There may not be a Hollywood celebrity quite as likeable as Keanu Reeves, a star who seems just as much a fan of cinema as a leading man. Rising to fame in the 1990s, thanks to a number of iconic action movies, Reeves is now the face of the beloved John Wick franchise when he’s not lending his likeness to the Cyberpunk 2077 video game series or Pixar’s Toy Story films.
Whilst his acting skills are questionable, few doubt the star’s enthusiasm and on-screen personality, making such cult movies as Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break in 1989 and 1992, respectively. Such success attracted collaborators like Francis Ford Coppola, Gus Van Sant and Kenneth Branagh, making the actor a star by the end of the decade.
But, the pin-up Hollywood icon was constantly tussling for the limelight with the many other hunks that the industry pumped out in the ‘90s, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp. In fact, Reeves and Depp often went for the very same movie roles, with the former coming out on top almost every time, leading the latter to take a very different route in the industry.
As per the DVD notes on Point Break, the production crew for Bigelow’s insane action flick originally wanted Depp for the role of protagonist Johnny Utah, but were forced to change their mind once the production was shelved for four years in the 1980s. Reeves also came out on top several years later when the 1994 Jan de Bont film Speed was in production, with Depp actually turning down the role of Jack Traven before Reeves jumped at the chance.
Johnny Depp was also desperately wanted by the Wachowskis for their sci-fi masterpiece The Matrix, with the actor reportedly being the first choice at the time thanks to roles in Mike Newell’s Donnie Brasco and Terry Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Sadly for the Wachowskis, Warner Bros weren’t too keen on Depp, pushing instead for Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer or Keanu Reeves, with the latter fatefully taking the role.
Indeed, inadvertently, Reeves helped to sculpt Depp’s career, forcing him to collaborate with Tim Burton, which would be the making of his later star persona. Without such iconic character performances in Edward Scissorhands and Ed Wood, roles he would have never played if it wasn’t for Reeves’ success, Depp would have never taken on his seminal performance of Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.
Reeves has never spoken out about Depp but did once admit to the UK music magazine Smash Hits in 1991, “Johnny Depp had another world happen to him – he got locked into that television series [21 Jump Street], and television is seen by more people than I’ll ever dream of. And Johnny Depp’s better looking than me”.