Keanu Reeves Gave Up $40 Million From ‘Matrix’ Sequels to Thank Production Team

Keanu Reeves has survived this long in Hollywood for a reason. He’s a great actor, and with serious range. He isn’t afraid of a challenge, and often takes on roles that let him flex his considerable acting skills, even if the projects aren’t blockbuster level.

But what fans really love about Reeves is that he seems like an all-around great guy. There have been a lot of horror stories coming out of Hollywood in the last year, but Reeves’ name remains unsullied. In fact, a lot of the stories that have come out about Reeves only paint him in a better light

Keanu Reeves gave up back-end points from ‘The Matrix’ sequels 

Experienced movie and television fanatics may know what back-end points are, but for the uninitiated, these are usually percentage points. The points correspond to a percentage of earnings from a movie or television show.

This can be done a number of different ways, depending on how the star and the producers work things out. But basically, if the movie makes a profit, the stars who have back-end points written into their contracts will get a piece.

Keanu Reeves at a 'John Wick: Chapter 3 -- Parabellum' screening
Keanu Reeves at a ‘John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum’ screening | ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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This is different from residuals, which are payments for re-use of the work, and paid by the distributor. Residuals are big in television, where shows are often syndicated on different channels after they first air. 

Reeves, who is famously more interested in the craft of acting than the cash, gave away a large chunk of his back-end points for The Matrix to the special effects and costume design crews. Given the fact that a lot of The Matrix is cool effects and sleek costumes, it makes sense.

According to a movie exec: “He felt that they were the ones who made the movie and that they should participate.”

Keanu Reeves still made a lot of money on ‘The Matrix’ trilogy 

Reeves didn’t walk away from The Matrix at a loss. He made $10 million up front for the movie. Plus even though he gave away a lot of his back-end points, he still had enough left over to earn $35 million after the film came out. 

It’s unclear whether or not Reeves kept some back-end points for himself in the contract on purpose, or if the $35 million was mandated by the union. SAG, the Screen Actor’s Guild, is a powerful union with a lot of pull in Hollywood. Some payments are controlled by SAG, like residuals.

These payments are calculated by formulas controlled by the Guild, and it might be difficult for Reeves to give that money away before it is made, like he did with his back-end points. 

This isn’t the first time Keanu Reeves has given up money to make a good movie

Reeves is famous for giving up money to make a good movie. The Matrix seems to be the first instance of Reeves giving money directly to a production crew, but he has given up salary at least two other times in order to add extremely talented actors to his pet projects.

For The Replacements, Reeves agreed to take a cut to work with acting legend Gene Hackman. The result was a great film that stands the test of time. He did the same with Devil’s Advocate in order to get Al Pacino on board, with the same results. 

Studio execs have actually made movies that they felt would be less-than profitable just to get Reeves to sign on to their blockbuster projectsSweet November and Hardball were both movies Reeves had to fight to make. All this history just solidifies what fans already knew. Reeves loves movies more than money.