Keanu Reeves Got His Start With a ‘Homoerotic Theatrical Oddity’ After Almost Failing to Get the Part

Keanu Reeves is famous around the world for his iconic film characters. He brought the world some of the most legendary action roles, including The Matrix‘s Neo and John Wick‘s title character. However, his success didn’t happen overnight. Reeves got his start with a “homoerotic theatrical oddity,” which is a role he almost didn’t get.

Keanu Reeves attended community theatre school Leah Posluns

'Wolfboy' actor Keanu Reeves wearing a black suit in front of a Christmas tree
Keanu Reeves | Jason Kirk/Newsmakers

Brian J. Robb’s Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure explores the actor’s journey through the most pivotal moments of his personal life and acting career. His acting school threw out a 19-year-old Reeves and he was initially unsure if his aspirations would amount to anything. However, the actor gave it another shot and attended a community theatre school called Leah Posluns.

The works of William Shakespeare specifically fascinated Reeves. He wanted to be a “proper” actor and Leah Posluns exposed him to his first real performances outside of school productions. He became friends with another actor named Alan Powell, who explained his previous connection to the Matrix actor.

“The chemistry was dynamic,” Powell said. “He was the friend I’d never had as a child. But he was a secretive guy about his life. You could be hanging with the guy for three years; suddenly he’d introduce you to someone who turned out to be a friend of his all that time. You could never get close to the guy.”

Keanu Reeves earned his first ‘legitimate’ theatre role in the ‘homoerotic theatrical oddity’ called ‘Wolfboy’

Robb’s Keanu Reeves: An Excellent Adventure explains how the actor’s practice with Powell ultimately paid off. He earned his first “legitimate” theatre role in 1984’s Wolfboy. Brad Fraser wrote the production that Robb describes as a “homoerotic theatrical oddity.”

Robb continued that Reeves was cast “as a young innocent placed in a psychiatric hospital, only to be set upon by a deranged boy who believes he’s a werewolf.” However, the actor almost didn’t get the part, as Reeves didn’t particularly impress director John Palmer.

“His diction was a mess,” Palmer said. “He would skip words and say lines like he was trying to figure out what they meant.” Nevertheless, he saw a “star quality” in Reeves.

Carl Marotte co-stars as a street hustler who ultimately kills Reeves’ character with a bite to the neck. Both actors were hesitant regarding some of the “homoerotic undertones,” but Palmer tested their boundaries through photoshoots for the roles.

‘Wolfboy’ led to gay rumors

Wolfboy started rumors that Reeves could be gay, which followed him over the course of his career. This theatre production played well within Toronto’s gay community. “You get this innocent kid,” Palmer said to Robb. “One of the most gorgeous kids anyone’s ever seen, in white shorts – and we oiled them … what do you want for 10 bucks?”

One of Reeves’ friends said, “He had no qualms about the play … in fact, he was very enthusiastic because it was so offbeat and shocking.” Toronto critics weren’t as kind to the production as the gay community. Once Reeves achieved stardom, his name was removed from the Wolfboy credits.

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