Thanks to the success of The Matrix in 1999, which proved his continued box office bankability, Keanu Reeves had his choice of projects when the 2000s came along. It was therefore puzzling to see Reeves in 2000’s The Watcher, a generic crime thriller with Reeves playing a serial killer caught up in a psychological game with an FBI agent played by James Spader. The film was poorly reviewed, made just $29 million, and didn’t seem in sync with Reeves's career. So why did he accept the role?
According to Reeves, it was because he was tricked.
The actor originally agreed to a small role in the film as a favor to friend Joe Charbanic, who played recreational hockey with Reeves and also shot footage of Reeves’s band, Dogstar. He also happened to be The Watcher's director. With Reeves in the cast, it would be easier for producers to obtain financing. Instead, Reeves found himself being prominently featured, with his character, David Allen Griffin, taking up a considerable amount of screen time. (Spader, who played Joel Campbell, received top billing.)
That wasn’t the only issue. In an interview with The Calgary Sun conducted a year after the film’s release, Reeves explained that “a friend” forged his signature on a contract. While that might be cause for legal action, Reeves didn’t see it that way.
“I never found the script interesting, but a friend of mine forged my signature on the agreement,” Reeves said. “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.”
An irritated Reeves refused to do any press promoting the movie, which Universal—the studio that produced the film—allowed if Reeves agreed not to speak openly about his grievances for one year.
Reeves went on to film both Matrix sequels, which were released in 2003. After a string of misses, he scored a hit with 2015’s John Wick. A fourth film in that series is planned.