Keanu Reeves Once Said ‘I’m Not Very Good at Fake Fights’ Before He Became ‘John Wick’

After three Matrixes and John Wick, Keanu Reeves is a bona fide master of movie fighting. He’s making fourth entries of both action franchises, and a fifth of John Wick. Back in 1994, Speed was only his second action movie after Point Break. Speed was mostly based on a moving bus, but Reeves had one fight scene at the end. Pre-Matrix, Reeves did not consider himself a good fake fighter.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the movie Speed.]

John Wick crouched and pointing a gun
Keanu Reeves | Summit/Lionsgate

At the 1994 press junket for Speed, a reporter asked Reeves about his climatic fight scene against Dennis Hopper. Reeves lamented how poorly he felt he performed then, 20 years before the first John Wick.

Keanu Reeves played Jack Traven before John Wick

In Speed, Reeves plays Jack Traven, a Los Angeles bomb squad officer. In the beginning of the movie, he rescues elevator riders from a bomb placed by Howard Payne (Dennis Hopper). Foiled, Payne plants a bomb on a bus. Traven catches up to the bus and helps keep it above 50 miles per hour until he can figure out how to get the passengers off.

Speed stars Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves at the premiere
L-R: Dennis Hopper, Sandra Bullock, and Keanu Reeves | Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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In the film’s third act, the police plan to ambush Payne after the bus rescue. Payne, however, is one step ahead and kidnaps de facto bus driver and love interest Annie (Sandra Bullock). Traven follows him to the subway where they duke it out on top of a speeding subway train. It’s much more of a street brawl than John Wick‘s elegant martial arts.

Before ‘John Wick,’ Keanu Reeves had a lot to learn about ‘fake fights’

Movie fights may look brutal, but they’re all an illusion. Even in the John Wick movies, actors and stuntmen are usually not making contact if they can help it. The camera angle and delivery sells the action. Reeves would improve in those skills over time. Hopper, Reeves said, had much more experience.

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“He was actually much better at it than I was,” Reeves said. “I’m not very good at fake fights. I’m not very good at them at all. My fake punches were missing by a country mile. A part of that was that I was swinging at Dennis Hopper, a man whom I love. It was just like it’s Dennis, what if I hit him? ‘Keanu, you missed again. You have to get closer to his face.’ ‘I gotta be closer to his face?’ ‘Gotta get closer to his face.’”

Dennis Hopper was very careful in the movie ‘Speed,’ too

Reeves said Hopper shared some of his concern in filming their fight scene. In the scene, Payne is holding the trigger to the bomb he’s placed on Annie. 

“And Dennis of course has this apparatus that represents a remote trigger to a bomb device,” Reeves said. “He was very concerned about hitting me with this device but heh ad the craft and skill to get it very close.”