Keanu Reeves once told an interviewer: “Money is the last thing I think about.” You might assume this was simply a trite PR statement to make himself look good. You especially might assume that considering the fact that at the time he made that statement, Keanu had a net worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But it was not a trite PR statment. Keanu Reeves truly does not care about or think about money.
And that’s not a recent trait. From the very beginning of his career, Keanu has earned a reputation for not caring about money and general on-set generosity. For example, in 1995 – a year after his career was launched to the stratosphere by “Speed”- Keanu was offered a role opposite Robert De Niro in Michael Mann’s thriller action film “Heat.” Keanu politely declined the role. Why? A better film offer? Maybe a TV pilot? Nope. He declined so he could act in a production of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” at the tiny Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, Canada. The part he was offered instead went to Val Kilmer.
The very next year Keanu rejected an $11 million payday to do a sequel to “Speed.” He was 32 years old, and back then $11 million was worth the same as around $21 million today. Keanu was nowhere near “fuck you” rich, and yet he still politely declined for two reasons. 1) He didn’t want to get type-cast so early in his career. And 2) He was hoping to be free to star opposite Al Pacino in “The Devil’s Advocate.”
Speaking of “The Devil’s Advocate,” during pre-production Keanu agreed to take a several million dollar pay cut to his own salary so they could afford Al Pacino. A couple years later he did the same thing to get Gene Hackman on board for 2000’s “The Replacements.”
But none of these examples even scratch the surface to what Keanu Reeves did with a huge portion of his “Matrix” earnings/royalties. Specifically his back-end deal for the second and third “Matrix” movies…
The Matrix Generosity
For the first “Matrix” movie, Keanu Reeves was paid a $10 million up front salary. When combined with his back-end royalty points, he ultimately earned around $35 million.
When it came time to negotiate his back-end profit sharing deal for the second and third “Matrix” films, Keanu was in a position to be offered a lucrative cut of back-end profits. He took a nice chunk, BUT he ALSO insisted on handing over a significant portion of those points to the films’ special effects and costume design teams. Reeves felt (perhaps rightly so) that the men and women who created the effects and costumes for the franchise were the true heroes of the movie.
So how’d this work out for the FX and costume teams? The second and third Matrix movies earned more than $1.2 billion at the worldwide box office. They earned hundreds of millions more from DVD sales, home rentals and other revenue streams. When it was all said and done, Keanu reportedly ended up forgoing an estimated $75 million that by all means could have gone to him over the two movies, and instead was spread out to dozens of Matrix crew members.
He also gave the entire stunt team on the “Matrix” sequels custom-made Harley Davidson motorcycles 🙂
Even after all that generosity, between all of the sequels, Keanu still managed to earn around $200 million for his work in the “Matrix” universe. So everyone ended up happy 🙂
But that’s not even where Keanu’s charity stops…
Over the years Keanu has given tens of millions of dollars to charity. Reeves has supported PETA, the SickKids Foundation, Stand Up To Cancer, among others.
When his sister was diagnosed with leukemia, Keanu poured millions of dollars of his own money to establish a private cancer foundation. That foundation has funded children’s hospitals and cancer research. Reeves does not attach his name to any his gifts. He prefers to provide money where it is needed without taking any credit. Giving money to others is simply a part of this movie star’s beliefs and way of life.
And lest you think that all of this charitable giving is the act of a wealthy man who needs some tax shelter, consider how Reeves acted with a homeless man one time. He once spent several hours sitting on a sidewalk, sharing his food and talking with one of the many homeless people in Los Angeles. There was no pontificating and no star struck babbling. They were simply two men taking about life over lunch. This is not your typical movie star folks.
Additionally, as documented in a personal account on Reddit, he helped out a Matrix crew member’s family in need:
“A family friend builds movie sets, doesn’t design, is one of the poor dudes that just builds. Anyways he worked on the set for the Matrix and Keanu heard about family trouble he was having and gave him a $20,000 Christmas bonus to help him out. He also was one of the only people on the set that genuinely wanted to know people’s names, would say hello and mean it, and would talk to people as they were his peers and not below him just because they were practically making nothing to build a set. I’ve never heard anyone say Keanu is douche, seems like the nicest person in Hollywood from a second hand experience.“
Keanu Reeves is a man with a truly generous spirit. Whether it is giving millions to charity in support of a cause, funding his sister’s expensive fight against an insidious disease, spending time with those less fortunate with no agenda of his own other than to experience what that person has to offer, or ensuring that the less well paid members of a film crew are fairly compensated – he truly does not care about money and is a man who always manages to be way more interesting than any of the roles he has played.