The formative years...
Keanu (Key-ah-nu means "cool breeze over the mountains" in Hawaiian) Charles Reeves was born on September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon, to Samuel Nowlin (half-Hawaiian, half-Chinese) and Patricia Reeves (English). His sister Kim was born in 1966 while the family lived in Australia for a year. A second (half) sister, Karina, was born in 1976.
After their divorce, Patricia and Samuel went their separate ways: Patricia and the two kids to New York City, and Samuel to Hawaii. In New York, Patricia met and married director Paul Aaron. They moved to Toronto, and took up Canadian citizenship (which Keanu still retains), but split up less than a year later. Patricia switched partners a few times more and moved as often. Her third husband was rock promoter Robert Miller (with whom she had Karina), and her fourth was Jack Bond, whom she divorced in 1994.
Keanu attended Jesse Ketchum Public School in Toronto from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and attended four high schools (including De La Salle College and the Toronto School for the Performing Arts) before dropping out completely at age 17.
Keanu took on lots of different jobs, including sharpening skates at an ice rink shop, landscaping, and making pasta. Then came some stage work and some bit parts on TV. His motion picture debut was in Dream To Believe in Canada but it was the 1986 TV movie Under the Influence that earned him his SAG union card. Keanu's first big feature film debut in a US film was in Young Blood in which he had a small part.
Keanu hit the road for Hollywood in 1986 with $3,000, an old Volvo, and his stepfather Paul Aaron's address. A few name changes followed as "Keanu" was considered by his manager to be too exotic. They settled on K.C. Reeves, but it was short-lived. Keanu it was, and Keanu it was going to be.
Keanu soon landed River's Edge, arguably one of his best roles ever. A string of movies followed as the troubled (or misfit) teen. His parts continued to grow, and then he started attracting the eye of more mainstream directors. He landed films like Dangerous Liaisons, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Much Ado About Nothing, and Little Buddha. But it was 1994's Speed that really made everyone stand up and notice. Perhaps not so much for Keanu's acting, but the fact that this was his first mega-hit, grossing nearly $300 million at the box office (world-wide). Figures like that will catch the eye of any studio executive, and Keanu was soon reportedly being offered sums up to $7 million for his services.
With Johnny Mnemonic and A Walk in the Clouds already in the can, those offers were put on hold or turned down so that Keanu could return to Canada and fulfill a dream of playing the title role in Hamlet on stage. Reviews were mixed, but in general reviewers were kind.
He has also completed a small role in the independent film The Last Time I Committed Suicide (due for release some time in '97), and the big action pic, Chain Reaction, which was released to tepid reviews on August 2nd, 1996.
Keanu is also an active musician. He turned down an offer for a Speed sequel to tour with his rock band, Dogstar.