Keanu Reeves is a legend of our age. Whether you prefer Keanu as Ted from Bill and Ted, Johnny Utah from Point Break, the Matrix’s Neo, or latest incarnation as the titular John Wick, there’s no doubt Keanu is king on-screen as much as he is off-screen.
It’s not an overstatement either to say the internet loves Keanu Reeves too. While many people can be chewed up and spat out at the hands of the meme economy, Keanu has held his head high as the world has shared his journey from the lowest of lows, to the highest highs.
In 2010 a paparazzi shot of Keanu sitting on a bench eating a sandwich, while looking solemn went viral. However if a picture speaks a thousand words, there were a million more missed at the first glance of a seemingly innocent shot of a sad celeb.
When Keanu was only three-years-old, his father – who was previously imprisoned for selling heroin – left his wife and family, last seeing them when the actor was 13-years-old.
Reeves then moved around the world throughout his childhood, living with various stepfathers in places including Sydney, New York and Toronto.
This meant he attended numerous high schools, something Keanu has described as challenging, especially as he was also diagnosed with dyslexia.
After being expelled from one school, Reeves attended a college where he excelled in sports, becoming the ice hockey team’s goalkeeper.
He dreamt of playing ice hockey for Canada, but an injury forced him to look at other career options, which led to where he is today – acting.
Later in life Reeves was faced with tragedy when his long-term girlfriend, Jennifer Syme gave birth eight months into her pregnancy to a stillborn daughter.
Several weeks later Syme died in a car accident aged only 29.
The actor then became his younger sister Kim’s primary caretaker following her diagnosis of leukaemia in the 1990s, an illness she battled with for a decade before entering remission.
During Kim’s battle, Reeves generously donated to numerous cancer charities and also set up his own foundation in her honour without attaching his name to it.
Reeves’ private foundation endeavours to fund cancer research and support both kids’ hospitals and children’s wards.
According to Snopes, Reeves told the Ladies’ Home Journal in 2009:
I have a private foundation that’s been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children’s hospitals and cancer research.
I don’t like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does.
Keanu also manned the phones at a Stand Up to Cancer telethon in 2008, as well as volunteering to be the goalkeeper during a charity ice hockey match for Score (Spinal Cord Opportunities for Rehabilitation Endowment), which was founded in support of players with spinal injuries.
His generosity doesn’t end there. Several years ago, Reddit user bo2dd2 shared their experience of working with Keanu on the set of Chain Reaction.
Every day for the last few weeks of filming, Keanu treated the stage hands and grunt workers (including myself) by taking us out for free breakfast and lunch. He was genuinely a very nice guy to work with.
Since then, I’ve worked on about 30 different sets and have never met an actor as generous and friendly as him.
Most actors I’ve seen and worked with are total douches who always think they are better than us. Keanu on the other hand, at the very least, was socially approachable and definitely kindhearted.
That was one example (that involved me directly), but (on the same set), I remember him going out of his way to give my friend a ride to the repair shop to pick up his car.
A family friend builds movie sets, doesn’t design, is one of the poor dudes that just builds. Anyways, he worked on the set for The Matrix and Keanu heard about family trouble he was having and gave him a $20,000 Christmas bonus to help him out.
He also was one of the only people on the set that genuinely wanted to know peoples names, would say ‘hello’ and mean it, and would talk to people as they were his peers and not below him.
I’ve never heard anyone say Keanu is douche, seems like the nicest person in Hollywood. [sic]
During the filming of Matrix Reloaded Keanu rewarded each member of the special effects team with a Christmas bonus in the form of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
In fact, Reeves gave away millions of dollars from his Matrix earnings to the crews who worked on the trilogy.
There are countless more stories about him doing everything from giving up his seat on public transport for someone who was standing, to driving a woman home 50 miles out of his way, because her car broke down.
Most famously, in 1997, Reeves was spotted hanging out with a homeless man on the streets of Hollywood, sharing drinks, snacks and stories, keeping him company.
You keep doing you, Keanu.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Tim Horner is a sub-editor at UNILAD. He graduated with a BA Journalism from University College Falmouth before most his colleagues were born. A previous editor of adult mags, he now enjoys bringing the tone down in the viral news sector.