Keanu Reeves Went to Extremes for His ‘Birth’ Scene in ‘The Matrix’
From The Matrix to John Wick, Keanu Reeves has played an action hero many times. However, his role as Neo in the Wachowskis’ The Matrix trilogy is arguably still his most iconic. Reeves has opened up about the intense physical training he experienced to prepare for The Matrix and its sequels. But fans probably don’t realize just how far Reeves went for the role.
Which Keanu Reeves movies required intense preparation?
Amazingly, The Matrix isn’t the only movie for which Reeves deeply committed. According to Mental Floss, the actor learned how to surf for his first big action movie, 1991’s Point Break. And just a few years later, Reeves spent months building muscle for Speed. In fact, he even pulled off one of the movie’s most dangerous stunts — jumping from a moving car onto a bus — himself.
Clearly, Reeves’ effort paid off. After all, Point Break and Speed are — outside of The Matrix and John Wick series — easily Reeves’ best action movies. Both of those franchises involve tons of combat and weapons training, stunt and wirework, and general physical preparation. But one of Reeves’ most impressive feats in The Matrix has nothing to do with the movie’s action sequences.
The actor physically transformed himself for ‘The Matrix’
The Matrix‘s Oscar-winning visual effects are absolutely key in helping audiences connect to Neo’s journey. But one of the most impactful visuals — Neo’s rebirth in the real world — isn’t as fabricated as fans might think. In fact, Reeves — who beat out many other stars to play Neo — committed to his unique look in that scene.
Once Neo is unplugged from the Matrix, he awakens in a goo-filled pod amid field of human beings. As Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) explains, the machines harvest humans as an energy source. So Neo’s body — technically — has never really been used before. It’s why his eyes hurt when he is rescued by the Nebuchadnezzar and why his body is hairless.
Shockingly, Reeves actually shaved his entire body — including his eyebrows — for this brief scene, according to Mental Floss. Moreover, the actor lost roughly 15 pounds to achieve Neo’s emaciated look. The difference between Neo’s “residual self-image” in the Matrix and real-world Neo is striking. And knowing what Reeves endured, the moment is even more impressive.
Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss reunite in ‘The Matrix 4’
The Matrix was, of course, a huge hit, making a profound mark on the movie business. And Reeves returned as Neo for its back-to-back sequels, both released in 2003. Now, after nearly two decades away from the franchise, the actor is returning for The Matrix 4. The project — directed by Lana Wachowski — will hit theaters and HBO Max on Dec. 22, 2021.
At this point, fans still don’t have a ton of information on the movie. But it will feature not only Reeves but also a few of his former co-stars, most notably Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity. Reeves has said he only signed on because of Wachowski’s “beautiful script.” Until they are able to plug back into The Matrix series, fans will just have to take the actor’s word for it.