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Audiences associated Keanu Reeves with teen roles before starring in Dangerous Liaisons. However, he wanted to work on a Shakespeare production. Dangerous Liaisons was a great opportunity for Reeves to get close to that. He once explained how he had difficulty crying on cue. As a result, director Stephen Frears told him to think of his mom being dead to make the tears start flowing.

Who does Keanu Reeves play in ‘Dangerous Liaisons’?

'Dangerous Liaisons' star Keanu Reeves sitting in front of a microphone
Keanu Reeves | Victor Chavez/WireImage

1988’s Dangerous Liaisons takes place before the French Revolution. It follows the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) in their petty exchanges in France’s royal court. They casually destroy the lives of all those around them. Things take a turn for the worse when romance bubbles up to the surface.

Reeves plays Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny, suitor to Cécile (Uma Thurman). He begins as her music teacher, but they fall in love as a result of Merteuil’s persuasion. However, Merteuil ultimately begins an affair with Danceny. He challenges Valmont to a duel after discovering that he was having sex with Cécile. Valmont’s dying wish is for Danceny to tell Madame Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) his true feelings for her.

Director Stephen Frears told Keanu Reeves to think of his mom dying to cry on cue

Brian J. Robb’s Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure explores the title subject’s life and career. He details the actor’s most pivotal roles and life experiences, including The Matrix and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. However, Robb explains that Reeves had difficulty crying on cue for one particular scene in Dangerous Liaisons.

An early sequence at the opera required Reeves to cry on the spot, but he couldn’t get the tears to start flowing. As a result, Frears became increasingly frustrated with the actor’s inability to cry on cue. Reeves claimed that Frears gave him one particular piece of advice. He said, “Can’t you think of your mother being dead or something?”

After several hours, Reeves finally cried for the Dangerous Liaisons scene as needed. Robb called it “his most difficult acting challenge in his career so far – getting tears to flow.” However, Reeves would continue to explore other diverse roles later in his career as he moved further away from teen roles.

‘Dangerous Liaisons’ had a tight filming schedule


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Robb’s book stated that Frears shot the film in only 10 weeks. However, it wasn’t a result of budget concerns, as he had $14 million on the table. Rather, another production increased the pressure. Director Milos Forman discussed filming a version of Dangerous Liaisons with Christopher Hampton called Valmont.

Dangerous Liaisons easily conquered Valmont, starring Colin Firth and Meg Tilly. Frears’ iteration ultimately landed at the Oscars, earning 7 nominations and 3 wins, including art direction, screenplay, and costumes. Critics praised Close and Pfeiffer’s performances in Dangerous Liaisons but dismissed Reeves’ performance.