May 21, 2021
Keanu Reeves’ name has been popping up in mainstream media again ever since the huge success of John Wick in 2014. His Asian ancestry, however, has always been relatively unperceived by most.
Keanu Reeves was born on September 2, 1964 in Beirut, Lebanon to a Chinese Hawaiian father and English Hawaiian mother. They divorced in 1966, and his mother took the family to Sydney, Australia and New York City before settling in Toronto, Canada in 1971, where Reeves spent most of his formative years.
He struggled in school as a teenager, and was even expelled from a prestigious performing arts school in Toronto for being “just a little too rambunctious.” In an interview, Reeves shared that he decided to become an actor at the age of 17. His main focus before then was becoming an ice hockey player, but an injury and a trip to New York City caused him to change his mind.
His first big success as an actor was in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in 1989. By the year 2000, he had reached superstar status, most known for the movie Speed in 1994 and as Neo in The Matrix (1999). After finalizing The Matrix trilogy in 2003, however, Keanu Reeves kept a much lower profile. That was until 2014 when the first installment of the John Wick franchise was released. The film was received with critical and commercial success, causing a second and third movie to release with a fourth on the way.
Keanu Reeves’ Asian ancestry is becoming more known as time goes on due to his increasing number of appearances on undeniably Asian-american casts, the latest example being Ali Wong and Randall Park’s Always Be My Maybe. Notable examples before this were Man of Tai Chi and 47 Ronin, the last two movies he shot prior to the first John Wick.
In an interview, he told Essence that he identifies as a person of color and is proud to be part of Hollywood’s Asian American moment, even if he doesn’t see himself as a “spokesperson for the community.”
Anonymous. Keanu Reeves. IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/name/nm0000206/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm.
Torres, Libby. How Keanu Reeves Overcame a Troubled Childhood and Heartbreaking Losses to Become Hollywood’s Most Beloved Actor. Insider, 5 Nov. 2019, www.insider.com/keanu-reeves-life-career-timeline-2019-6#before-he-got-serious-about-acting-reeves-wanted-to-be-an-ice-hockey-player-4.