How Did Key & Peele Land Their Big Keanu Cameo?



With a title like Keanu, it would be a little disappointing if the actual man didn’t show up. And that’s almost what happened. Keanu Reeves was asked to appear in the cat comedy caper, which has a storyline very similar to his own John Wick. His representatives declined the offer. It wasn’t until very late in the game that Reeves decided he wanted to be a part of the movie, which will certainly help solidify its status as a cult hit.

It’s unclear if Keanu Reeves’ representatives even gave him the option to appear in the movie when it was originally presented to them. But what got the actor on board was his sister, who fell in love with the first trailer released back in February. The story, written by Key & Peele, revolves around two buddies searching for a lost cat. Reeves’ sister thought it looked hilarious and showed him the footage, telling the actor that he definitely needed to get involved.

But it was almost too late. The movie was nearly finished by the time Keanu Reeves reached out to lend a helping hand. Keanu was set to premiere at the SXSW Film Festival this past March when director Peter Atencio decided he needed to make this happen. With the movie shot and locked, he needed to hurry and figure out a way that his team could incorporate the real Keanu. In a recent interview with The LA Times, the filmmaker explains how it all went down.

“We were like, ‘Should we? Is this a good idea?’ When ‘John Wick‘ came out, we were kind of like, ‘Oh, my God. This is crazy. There’s a movie that has a very similar process that stars Keanu. In a way, that almost kind of deterred us. We didn’t want to seem like we we were making a ‘John Wick’ parody. But the studio kept asking, ‘Can we get Keanu? Can we get Keanu?’ [His representatives] politely declined. Who knows if he ever even heard about the offer. But then we got a call after the trailer came out – apparently, his sister showed him the trailer and said, ‘Hey, you gotta see this. You’re gonna love this!’ He flipped out and got in touch with us directly to say ‘If there’s anything I can do, let’s make this work.’ We had a scene in the movie where Peele’s character is on a drug trip, and a cat kind of leads him through his hallucinations. We wanted to expand on that anyway, so we thought he could do the voiceover for the cat in that scene. His personality has just transcended life, in a lot of ways. You wouldn’t have ever guessed that the guy from ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ would turn out to be this thoughtful, kind man. He was in Italy making ‘John Wick 2’, so we had him go to a recording studio in Rome. I was on Skype with him, and I spent an hour recording a bunch of dialogue. They hooked it up so that I could talk and he could hear it in his headphones. The studio [Warner Bros.] was wanting him to drop a bunch of references to his old movies. But we didn’t want to make it overt or too pointed. We don’t want him to do, like, his ‘Bill and Ted’ voice and beat you over the head with it. And he had great ideas for lines. He was having fun with it. He is credited in the end credits, but those weren’t ready at SXSW.”

In the movie, it is never really explained why the cat is named Keanu. The team behind the movie didn’t want everyone waiting for some big pay off involving the actor. So they subtly acknowledged that Keanu Reeves is the inspiration behind the kitten’s name. Director Peter Atencio goes onto explain that the title is a nod to Reeves movies and style. An invitation is out to Keanu to attend the premiere of the movie, happening soon in Hollywood. But no one knows if he’ll show up.

In Keanu, recently dumped slacker Rell (Jordan Peele) finds some happiness when a cute kitten winds up on his doorstep. After a heartless thief steals the cat, Rell recruits his cousin Clarence (Keegan-Michael Key) to help him retrieve it. They soon learn that a thug named Cheddar (Method Man) has the animal, and he’ll only give it back if the two men agree to work for him. Armed with guns and a gangster attitude, it doesn’t take long for the hapless duo to land in big trouble.



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