‘Cowboy Bebop’: Keanu Reeves Was Almost Spike Spiegel in a Live-Action Film; Here’s Why It Fell Through

Keanu Reeves has taken on many different personas in his acting career — a hitman (John Wick), a hacker (The Matrix), and a futuristic rockstar (Cyberpunk 2077), to name a few. At one point, he almost became a space cowboy. The newly-released Cowboy Bebop adaptation stars John Cho as protagonist Spike Spiegel, but before that, Reeves was going to step into Spike’s shoes. He signed on for a live-action Cowboy Bebop movie in 2008. In honor of the live-action series release, here’s the story of Keanu Reeves’ Cowboy Bebop adventure that never was.

Keanu Reeves at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards
Keanu Reeves | Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Keanu Reeves confirmed his involvement with a ‘Cowboy Bebop’ film in 2008

Rumors of a Cowboy Bebop film first circulated in the early 2000s. As IMDb noted, in 2008, news broke that Cowboy Bebop anime creator Shinichiro Watanabe signed on to executive produce the movie under 20th Century Fox, with a script written by Peter Craig. Reeves himself then confirmed his involvement, telling Screen Rant that the plot would center around a superhuman drug called the Red Eye — a storyline from the anime.

At the time, Reeves seemed confident in the project. However, he did admit that it would come with challenges. Namely, the anime’s 26-episode non-linear storytelling format might have been challenging to adapt for a movie.

“Because it’s such a short form, to make a two-hour version [will be tough],” he said. “And it’s got so much of an origin-story obligation; you’ve got to get people up to speed, but you don’t want to do much of that. There are a lot of things to take into consideration, but we think we can do something good.”

Keanu Reeves was excited about the ‘Cowboy Bebop’ adaptation, but feared it wouldn’t happen

Of course, another concern was how well the live-action adaptation could maintain the integrity of the original show. The anime has turned into one of the most beloved series, so fans needed it to be done right. That same concern was present during the creation of Netflix’s live-action Cowboy Bebop show years later.

When news of the Cowboy Bebop movie spread, some fans feared Reeves wouldn’t do Spike proper justice. Steve Blum, Spike’s English voice actor in the anime, had the same concern. However, in an interview with Fandom, he revealed that he spoke to Reeves about the project, and the actor seemed to take the role seriously. Blum explained that he and Reeves discussed the anime and the adaptation at length. He said:

I wanted to know if he was as invested in it as people needed him to be for something like that, and he certainly was. He was incredibly enthusiastic about it. I believe he actually optioned the rights to the movie. He said at that time that there’s this beautiful script for it.

At that point, the Cowboy Bebop movie was becoming a costly and time-consuming project. Blum added that Reeves worried “it just wouldn’t get greenlit in time for him to be able to do his own stunts without being an old man.”

The actor later said ‘Cowboy Bebop’ cost too much to make

Unfortunately, Reeves’ fear came true. A few years passed with no word on production. Then, in 2013, Reeves said in a Reddit AMA that he was confident the movie would never come to be.

“The script that was written was great and amazing, but it would cost like half a billion dollars to make it,” he wrote.

Reeves went on to explain that he had already started “working on trying to get Bill & Ted 3,” which took his attention from Cowboy Bebop.

Now, eight years later, Cowboy Bebop fans finally have their live-action adaptation, albeit in a series, not a film. Starring Cho, Daniella Pineda, and Mustafa Shakir, the show follows three bounty hunters who capture criminals in space.

All 10 episodes of Cowboy Bebop are available now on Netflix.

RELATED: ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Star Daniella Pineda Teases a Unique Experience: ‘There Is Nothing We Can Compare Our Show To’