come together to experience cinema as a family, a community or a group of friends.
James also believes that movie stars remain larger-than-life and that people like Keanu Reeves do have the power to change lives for the better and are worth looking up to.
Be More Keanu, by James King, is published by Square Peg, priced £9.99