The Bizarre Tale of the Orca II, the Stunt Boat from Jaws

Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Lynn and Susan Murphy
Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Lynn and Susan Murphy

In nautical circles, building a boat that proceeds to sink an astonishing 24 times would be considered a disaster. For the purposes of the crew tasked with filming 1975’s shark thriller Jaws, it meant they had done their job.

In an era before computer effects, director Steven Spielberg and production designer Joe Alves wanted their adaptation of the Peter Benchley novel—about a shark that terrorizes the tourist hub of Amity Island—to feel authentic. That meant shooting on location at Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, where they spent five agonizing months putting actors and several malfunctioning mechanical sharks in the water. Often, those scenes would be centered around the Orca, the fictitious shark-hunting boat manned by salty seaman Quint (Robert Shaw). For shots where the 42-foot Orca was assaulted by the atypically aggressive shark, Alves and his team substituted the functioning boat for the Orca II, a near-exact duplicate that had no motor but could sink on command. It’s the Orca II that takes up most of the screen time during the film’s climactic scene, when the shark decides to jump on the stern of the boat to take a bite out of both the vessel and Quint.

But the shark was not the only threat to the Orca II. After being decommissioned and put out of movie service, the replica boat would spend the next several decades being ransacked by Jaws fans and memorabilia collectors despite being located on private land. Frustrated and fed up, its owners would take a chainsaw to its fiberglass hull, leaving little more than a relic that was later visited by an archeologist fascinated with its status as a “fake” artifact.

In being looted by trespassers and ravaged by the sea, had the Orca II transformed into something other than a movie prop? Had it become a cultural touchstone worthy of closer examination, or had the film’s popularity exaggerated its significance? And after nearly 45 years, would there be anything left of the Orca II to even examine?

 

From the beginning, the Orca II may have been the only element of Jaws that worked as expected. The Universal film, which initially had a modest budget of $3.5 million, was directed by Spielberg, who had impressed executives with his television work and a 1974 feature, The Sugarland Express. Spielberg and screenwriter Carl Gottlieb rewrote Peter Benchley’s script, preserving only the bare bones of the story: A shark arrives during tourist season on Amity Island, throwing the town into an uproar. Chief of police Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) recruits a marine biologist named Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) and ornery old seaman Quint (Shaw) to protect their shores from the marine terror. Quint’s boat, the Orca, would be their maritime base of operations.

Alves tells Mental Floss that the need for a second stunt boat was obvious from the beginning. “I did 250 storyboards,” he says. “We knew the boat had to sink, and there was no way of sinking the real Orca and bringing it back.”

The working Orca was a 42-foot-long former lobster boat dubbed the Warlock that Alves had found near Marblehead, Massachusetts. The white boat was repainted in burgundy and black and accessorized with a pulpit and oversized windows, the better for a casual audience to identify it as a formidable shark-hunting vessel. It was part of a fleet of 16 ships the production used for filming on water, including multiple barges that towed boats and the mechanical sharks, as well as a catch-all vessel, the SS Garage Sale, that had dressing rooms and a bathroom for cast and crew. Speedboats could transport people or supplies back and forth from shore. Even with these ships, shooting on water was interminable, a fact that’s become part of Jaws lore.

The Jaws crew works on a platform between the Orca and Orca II.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Charlie Blair

“It’s so difficult,” Alves, who worked on three of the four Jaws films, says. “The water is non-consistent. You had to anchor boats with four anchors to control them.” Once, the Orca took on water and partially sank. It had to be pulled out, dried out, and have wood replaced, all in time to be ready for shooting the following day.

Knowing the actual boat could never withstand such repeated stresses, Alves commissioned the production crew to make a cast out of the Orca and use it to construct a fiberglass replica. On the surface, the Orca II was a mirror image of the Orca; the team ran props back and forth between the boats as needed. But underneath was much different. Without a motor, it had to be towed into place for shots. If it needed to sink, a crew member would use pneumatic tubes to tip the barrels mounted below the hull so they would begin to take on water, and the ship would be pulled into the depths. Once water was siphoned out, the barrels would regain their buoyancy and it would return to the surface. It was so convincing that production painter Ward Welton once jumped on board to try and start it—and got confused when he couldn’t find the motor. He thought it was the actual Orca.

What Alves needed in addition to the Orca II and the other boats were experienced boat operators. He found a local named Lynn Murphy while supervising the construction of Quint’s home in nearby Menemsha. “I hired him,” Alves says. “He had a little shack there where he kept his boat. He was yelling and screaming. I asked if he was a boat guy because we needed some.” Lynn and his wife, Susan, both came on the production to captain the boats and oversee their use. “Lynn knew a lot about boats. He got there and corrected some things. We started using him to tow the shark.”

That Alves witnessed Lynn yelling was not an unusual occurrence. The former auto mechanic, who operated Menemsha Marine Repair, was infamous in the area for his fiery temper. Following some kind of verbal dispute with harbor master Phil Le Vasseur in 1969, Lynn ended the argument by tossing the man into the harbor.

“He was a rough kind of sea guy,” Alves says. As the story goes, Spielberg was so enamored with Lynn’s persona that he directed Shaw to channel him for Quint. That makes sense to Alves, who says Shaw took inspiration from Lynn and that the two often went out for drinks after filming for the day.

(Tempestuous as he may have been, Lynn was also known for his selflessness. He was once commended by then-Senator John F. Kennedy for his bravery in securing boats and providing assistance during two major hurricanes in 1954.)

As difficult as filming was, it might have been impossible if not for the efforts of Lynn, Susan, and the other locals. Filming that was supposed to end in July dragged on through August and into September. Shots that would have been simple to do on land were at the mercy of unpredictable waters and unforeseen circumstances. Once, the Orca II sank a little too well, taking with it two Panavision cameras that cost Universal $24,000 a week to rent. Both cameras were full of film. In a panic, a crew member stuffed the film into a bucket of freshwater to try and prevent the saltwater from ruining the celluloid. He then jumped on a plane to New York in the hopes that Kodak could develop it in time. The footage was saved, but the fate of the cameras is unknown.

Joe Alves (L) and another crew member look on as the Orca II sinks on command.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by Edith Blake

Near the end of shooting, the Orca II was positioned for its biggest moment. In the final face-off between man and shark, the mechanical predator (nicknamed “Bruce” after Spielberg’s lawyer, Bruce Ramer) was to “jump” on the stern, destroying it and gobbling up Quint in the process. Alves had made several breakaway sterns for the Orca II out of balsa wood. “We had three sterns,” he says. “I wish we had four. I’m not that happy with how the shark landed. There’s not a lot of balsa wood in Martha’s Vineyard. We shipped it in from Los Angeles.”

In September, Spielberg finished principal photography. Alves and others stayed behind for pick-up shots, including one last sinking of the Orca II. Once the film was finally done, the crew hurried off. Virtually no thought was given to the movie even being any good, let alone concern for the props or production elements involved.

“The studio didn’t give a damn,” Alves says. The Orca was shipped to Hollywood, where it was sold to a special effects technician who wanted to use it for sword fishing. He paid $13,000. The Orca II was left behind.

 

Lynn Murphy saw a purpose for the Orca II, but not as a piece of memorabilia. As the owner of a salvage operation, his property on the shoreline of Menemsha Creek across from the small fishing village of Menemsha had several scrap boats and vehicles, including the SS Garage Sale and three barges used for the film. He paid Universal a nominal amount of $1 to buy the Orca II, intending to use the fiberglass to build a shed on his property. It really had no other purpose because it was not actually a boat.

“It was simply a prop,” Lynn’s wife, Susan, tells Mental Floss. “It had no bottom. There was nothing that could make it float. It was not seaworthy. The only thing that made it seaworthy was the tanks that were filled to keep it floating. That’s how it could sink on cue. The only reason he got it is because they practically gave it to him.”

The Orca II sits on the private property of Lynn and Susan Murphy. The Murphys took possession of the boat just after filming was completed in fall 1974.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

Lynn towed the Orca II to his private shoreline but quickly ran into a snag. The shed he intended to build was not approved by local building authorities. With little use for the replica boat, he decided to let it sit idle on shore. The Orca II was visible across the water to anyone walking near the shoreline on Menemsha. For the rest of 1974 and for part of 1975, that was not a remarkable fact. But when Jaws opened in June 1975, everything changed.

The film became Hollywood’s first real summer blockbuster, devouring box office records and sitting atop the list of the highest-grossing films of all time before Star Wars arrived two years later. Suddenly, Martha’s Vineyard was no longer just a spot for vacationers but a place to make a pilgrimage to Amity Island. Lynn Murphy’s boat was no longer a discarded hunk of fiberglass but the Orca II, sticking its mast out for all to see. People just assumed it was there for their enjoyment.

“It started to be picked to death,” Susan says. Fans of the movie—who were eventually labeled “finatics”—would come over by boat and begin tearing into the Orca II, yanking out nails, planks, and whatever else could be removed by hand. Quickly, the pulpit, mast, and fly bridge went missing. 

“I’ve known people who have gone over there and taken pieces,” Jim Beller, a Jaws historian and collector, tells Mental Floss. “They weren’t sure it was the right thing to do.” Some, Beller says, took a piece and then regretted it later.

“Sometimes we called the police,” Susan says. “They would meet people on the other side of the harbor after they got back on the road with the stuff and arrest them for trespassing and stealing.” Some arrived under cover of night, using flashlights. The Murphys put up “No Trespassing” signs to little avail. A peculiar sense of ownership seemed to empower fans of the movie to chip away at the Orca II, piece by piece. It is something of a wonder that Lynn Murphy, never long on patience, didn’t wind up in a confrontation with one.

The view of the Murphy property and the Orca II from Menemsha. The SS Garage Sale is on the left.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

“Lynn probably yelled at them to get away from the boat,” Susan says. “Whether he ever threw anyone overboard or got violent, I don’t think so.”

 

This went on for years; the Orca II seemed fated to be ransacked. According to Susan, towing it away was not really an option. It had arrived by water and there was nowhere else to put it. It was too large to drag further inland or display indoors. Partially pulled apart, it was likely of little interest to Universal, who had scrambled to buy back the Orca from the special effects technician after the movie was a hit so it could be put on display at Universal Studios as part of its Jaws ride. He reportedly charged them 10 times what he had paid them for it.

Out of options, the Murphys had little choice but to watch as the Orca II continued to be disassembled, both by fans and by the damaging saltwater washing over it. Souvenir hunters had even taken to yanking parts from the Far Star, a boat unrelated to Jaws that was located near the Orca II, leading to confusion over which was the genuine fake boat. Some posed for pictures, proudly displaying their technically-illegal gains.

“People get into a frenzy,” Susan says. “They think they can take anything they want. They were not really respectful to the movie they seemed to revere.”

The breaking point came in 2005, when the Murphys discovered that Martha’s Vineyard would be hosting Jawsfest, a weekend celebration of all things Jaws. Fans of the film would be coming to the island in greater numbers than ever before, and it was likely they would descend upon what was left of the Orca II like ants on a picnic.

The Murphys had enough. “Once we cut it up,” Susan says, “it was done.”

Taking a chainsaw to what remained of the fiberglass hull, the Murphys expedited the dissolution of the Orca II. They were left with 1000 fiberglass squares that measured 1 foot by 1 foot each. If fans wanted a souvenir, they could buy them in a proper transaction. The pieces did a brisk business, with certificates of authenticity from the Murphys. One piece reportedly sold on eBay for $1850.

The Orca II is seen out of the water. The barrels used to sink and raise it are visible underneath.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

In 2011, the Murphys entered into an agreement with co-authors Beller and Matt Taylor to contribute smaller pieces to a limited edition of Jaws: Memories from Martha’s Vineyard, a book that takes a comprehensive look at the making of the film and highlighted their contributions to the production. “Once the book came out and people found out how big a part in the movie we had, there was a certain element of respect that wasn’t there before,” Susan says. “I’m not one to hold a grudge. I have to let go of what happened to the Orca II and the difficulty we had in protecting it.”

That appeared to be the end of the Orca II, at least as far as its shore presence was concerned. But there was still at least one person curious about what remained.

 

The Jaws phenomenon that gripped the country in 1975 was not lost on P.J. Capelotti. When he was 14 years old, he caught the film seven times in one week when it was playing at the $1 cinema. “It’s one of those movies you could watch endlessly,” Capelotti tells Mental Floss.

Now a professor of anthropology at Penn State Abington, Capelotti was looking for a project that might prove to be slightly less strenuous than some of his archaeological pursuits of the past. In 2015, his daughter showed him an article in the Boston Globe about the 40th anniversary of Jaws. “It had a picture of two different Orcas, one that was actually a real vessel and one that was a mock-up of the real vessel,” he says. “I thought, ‘Cool.’ I’m a Jaws fanatic. I knew where it was.”

Capelotti was not in search of a souvenir but to assess the location itself, which had become the unlikeliest of archaeological sites, for a chapter in his 2018 book, Adventures in Archaeology. “I wanted to see what was left,” he says. By this time in May 2017, Lynn Murphy had passed away; the couple had sold the land to the Martha's Vineyard Land Bank, where it eventually wound up in the hands of a Native American tribe. To step foot on the land, visitors need permission from the natural resources department of the federally acknowledged Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah). Capelotti reached a friend at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to get approval. A 45-minute ferry ride got him to Vineyard Haven, and a 45-minute drive took him to the segment of West Basin Road that looks out opposite Menemsha. After a 45-minute hike across a salt marsh and white dunes, Capelotti finally found it: the final resting place of the Orca II.

The Orca II sinks on command as the crew looks on during the filming of Jaws.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories from Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

Above the sand and shallow water, the only thing that remained were six stanchions from the metal framework that was beneath the hull and held the barrels. Together, it measured 18 feet, 6 inches long and 8 feet wide. Some short lengths of the pneumatic tubing to assist in the sinking were also there. Nearby, what was left of the Far Star continued to erode, though it retained a boat-like shape. Some 60 feet away was the SS Garage Sale, the utility vessel from filming. It was all little more than a little bit of rubber, metal, and outlines in the sand. Whatever might be buried farther down went undisturbed. “I didn’t have permission to excavate into the sand,” Capelotti says.

Had it not been for exposure and overzealous fans, it’s likely the Orca II and its fiberglass frame would have outlived the original Orca, which went missing from the Jaws ride in 1996 and was thought to have deteriorated to the point that it sank and subsequently broke in half during an attempt to salvage it.

With the Orca II stripped down to its bones, Capelotti saw more than the vestiges of the prop it once was. It was a lesson in the fragility of cultural artifacts.

“Most sites we work on [in archaeology] have been reduced steadily over time,” he says. “The stone in the Roman Coliseum was looted in the Middle Ages to make homes for people in Rome.”

Susan Murphy continues to sell pieces of the Orca II, which she mounts in a shadowbox for $130 plus shipping. They still move at a steady clip, and Susan says she has enough inventory to keep Jaws fans supplied for the foreseeable future. Purchasing one requires some imagination. Stripped of paint, the fiberglass pieces aren’t easily identifiable as something that was once part of the iconic vessel that helped bring down one of the most terrifying horror villains in movie history.

The Orca II stands tall during filming.Courtesy of Jaws: Memories form Martha's Vineyard // Photo by the Hazen Family

“I have a piece of the red part of the Orca II, a big piece, but you wouldn’t know what it was,” Beller says.

If the Orca II had remained intact, Capelotti believes it could have been destined to sell for an incredible sum to a collector. “Dorothy’s ruby slippers [from The Wizard of Oz] are valued at millions of dollars,” he says. “Imagine what something like the Orca II would have been worth.”

Sometimes, Beller says, there are renewed talks of a fan building a full-scale replica. No one has fully committed to such an ambitious and expensive project, though. To date, nothing has surfaced, and the Orca II lives on only on film and in photos. But that doesn't mean it's been entirely forgotten.

Not long ago, Alves was at a convention, Shark Con, when he was approached by a father and daughter who presented him with a small piece of metal. “What’s this?” he said. The two explained they had been to West Basin Road—presumably without tribal permission—and had taken what they believed to be a souvenir of the Orca II. This time, though, things went a little differently.

“They gave it to me,” Alves says.

Additional Source: Adventures in Archaeology.

Take Advantage of Amazon's Early Black Friday Deals on Tech, Kitchen Appliances, and More

Amazon
Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Even though Black Friday is still a few days away, Amazon is offering early deals on kitchen appliances, tech, video games, and plenty more. We will keep updating this page as sales come in, but for now, here are the best Amazon Black Friday sales to check out.

Kitchen

Instant Pot/Amazon

- Instant Pot Duo Plus 9-in-115 Quart Electric Pressure Cooker; $90 (save $40) 

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- KitchenAid KSMSFTA Sifter with Scale Attachment; $95 (save $75) 

- Keurig K-Mini Coffee Maker; $60 (save $20)

- Cuisinart Bread Maker; $88 (save $97)

- Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker; $139 (save $60)

- Aicook Juicer Machine; $35 (save $15)

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- Longzon Silicone Stretch Lids - Set of 14; $13 (save $14)

HadinEEon Milk Frother; $37 (save $33)

Home Appliances

Roomba/Amazon

- iRobot Roomba 675 Robot Vacuum with Wi-Fi Connectivity; $179 (save $101)

- Fairywill Electric Toothbrush with Four Brush Heads; $19 (save $9)

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- Bissell air320 Smart Air Purifier with HEPA and Carbon Filters; $280 (save $50)

Oscillating Quiet Cooling Fan Tower; $59 (save $31) 

TaoTronics PTC 1500W Fast Quiet Heating Ceramic Tower; $55 (save $10)

Vitamix 068051 FoodCycler 2 Liter Capacity; $300 (save $100)

AmazonBasics 8-Sheet Home Office Shredder; $33 (save $7)

Ring Video Doorbell; $70 (save $30) 

Video games

Sony

- Marvel's Spider-Man: Game of The Year Edition for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $20)

- Marvel's Avengers; $27 (save $33)

- Minecraft Dungeons Hero Edition for Nintendo Switch; $20 (save $10)

- The Last of Us Part II for PlayStation 4; $30 (save $30)

- LEGO Harry Potter: Collection; $15 (save $15)

- Ghost of Tsushima; $40 (save $20)

BioShock: The Collection; $20 (save $30)

The Sims 4; $20 (save $20)

God of War for PlayStation 4; $10 (save $10)

Days Gone for PlayStation 4; $20 (save $6)

Luigi's Mansion 3 for Nintendo Switch; $40 (save $20)

Computers and tablets

Microsoft/Amazon

- Apple MacBook Air 13 inches with 256 GB; $899 (save $100)

- New Apple MacBook Pro 16 inches with 512 GB; $2149 (save $250) 

- Samsung Chromebook 4 Chrome OS 11.6 inches with 32 GB; $210 (save $20) 

- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 with 13.5 inch Touch-Screen; $1200 (save $400)

- Lenovo ThinkPad T490 Laptop; $889 (save $111)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Tablet (64GB); $120 (save $70)

- Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet (32 GB); $130 (save $70)

- Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8 inches with 32 GB; $100 (save $50)

Apple iPad Mini (64 GB); $379 (save $20)

- Apple iMac 27 inches with 256 GB; $1649 (save $150)

- Vankyo MatrixPad S2 Tablet; $120 (save $10)

Tech, gadgets, and TVs

Apple/Amazon

- Apple Watch Series 3 with GPS; $179 (save $20) 

- SAMSUNG 75-inch Class Crystal 4K Smart TV; $998 (save $200)

- Apple AirPods Pro; $169 (save $50)

- Nixplay 2K Smart Digital Picture Frame 9.7 Inch Silver; $238 (save $92)

- All-New Amazon Echo Dot with Clock and Alexa (4th Gen); $39 (save $21)

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- Anker Soundcore Upgraded Bluetooth Speaker; $22 (save $8)

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Canon EOS M50 Mirrorless Camera with EF-M 15-45mm Lens; $549 (save $100)

DR. J Professional HI-04 Mini Projector; $93 (save $37)

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25 Excellent Facts About Keanu Reeves

Jason Merritt, Getty Images
Jason Merritt, Getty Images

Keanu Reeves has been a Hollywood fixture since the mid-1980s, shifting from early dramatic turns in films like River’s Edge (1986) to action thrillers like Speed (1994), The Matrix (1999), and John Wick (2014) and an indelible performance as Theodore “Ted” Logan in the Bill & Ted franchise.

For more on the actor, including why he believed he was sent to “movie jail” for a decade, read on.

1. Despite—or perhaps because of—his multicultural background, Keanu Reeves has never become an American citizen.

Sebastian Willnow, AFP/Getty Images

Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1964, Reeves moved to Sydney, Australia and then New York City and (eventually) Toronto, following his mother Patricia’s wedding to her second husband. Born of Chinese, English, Irish, Native Hawaiian, and Portuguese descent, Reeves maintained a connection to the Canadian city where he spent the most time as a child before obtaining a green card through his American stepfather. To this day, and despite his success in America, Reeves maintains his Canadian citizenship.

2. Hockey kept Keanu Reeves busy as a kid.

In Toronto, Reeves became swept up in the appeal of ice hockey. He played throughout school and even co-coached a hockey club. While there, Reeves had an opportunity to try out for the Windsor Spitfires, a hockey team in the Ontario Hockey League. Reeves turned it down, believing his future was in performing. Later, he would portray a hockey pro alongside Patrick Swayze and Rob Lowe in 1986’s Youngblood.

3. When Keanu Reeves was a kid, Alice Cooper used to hang out at his house.

Reeves’s mother was a costume designer, which likely contributed to his interest in the performing arts. He told Us magazine in 1995 that she made him some elaborate Halloween costumes—Dracula, Batman, Cousin Itt—and often had some of her clients over to the house. Among them: Alice Cooper. “I remember he brought fake vomit and dog poo to terrorize the housekeeper,” Reeves said. “He’d hang out, a regular dude.”

4. One of Keanu Reeves’s earliest roles was in a Coca-Cola commercial.

After getting parts on stage and Canadian television, Reeves landed a part as a cyclist in a Coke commercial in the 1980s. In 2018, The Late Late Show host James Corden asked the actor about the gig; Reeves remembered shooting over a three-day period, during which he drank “so many Coca-Colas.” In full commitment to the role, he also shaved his legs to look more believable as a cyclist.

5. Keanu Reeves almost renamed himself “Chuck Spadina.”

When Reeves came out to Los Angeles in the 1980s, he found that some casting agents were resistant to having him come in for auditions because his first name (which means “cool breeze over the mountains”) was hard to pronounce and seemingly too exotic. In order to combat this hurdle, Reeves began using “K.C. Reeves,” “Chuck Spadina,” and “Page Templeton III” instead. Reeves eventually abandoned the practice because he would go to auditions and tell them his real name anyway.

6. Keanu Reeves has a deep love for motorcycles.

Caroline Bonarde Ucci, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

Reeves first learned to ride a motorcycle while shooting a film in Germany, and purchased one for himself the moment he returned to the U.S. His favorite bike is the 1973 Norton Commando. He also bankrolled a custom motorcycle dealership, Arch Motorcycle Company.

7. Keanu Reeves also has an extensive history of motorcycle-related injuries.

If Reeves doesn’t ride his bike as fast (or often) as he used to, it’s because he’s been in a number of serious accidents while riding them. He has lost teeth, broken his ankle, gotten road rash, and ruptured his spleen, amongst other injuries.

8. In addition to his performances in River’s Edge, Dangerous Liaisons, and Parenthood, Keanu Reeves moonlighted in a music video.

In the same year Reeves appeared in Lawrence Kasdan’s I Love You to Death, he also appeared in the music video for Paula Abdul’s “Rush Rush,” the lead single from her sophomore album of the same name. Directed by Stefan Wurnitzer, the clip recreates moments from Rebel Without a Cause using locations from the original film, with Reeves playing the James Dean role opposite Abdul as Natalie Wood’s.

9. Keanu Reeves has been willing to defer his salary to get other actors in his movies.

Reeves has worked with an impressive list of actors in his career, including Al Pacino (1997’s The Devil’s Advocate), Gene Hackman (2000’s The Replacements), and Jack Nicholson (2003’s Something’s Gotta Give). In at least the first two instances, Reeves willingly deferred his compensation in order for the productions to free up some of their budget to be able to afford the actors.

"Is that all I have to do?" he recalled asking producers. "Sure! What else do I have to do? ‘Cause I’ll do it!"

10. Keanu Reeves’s commercial success has resulted in him subsidizing more than just a few high-profile casting choices.

Beyond deferring paychecks to work alongside the likes of Pacino and Nicholson, Reeves has earned more than enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life with a net worth reportedly along the lines of $360 million. But he gave away a portion of his salary for The Matrix sequels to provide more money for the visual effects and costume departments. And as a reward for those same stunt teams, Reeves recognized their great work by gifting them with Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

11. Keanu Reeves’s friendship with River Phoenix led to them co-starring in My Own Private Idaho.

Reeves and River Phoenix first became best friends on the set of I Love You to Death. Writer-director Gus Van Sant had written the script for My Own Private Idaho decades earlier, but continually found difficulty obtaining funding for it. However, after sending the script to Reeves, the young actor was so struck by it that he drove more than 1000 miles on his motorcycle to hand-deliver a copy to Phoenix. The two men agreed to star in the film on each other’s behalf, and history was made.

12. Keanu Reeves has been injured or sidelined by illness multiple times during shooting.

Reeves is known to be a trouper when it comes to shooting through pain, disability, and sickness, and his dedication to his colleagues is legendary. Several of his co-stars on The Matrix were injured during the wire work sequences on the film, and Reeves dealt with a spinal injury during filming when two of the discs in his back began to fuse together. He also suffered a neck injury which required fight coordinator Yuen Woo-Ping to create sequences that didn’t involve as much kicking. Later, he fought through an ankle injury before filming even began on The Matrix Reloaded. And during an extended sequence in the first John Wick movie, a scene in which Reeves's character battles several dozen adversaries in a nightclub, he finished his work despite a 103 degree fever.

13. Keanu Reeves says turning down Speed 2 put him in “movie jail” for 10 years.

After the success of 1994’s Speed, where Reeves portrayed a cop trying to save the lives of people trapped on a bus rigged to explode if it dips below 50 miles an hour, the studio was understandably eager for a sequel. At the time he was shown the script, Reeves was shooting the 1996 action film Chain Reaction and was growing wary of roles where he was “running and jumping” for little to no reason. He turned Speed 2 down, a move that he believed led to a decade of “movie jail” where he was offered no other roles by Fox. Ultimately, the sequel was made; Reeves was replaced by Jason Patric, who co-starred with Sandra Bullock in 1997’s Speed 2: Cruise Control. The film was not well-received, and Reeves appears to have no regrets about saying no to it. At the time he turned it down, he recalled telling director Jan de Bont, “You know, boats aren’t that fast.”

14. Keanu Reeves only became a part of Keanu at the last minute.

John Wick and the 2014 action-comedy Keanu were developed independently from one another, and early reporting about the latter film indicated it was a parody of the former. Consequently, Reeves’s management turned down an offer to appear in the second film without notifying their client. But when Reeves saw the initial trailers for Keanu, he reached out to filmmaker Peter Atencio and got involved, leading to the cameo in which he provides the voice of the eponymous kitten.

15. It’s possible that Keanu Reeves accidentally married Winona Ryder.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

While shooting 1992’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Reeves and Winona Ryder—who played Jonathan and Mina Harker, respectively—appear in a scene in which their characters get married. Ryder later pointed out that director Francis Ford Coppola used a real priest in the scene and that both actors said their vows, meaning they might actually be married. Coppola agreed with this theory, although it’s not known whether the priest used their character names or the actors' real names during shooting.

16. Without Keanu Reeves, Weezer might not exist.

Reeves began the music project Dogstar after a chance encounter at a grocery store with drummer/ percussionist Robert Mailhouse in 1991. The band’s success was decidedly muted at best, but Reeves’s celebrity drove fans to the band and they toured successfully for several years in addition to recording several albums. Among the bands that performed with them on tour was Weezer, who played their first ever gig in 1992 as an opener for Dogstar.

17. Keanu Reeves has been booed offstage.

Reeves infamously toured with his band, Dogstar, in the 1990s, which played what he once described as “like, folk music,” or “folk thrash.” When they were invited to play Metalfest in Milwaukee, the band stood out in sharp contrast to the heavier acts on the bill. Reeves recalled that the crowd “threw beer at us and told us to f*** off and yelled, ‘You suck!’ It was beautiful. It made me laugh.”

18. Keanu Reeves was tricked into appearing in The Watcher.

Keanu Reeves in 2008.Mike Flokis, Getty Images

In 2000’s The Watcher, Reeves plays against his typical onscreen affability as a serial killer in a cat-and-mouse game with a detective (James Spader). According to Reeves, he was actually tricked into appearing in the film when a (presumably former) friend forged his signature on the contract. Daunted by the prospect of trying to prove it was a forgery, he decided to go ahead and do the movie. “I couldn’t prove he did and I didn’t want to get sued, so I had no other choice but to do the film,” he said.

19. Keanu Reeves supports several charitable causes.

After his sister was diagnosed with leukemia, Reeves founded a private cancer foundation—not in his own name—to provide research and assist children’s hospitals. He additionally supported Stand Up to Cancer and SickKids Foundations with generous contributions, to facilitate pediatric research.

20. Keanu Reeves has a recurring role on a tv show you've probably never heard of.

It’s not unusual for film actors to take roles in one of the many prestige television series airing on streaming and premium networks. Reeves, however, seems to have taken a low-key approach to television, opting for a small recurring role in Swedish Dicks, a U.S. and Scandinavian co-production about two private detectives from Sweden trying to earn a living in Los Angeles. Reeves’s friend, actor Peter Stormare, is one of the stars. The comedy airs on the Pop TV channel in the U.S.

21. Keanu Reeves has published books of his own poetry.

In 2011, Reeves collaborated with artist Alexandra Grant for Ode to Happiness, a limited-run book featuring a poem written by Reeves and accompanied by Grant’s illustrations for each line. The composition (“I draw a hot sorrow bath”) is self-aware in its overwrought approach that Grant likened to a “grown-up children’s book.” The two have since gone on to work on 2016’s Shadows, a similar poem and art project featuring photos of Reeves, and are now pursuing their own publishing imprint, X Artists’ Books, to showcase titles with a visual aesthetic that are sold via art stores or an online subscription.

22. Keanu Reeves has always actively participated in the physical preparation required for his roles.

Gearing up for Point Break, Reeves spent weeks and weeks learning how to surf, and developed the sport as a hobby. When Reeves was cast in Speed, the actor spent several months gaining muscle for the role. By the time it came to shoot the scene in which his character Jack Traven jumps from a moving car onto the bus, Jan De Bont was convinced that a stunt man would be required, but Reeves has practiced in private and was able to wow the director with his preparation and skill in pulling off the stunt. And just for the scene where Neo emerges from his pod inside The Matrix, Reeves shaved his entire body and lost 15 pounds for what amounted to just a few short minutes of screen time.

23. Keanu Reeves’s passion for—and recognition of—other storytellers’ passion—has led to many of his iconic roles.

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As described above multiple times, Keanu took a part or played a role because of an actor ot storyteller’s dedication to a project. Always Be My Maybe was no exception. Casting him in the film was considered a “pipe dream” by director Nahnatchka Khan, but the actor was a longtime fan of comedian and star Ali Wong, so when the opportunity arose, he reworked his schedule to accommodate the film. He even ended up contributing a handful of ideas that expanded his character (at his own expense), like wearing glasses that had no lenses.

24. The John Wick franchise might not exist without The Matrix.

Niko Tavernise, Lionsgate

Reeves signed to star in the film, originally titled Scorn, after Thunder Road Pictures acquired Derek Kolstad’s script. He subsequently reached out to Chad Stahelski and David Leitch to see if they were interested in choreographing or directing the action of the film, after Stahelski performed as Reeves’s stunt double in The Matrix, and he and Leitch later helped choreograph action in the sequels. It was their vision for the film that inspired Reeves to back them not just as stunt coordinators but co-directors for the film.

25. Without John Wick, there might not have been a Bill & Ted Face the Music.

Reeves hadn’t seriously thought about reprising the role of Theodore “Ted” Logan until 2005 when a red carper reporter asked him about returning to the character. It took another five years before Alex Winter had created an idea that everyone felt was substantial or worthy enough to explore for another film. The project spent another several years languishing in development thanks to the commercial prospects of the stars, but the success of John Wick rekindled studio interest in making a third film. That franchise’s success generated heat for all of the films he was attached to, and Bill & Ted 3 picked up steam from there.