20 Showstopping Facts About Center Stage for Its 20th Anniversary

Did Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" start playing in your head when you saw this photo?
Did Jamiroquai's "Canned Heat" start playing in your head when you saw this photo?
RGR Collection / Alamy Stock Photo

On May 12, 2000, Center Stage burst into movie theaters across the nation, featuring some of the best ballet dancers in the industry, a bright-eyed and talented newcomer named Amanda Schull, and Peter Gallagher’s critically acclaimed eyebrows. Two full decades later, it’s become a cult classic that anyone who’s spent more than a few hours in a ballet studio still can’t stop talking about. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, go behind the scenes of the movie that got so much right about what ballet is like behind the scenes.

1. Center Stage's producers wanted to cast a high-profile actor for the role of Jody Sawyer.

Amanda Schull, fulfilling her acting destiny since 2000.Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Director Nicholas Hytner, a knowledgeable ballet fan himself, was committed to making Center Stage as authentic as possible, and that meant casting professional dancers. Producers were on board with his vision to a certain extent, but they were still somewhat set on an already-established actor to play Jody Sawyer ... until they auditioned some of Hollywood’s bright young stars and realized the only way the film would work was with a bona fide ballerina in the lead role. So a scout set out from coast to coast, combing top ballet companies in search of the perfect fit. After auditioning a few company members from the San Francisco Ballet to no avail, the casting director headed to the floor below, where students at the ballet school were rehearsing.

“We were told jokingly by the choreographer that some big Hollywood producer was coming in, and it was like, wild horses were not going to stop me from getting in this movie,” Amanda Schull tells Mental Floss. “I didn’t know what I was auditioning for, but I was going to get it.” Though Schull hadn’t ever acted onscreen (she did have some musical theater experience), she had always entertained the idea of becoming an actor; in fact, her classmates had once voted her most likely to do just that.

“It was just like all roads had led to that moment, and I jumped higher, and kicked higher,” she says—and it worked. The casting director asked her to read for the part of Jody on the spot. She was also asked to read for Maureen, but found out later that the casting director had fully planned on casting her as Jody; she just wanted more footage of her on tape.

2. Amanda Schull had a lot in common with her Center Stage character.

Schull’s story of being cast as Jody Sawyer is loosely reminiscent of Jody’s own storyline in the film, and the similarities don’t end there. Schull says the casting director had glimpsed her getting some of the same corrections as Jody does and Schull, like Jody, doesn’t have great feet (in other words, her feet don’t have very high, curved arches).

Her training was mainly ballet, too, so Jody’s behavior in the jazz class was pretty authentic. “I was supposed to look a little bit out-of-place and also look like I wasn’t getting it quite as quickly,” she says. “I think, probably, I didn’t have to do a lot of acting when it came to that part.”

That said, there are a few key differences between the two: Schull doesn’t have an issue with her turnout (a ballet term for how far you can rotate your hips and legs outward, so that your feet form one perfectly straight line when your heels are together), which plagues Jody throughout the film. Schull had also never had “some wild, illicit one-night stand with a company member, so that box wasn’t ticked.”

3. The motorcycle was added after Ethan Stiefel was cast in Center Stage.

Ethan Stiefel is a motorcycle aficionado in real life, a detail that filmmakers quickly co-opted for the leather jacket-wearing, rule-breaking character of Cooper Nielson after casting Stiefel—he even got to ride his own bike in the film. As for how the motorcycle made its way into the final performance, we have Tony-winning choreographer Susan Stroman to thank for that.

“People kept saying, ‘He rides a motorcycle, he rides a motorcycle, he rides a motorcycle.’ And I thought, ‘Well, OK, why don’t we put a motorcycle in the ballet?’ And [Ethan] was thrilled to be able to drive his motorcycle onstage,” Stroman told Vulture.

4. Sascha Radetsky originally auditioned for the role of Sergei in Center Stage.

Sascha Radetsky and wife Stella Abrera (also a Center Stage alum) in a 2007 performance of Othello.Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

Sascha Radetsky, then a member of American Ballet Theatre’s (ABT) corps de ballet, had trained briefly at the Bolshoi Academy in Moscow and even spoke Russian. He auditioned to play Sergei, the charismatic expat who salsas up a storm with an older woman and puts his whole heart into proclaiming “I am your slave,” while kneeling in front of Eva (Zoë Saldana). That role, however, went to Ilia Kulik, the Russian figure skater who had recently won the gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics.

Meanwhile, producers were strongly considering ABT principal dancer Ángel Corella for a Latino character named Carlos. But finding time to film in Corella’s schedule proved difficult, and their plans were further foiled when Corella injured his ankle during a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House. Instead of looking for a direct replacement, they used it as an opportunity to reimagine the character as a boy-next-door type to offset ballet bad boy Cooper Nielson. Radetsky was called back in and given the role, who was renamed Charlie.

5. Center Stage marked Zoë Saldana’s film debut.

Zoe Saldana at a New York fashion show in 2001, probably smiling at the box office smashes in her future.Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

When she was cast in Center Stage, Zoë Saldana was an unknown aspiring actor with a few theater credits, a newly minted SAG card, and a background in ballet. Though she hadn’t danced in a few years, Saldana’s commitment to portraying a realistic ballerina made her stand out even among professional company members.

“I loved my scenes with Zoë Saldana,” Donna Murphy, who plays ballet teacher Juliette Simone, told Vulture. “It may have been the first day of filming, and I recognized the way that she was just so focused. I just remember coming out of that saying, ‘That girl’s gonna be a star.’ I mean everybody there was disciplined, everybody, but there was something about her.”

Saldana remembers her first film experience fondly, too. “Everybody that comes up to me because they recognize me from things I’ve been in, I would say maybe half of the people reference Center Stage,” she told Vulture. “The fact that they’re able to remember it years later makes me feel so good—that I was a part of something that made a time in their lives special.”

6. The dancers put their own spin on choreography, clothing, and behavior to make scenes in Center Stage more realistic.

Hytner was always receptive to dancers’ feedback on what wouldn’t be realistic in the dance world, and they made edits as they saw fit.

“There was one scene where I’m supposed to be in first position, and one of the instructors comes over and kind of kicks my feet out into a better first,” Schull remembers. “And they wanted me to be so turned in, I was like ‘She would never have gotten into this school [with that turnout].’” So Schull stuck with a first position that was somewhere between too perfect and totally implausible.

They made subtle changes to their outfits, too. “One of the other girls was wearing her black tights tucked into her ballet shoes, and I don’t know any dancer who would do that,” Schull says. “Often we wear our tights over our leotards, rather than the tights underneath, so little wardrobe tweaks.” The differences might seem negligible to viewers who have never danced, but those familiar with ballet would pick up on them right away.

7. The dancers sometimes advised the career actors in Center Stage on how to act more like dancers.

Peter Gallagher walking with graceful flair in 2002.Evan Agostini/ImageDirect

On at least two occasions, helping the actors portray ballet dancers more convincingly came down to teaching them how to walk the right way at the right time.

“There was one scene where [Susan May Pratt’s] character [Maureen] was supposed to come forward and demonstrate, and we’re all in the back kind of rolling our eyes,” Schull recounts. “The on-set ballet master wanted her to walk forward very elaborately, as if she were performing … And I remember suggesting to Susan, you know, don’t go quite so overboard. Because she wasn’t a dancer and she had never been in ballet class before, so she was just doing what she was being told.” If someone had walked forward to demonstrate a combination with stage-level drama in a regular class, Schull said it would basically be like “asking for a slap in the face,” and not even stuck-up Maureen would’ve acted that way.

Peter Gallagher solicited strutting advice from the dancers himself. “I was terrified, because I was surrounded by these brilliant, gorgeous dancers who knew what they were doing, and I realized I didn’t even know how to walk right,” he told Vulture. “I said, ‘Fellas, how do I walk? How do I walk?’ [They said] ‘Shoulder blades together, shoulder blades together!’ And I said ‘Oh my God, that’s genius, thank you!’

8. The Center Stage cast members were a close-knit bunch both on- and offscreen.

If you were hoping the warm, wonderful friendships you see onscreen in Center Stage weren’t solely the result of top-notch acting, we have excellent news: The cast members had just as much, if not more, fun when the cameras weren’t rolling. Schull remembers taco nights at her apartment in Lincoln Center, weekend dinners, and even a trip to the Hamptons. “We all went out to [Nicholas Hytner’s] beach house at one point in the Hamptons and Zoë's mom drove us back in her minivan,” she remembers. There were also some evidently unforgettable rounds of "Truth or Dare" at Eion Bailey’s Tribeca apartment, which he was borrowing from friend (and Fight Club co-star) Holt McCallany. But, as Schull told Vulture, “what happens in Eion's great apartment stays in Eion's great apartment.”

“I think it was all just a group of people kind of in the same place in their lives—we’re all around the same age and nobody had an attitude about anything—and we all just kind of clicked,” Schull says. “It was a really special, special time.”

9. The Center Stage cast members let their hair down during the nightclub scene—much like their characters did.

Schull had a bit of ballroom experience from performing in a production of Evita, but the seemingly spontaneous, no-holds-barred nature of the nightclub salsa dancing was pretty foreign to both her and Radetsky, and they started out playing it safe with Susan Stroman’s choreography. “One, two, cha cha cha, sal-sa, do-be-do,” Schull jokes, mimicking their stiffness.

After the first take, Hytner genially informed the dancers that they were way too buttoned-up, which they took to heart. “We started dirtying it up a little bit, and by the end I doubt they used what we got to, because at that point we were really going for it,” she says. “So I think they landed somewhere in a happy medium.”

10. Center Stage was filmed on location at Lincoln Center and other authentic New York spots.

Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater, home of the New York City Ballet.Oliver Morris/Getty Images

For some filming locations, the production design team could let the natural beauty of New York do a lot of the work. Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater was already well-suited to host a high-caliber ballet performance; the Paul Taylor Dance Company studio, with its wide windows and street views, was perfect for Jody and Cooper’s impromptu jazz class; and the Kit Kat Club where the ABA students indulged in a night of margaritas and salsa dancing was a real club in Times Square at the time. The limousine ride through midtown Manhattan and the cruise along the Hudson were totally genuine, too. “That takes place on a real New York ferry on the Hudson River and we just hired a boat," production designer David Gropman told Entertainment Weekly.

His team did, however, build dance studios on a Brooklyn film set for all the rehearsal scenes at the fictional American Ballet Academy (ABA), which was no easy feat. “It was a huge stage set with a completely sprung dance floor, which is the kind of floor dancers need to practice on,” Gropman said. “You had to have mirrors that work both for the dancers and for the camera. And then creating that great, big skyline of New York out the windows, it was a great challenge.”

11. The boat scene in Center Stage wasn’t fun for everyone.

The cast did a spectacular job of making their touristy shenanigans out on the Hudson River look like the most fun anyone’s ever had—but what you don’t see is the bucket kept just out of frame at all times, ready for poor Amanda Schull’s next bout of seasickness. “We did that whole thing—they chartered that boat, we were at sea for several hours—and I vomited every single one of those hours,” she told Vulture.

To top it all off, that outing also included a kissing scene between Jody and Charlie. “I felt terrible—she was just totally nauseated by everything about it,” Radetsky told Dance Spirit. “And then the irony was that they ended up jettisoning that whole scene. We re-shot it later, without the kissing.”

12. Cooper and Jody’s love scene in Center Stage was very hot—literally.

After running into each other at a drop-in jazz class, Cooper whisks Jody off on his motorcycle to have dessert at his airy loft, where he can’t manage to scrounge up even a stale cookie or two. Fortunately, they come up with an alternate activity.

Not only had neither Schull nor Stiefel ever shot a love scene before, they hadn’t yet shot a scene together; in fact, it was Stiefel’s very first day of filming. “Maybe the thought was that, not really knowing each other, we'd have a certain energy or tension,” Stiefel later mused to Dance Spirit. “But I'd have to imagine those first takes weren't very pretty, day one, shot one. We ended up reshooting the scene, like, a month later.”

For Schull, the awkwardness of pretending to be hot and heavy with a coworker was exacerbated by the fact that her clothes were literally hot and heavy. “I was wearing a leotard and tights, and then a shirt, and an angora sweater, and jeans, and it was probably 115°F in the apartment,” she remembers, comparing herself to “a slimy swamp creature.”

Of reshooting the scene, she says with a laugh, “I wasn’t going to admit it, but he [Stiefel] admitted it.”

13. The supporting cast of Center Stage features a few famous faces from the ballet world.

Julie Kent and her perfect feet performing in ABT's The Dream in 2007.Hiroyuki Ito/Getty Images

In addition to Stiefel (who was an American Ballet Theatre principal dancer at the time), Radetsky, and Schull, the cast was teeming with professional dancers at various stages in their careers. Julie Kent, who plays Kathleen Donahue, performed with ABT for 30 years—the longest of any ballerina in the company’s history—and now serves as The Washington Ballet’s artistic director.

Other cast members include Janie Taylor, Rebecca Krohn, Jared Angle, and Jonathan Stafford, all New York City Ballet principals at one point or another (Stafford is now the artistic director of the company); Gillian Murphy, a current ABT principal and also Stiefel’s wife; and Stella Abrera, also an ABT principal and, coincidentally, Radetsky’s wife.

The rehearsal and performance scenes were filled with other ABT and NYCB company members, too, which is part of why Center Stage stands out to ballet lovers as such an exceptional dance film. “They were really good dancers who were really at the top of their game,” Schull says. “They were just so beautiful to watch. I think that’s what makes it a good ballet film. And the fact that everybody was kind of in the same place in their lives, and not trying to make the movie about them. It was a much more collaborative, realistic eye into that world.”

14. Center Stage did have some dance doubles, but not many.

While most of the dancers were professionals, Saldana and Pratt both had doubles who performed the more difficult dance scenes. Saldana’s plot-twist appearance in Jonathan’s ballet, for example, featured Aesha Ash, an NYCB corps de ballet member. “[Zoë] was a super sweetheart,” Ash told Vulture. “I remember she was always full of life and always had a smile, and always super kind to all the dancers.”

15. Center Stage's ovation-worthy final performance was filmed with no audience.

Filming Cooper’s rousing contemporary ballet took nearly a week, a process filled with what Schull describes as “a lot of hurry-up-and-wait,” which makes it difficult for dancers to keep their bodies warm and limber enough to perform. They were dancing for an empty auditorium, too, so the crew became their de facto audience. “The crew was really supportive and super into it, so it was like every take was performing, and they were so positive and encouraging of everything,” Schull says.

After they wrapped the performance itself, Schull, Stiefel, and Radetsky did get to take their final bow in front of just enough spectators to give the impression of a packed theater on screen. “They had told the audience to just go berserk, and then also Julie Kent and Peter Gallagher were in the audience as well, so we got this huge standing ovation from people who hadn’t seen us dance a single step,” Schull says. “And I got really emotional, because it was getting a standing ovation with such energy from these people for all of our work that we had done, and I remember being really moved by it.”

16. The Center Stage costumes posed their own challenges.

Combined with the pop songs, the flashy, non-traditional costumes make for an especially captivating final performance—but they also made things more difficult for both the dancers and costume designers. Stiefel’s leather pants, for one, ripped every single time he slid on the floor. “I think we made 24 pairs of those,” costume designer Ruth Myers told Vulture. Schull’s pointe shoes, dyed firetruck red for the “Canned Heat” number, also became increasingly problematic as the shoot wore on through the night. “Those shoes were slippery little suckers,” Schull told Entertainment Weekly. “I slipped and fell quite a few times because the shoes were slipping and my legs weren’t strong enough at that point."

And, of course, the pièce de résistance—the white tutu that Cooper spins Jody right out of, revealing a snappy maroon leotard and skirt beneath it. “Doing chaîné turns while someone’s pulling your force backward is challenging,” Schull explains. (Not to mention the 10 minutes it took to wrap Schull back into the costume every time they shot another take.)

17. The music video for Mandy Moore’s “I Wanna Be With You” is Center Stage-themed.

Mandy Moore’s hit single “I Wanna Be With You” serves as the soundtrack for Cooper and Jody's pivotal love scene, and the music video highlights the song’s connection to Center Stage, too. In it, a 16-year-old Moore sings her feelings out while Radetsky showcases his impressive ballet skills (and biceps) in the background. The video also includes clips from Center Stage that feature Schull and Stiefel.

18. Amanda Schull learned a valuable lesson from watching Ethan Stiefel on the Center Stage set.

Since Center Stage debuted in 2000, Schull has gone on to have a successful career in film and television, appearing in shows like Suits, Pretty Little Liars, and 12 Monkeys. In addition to all the memories, one of the most important things she took from Center Stage was a lesson about taking your time on set, which she learned watching Stiefel shoot the Stars and Stripes variation.

“After each take, he would run off, watch the playback, and then run back and do it again, and he didn’t care how much time it was taking for him to do that, he wanted to make sure he got it right, and everyone respected and appreciated it, and gave him the time,” she says. “If you insist on taking your due time, then you’ll get something that is a much better overall product, and I remember really being taken by that.”

19. A Center Stage television series is in the works.

Center Stage was followed up with two made-for-TV sequels, Center Stage: Turn It Up (2008) and Center Stage: On Pointe (2016), and longtime fans can look forward to yet another backstage pass to the ballet world in the future. Sony Pictures Television is developing a television series that “follows a new, inclusive class of dancers as they work to stay at the academy and clash against the traditional students and style the ABA is known for,” according to Deadline.

20. Center Stage gave viewers the chance to see that ballet dancers are far from one-dimensional.

Ballet dancers are taught to be disciplined, strive for technical excellence, and, to a certain degree, fit in—after all, part of the beauty of ballet is the dancers’ ability to move in unison as one synchronized body. This lends itself to the assumption that the dancers themselves exhibit a similar sense of sameness in their own lives: perfect, pretty, somewhat one-dimensional clones. Jody, Eva, Maureen, Charlie, and the rest of the dancers in Center Stage, with their various complexities and aspirations, contested that stereotype.

To better illustrate the point, we asked Amanda Schull—who loves to bake when she’s not busy filming, taking ballet class five times a week, or caring for newborn son George Paterson Wilson VI—which baked good best embodies Jody Sawyer.

“She wouldn’t be something floofy with no substance. She wouldn’t be a really tall-tiered birthday cake that just tasted like vanilla, icy frosting,” she says. “Maybe a black forest chocolate cake, or … a dense fruit and nut cake—not a fruitcake, there’d still be some icing on top. But you’d cut into it and you’d be like, ‘Whoa, this is so much more filling, and I feel so much more satiated. I’m such a better person for eating this slice of cake.’”

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

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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.

Pop TV

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.