Keanu Reeves Once Called Himself ‘Dumb’ Despite All His Success in Hollywood

Not many actors in their 50s can say they’ve never had it so good. But with a beloved action movie franchise and a reputation as the “internet’s boyfriend,” things are looking up for Keanu Reeves. Nowadays, the actor is an icon in his own right. But even on the verge of his the largest paycheck of his career in the early 2000s, Reeves still saw himself as “dumb.”

Keanu Reeves during the 2003 Cannes Film Festival
Keanu Reeves during the 2003 Cannes Film Festival | Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

Keanu Reeves struggled early in his career to avoid typecasting

When Reeves relocated from Toronto to Los Angeles, his affable good nature and slacker vibe led Hollywood to offer him the same kind of roles. Despite serving as the actor’s breakthrough movie, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure made matters even worse. Following that 1989 sci-fi comedy and its 1991 sequel, Reeves feared he’d be defined by Ted “Theodore” Logan.

Of course, this didn’t turn out to be the case. The same year as Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Reeves landed a hit action movie opposite Patrick Swayze in Point Break. A few years later, Speed reaffirmed his status as a bonafide action hero. And his role as Neo in 1999 game-changer The Matrix changed his career entirely, elevating Reeves to a new level of fame in the business.

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The actor said he is ‘dumb’ as ‘The Matrix Reloaded’ hit theaters

The Matrix was such a ground-breaking smash hit that Warner Bros. invited directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski to make it a trilogy. Shot back to back and both released in 2003, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions earned Reeves a hefty $30 million paycheck. But in an interview with The Independent, the actor seemed unmoved by the success.

“I’m a meathead,” Reeves said at the time. “You’ve got smart people and you’ve got dumb people. I just happen to be dumb.”

It’s unclear whether the actor’s statement came from a place of self-awareness or some deeper internal struggle. In either case, Reeves embodies here the same authenticity that has made fans love him all the more. As his The Matrix Reloaded co-star Jada Pinkett Smith revealed, the actor conveys both coolness and sweetness in a way unique to him.

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Nevertheless, Keanu Reeves hit a new career high in the late 2010s

Regardless of how he felt then, Reeves has seen his career become arguably even bigger in recent years. The late 2000s and early 2010s saw him struggle to land a breakout role. But then in 2014’s John Wick, he found what might wind up being his most popular character ever. Reeves has already reprised the role for two sequels, with another two in the works.

In 2019, he landed the biggest box office hit of his career with a supporting role in Toy Story 4. And Reeves returned to his roots for Bill and Ted Face the Music. Moreover, he is set to once again play Neo. For the first time in nearly 20 years, Reeves is working with director Lana Wachowski and co-star Carrie-Anne Moss  in The Matrix 4, set for a December 2021 release.