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Life On The Street - Keanu Reeves Interview

Author: Darryn King
Monday, 21 April 2008
3D's Darryn King speaks with Keanu Reeves about his new film, Street Kings.

Out of the six assembled journalists at the junket with Keanu Reeves, you just knew someone would bring up the rumour of a Wyld Stallyns reunion. 'I don't think that's going to happen,' he says, patiently. It's been almost 20 years since he first slung that sweater around his waist for Bill and Ted but Reeves still can't escape the legacy of the slacker with the air guitar. 'I guess I did it really well,' he deduces dryly.

It's perhaps slightly unfair to the self-proclaimed 'older and wiser' Reeves, who is always on the lookout for roles that will stretch his abilities. The search continues in Street Kings. Reeves plays Detective Tom Ludlow, a loose cannon of the L.A.P.D. who has no qualms about shooting unarmed suspects or using force to get what he wants - who needs an interrogation room when you've got some barbed wire- 'He's a character of contradictions,' Reeves says. 'He's a very ethical guy, he's a good cop, but he does do unethical-' Reeves chooses to revel further in the ambiguity: '-maybe unethical things.'

When he's implicated in the killing of his own partner, Ludlow pits himself against an epidemic of police corruption to the highest level - and discovers that the line between the right and wrong side of the law is becoming increasingly indistinct. 'It's not black and white- this stuff's more black and blue. A little more blurred. Good guys are doing bad things,' he says. 'It's a world where it doesn't matter what 'it' is, it matters what 'it' looks like.'

These are the gritty and violent streets of Los Angeles. Pretty familiar territory, literally and figuratively - not least for director David Ayer and writer James Ellroy themselves, who brought us Training Day and L.A. Confidential, respectively. The punches come faster and harder in Street Kings though. 'The plot is on steroids,' Reeves says. 'The film is about the use of force. When is violence necessary, when isn't it- Naomi Harris's character tells Ludlow, 'Blood doesn't wash away blood.' And Ludlow says, 'I don't care'.'

Sometimes though, the ends justifies the means. 'He's gonna fucking take care of business, you know what I mean- You need that guy.'

In preparing for the role, Reeves spent a lot of time with real L.A.P.D. officers, including 20 hours of one-on-one time with a S.W.A.T. tactical specialist. 'I shot a lot of bullets,' he says simply. Learning the right way to wear the uniform, enter rooms and hold a gun was all part of the commitment to authenticity. 'Hopefully we depict it in a harder, grittier way. It's not flash. It's grounded in reality.'

Some of the most intense preparation was psychological however. For Reeves, internalising the real-life stories of L.A.P.D. officers was the key to understanding Ludlow's character. '[The L.A.P.D.] very generously shared their job, but also what it's like to live in your armour. How do you live your normal life- How hard is it to live with that job-' Reeves puts it best when says that Ludlow 'doesn't know how to be' - this character lives purely for the hunt. 'That's why he drinks. That's why he pukes in the morning. He's a soldier. He gets used like a soldier gets used.'

It's all a bit gloomy for a Tuesday morning. I pull something out of my arsenal of cheery entertainment journalism clichés- 'Absolutely, it's really nice to come back here [to Sydney],' is Reeves's automatic reply. 'It's lovely. Yesterday was pretty.' There's some debate about this. It rained the previous day. 'It had its moments,' he says.

WHEN: In cinemas now
MORE: foxsearchlight.com/streetkings