This Keanu Reeves Character Was Almost Played By Nicolas Cage

In the canon of Keanu Reeves’ career, John Constantine only comes up sporadically. Reeves’ trademark roles have been Bill S. Preston, Johnny Utah, Neo or John Wick. John Constantine of the Hellblazer comics got his own movie in 2005, before Matt Ryan went on to play him on television. Reeves played an Americanized version, but he took over the role from Nicolas Cage.

Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves | Stephane De Sakutin//AFP via Getty Images

Reeves was on a panel with Constantine director Francis Lawrence and producer Akiva Goldsman for San Diego Comic-Con@Home on July 25. Reeves and Goldsman shared how the Cage version of Constantine became Reeves.

Before Keanu Reeves, Nicolas Cage was going to play John Constantine

Add Constantine to the slate of comic book films Cage was supposed to make. He got close to Superman Lives and eventually got to play Ghost Rider twice. John Constantine came his way too.

Nicolas Cage and John Woo
L-R: John Woo directs Nicolas Cage in Face/Off | Touchstone/Getty Images

RELATED: ‘Tiger King’: Why Nicolas Cage Is Perfect For the Role of Joe Exotic

“I had a deal at Warner Brothers at the time,” Goldsman said. “I was trying to convince people to let me be a producer. The script laying around, which was really compelling, and [executives] Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Bob Brassel and I put it together with Nic Cage and Tarsem directing. We started prepping the movie and then we stopped prepping the movie, and the movie went to sleep for a while.”

‘Constantine’ came back and went to Keanu Reeves

The next time Goldsman heard about Constantine, Lawrence was up for the directing gig. Reeves was attached to the title role.

“Slowly but surely, the idea was durable enough, like many interesting scripts, to outlive whatever struggles it had,” Goldsman said. “There was this video director who was really something So began this restructuring of Constantine with the three of us playing various parts in order to try to get it up and alive again.”

Keanu Reeves Constantine
Keanu Reeves | Vince Bucci/Getty Images

RELATED: Keanu Reeves’ ‘Constantine’ Should Have Been DC’s Answer to Marvel’s ‘Blade,’ But It Might Not Be Too Late

Reeves only learned about the character when he was offered the role.

“I wasn’t familiar with the character,” Reeves said. “I hadn’t read Hellblazer or seen any of the Alan Moore stuff in Swamp Thing. So I didn’t know the character. It was brought to me by my manager at hte time, Erwin Stoff.”

How ‘Constantine’ found the right John Constantine

Lawrence and Reeves recalled their first meeting together fondly. Then, Reeves deled deeper into John Constantine and fell in love. Reeves’ portrayal of the exorcist and demonologist takes some liberties with the comic books, but still captured the spirit of what Reeves loved about the character.

Constantine Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves | Franco Origlia/Getty Images

RELATED: Keanu Reeves Is Not the Reason That a ‘Constantine’ Reboot Is Not Being Made — He ‘Would Love To Do Another’

I really loved the script. Then I did some research on the character and I was not hesitant, but I’m not English and I’m not blonde. The character is. So I had to reconcile that and part of that was, what was at the base of the character? What could I bring to the character? Why even do it? It’s such a beautiful character, this kind of humanitarian cynic kind of tired worldweary, tired of all of the rules and morals and ethics and angels and demons, but still a part of it. I loved his sense of humor so I was really excited.

Keanu Reeves, Constantine 15th anniversary panel for San Diego Comic-Con@Home, 7/25/2020