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Keanu Reeves went to "movie jail" for turning down Speed 2 to play Hamlet in Canada

Photo: Jamie McCarthy (Getty Images)

GQ has a lengthy Keanu Reeves profile out today in anticipation of John Wick’s third killing spree. Throughout, the eternally delightful Reeves delivers plenty of the unforced humility that makes him easy to root for, but here’s a particularly good tidbit among many: Keanu says he found himself effectively blacklisted from Fox productions for the better part of a decade because he passed on Speed 2: Cruise Control in favor of a local production of Hamlet in Winnipeg.

GQ spells it out thusly:

You’d think he’d have his choice of projects. But you’d be surprised. “Movie jail” is real. He’s been there. He was excommunicado at Fox for a decade after turning down Speed 2 to go play Hamlet onstage in fucking Winnipeg: “I didn’t work with [Fox] again until The Day the Earth Stood Still.”

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That sorta checks out. Reeves most certainly did not appear in the Speed sequel, having been replaced by second-string ‘90s drama guy Jason Patric. And Reeves did indeed star in a Winnipeg production of Hamlet in late 1994 and early 1995, photos of which you can and absolutely should see. Speed 2 was a bomb, hurt by the absence of Reeves and, we’d like to add, original screenwriter Graham Yost. Also, it does seem that Fox decided to freeze Reeves out: It was 14 years until they’d bring him on 2008's The Day The Earth Stood Still.

It is, however, worth noting that Speed 2 started shooting at the end of 1996 and, at the time Reeves was trodding the boards as the prince of Denmark, you could probably still catch Speed at discount theaters. What Reeves did shoot as Cruise Control was unfolding was 1997's The Devil’s Advocate, a film for rival studio Warner Brothers that maybe had more to do with his blacklisting than the Manitoba Theatre Centre’s Hamlet. Still, time is tricky in these kinds of scenarios; it’s very likely that development on Speed 2 was supposed to begin much sooner, and that his trip to the Great White North gummed up the works. Somewhere, we’d like to imagine, some producer is still lamenting the time Reeves bailed on a studio tentpole to pontificate at a skull in Canada.

Reeves will justify his choice any time you like. In a 2014 interview with Jimmy Kimmel, he claimed he turned down the sequel because “a cruise ship is even slower than a bus.” As for his relationship with Fox, Reeves also once told the Toronto Star that he believed the studio put out “propaganda” that he had passed on Speed 2 to tour with his band, Dogstar, which was indeed a rumor at the time. In that same interview Reeves points out that he had just done another very physical role in 1996's Chain Reaction, an experience he found unrewarding and was loath to repeat. (Reeves was also recovering from a broken ankle, one of many injuries throughout his career.)

Check out the rest of the article over at GQ for more on Reeves, including his thoughts on the appropriate bread for a BLT sandwich.

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About the author

Gabe Worgaftik

Contributor, The A.V. Club.