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The varied resume of actor/rocker/publisher Keanu Reeves

Throughout his career, Keanu Reeves has sought out many kinds of artistic challenges on and off the big screen.

He's played bass in a band, action heroes on the big screen and Hamlet on stage

'Is Hamlet your favourite role?'

28 years ago
Duration 0:38
Keanu Reeves talks to CBC about preparing to play the role of Hamlet.
  Few people can say they've been a teen idol, acted in blockbuster movies, toured with a rock band,  hosted a children's show on CBC Television and published books. But Keanu Reeves can.
Keanu Reeves is seen playing bass on stage with Dogstar during a Toronto show in July 1997. (CBC Toronto/CBC Archives)

  The Canadian actor's diverse interests often get attention, most recently from the New York Times writing about  his work with the Los Angeles-based X Artists' Books — a small, artist-focused press that he now serves as a publisher with.

  "Instead of feeling like a departure from acting, these projects — along with bookmaking — express a genuine interest in not just creating objects but in the process of creation itself," the newspaper wrote of Reeves recently, citing his prior involvement with Dogstar (a band he played bass in) and a motorcycle company.

When he went to Winnipeg to play Hamlet

  But those who have been watching Reeves throughout his career will be able to point to another surprising career choice: the time he decided to play Hamlet on the stage in Winnipeg, just a few months after  Speed had been a blockbuster hit for him on the big screen.

  In December 1994, he sat down with the CBC's Diana Swain to talk about his interest in Shakespeare and playing roles on the stage. Reeves explained that he caught the Bard bug early on, when he first read  Romeo and Juliet in high school.

Keanu Reeves on what drew him to Shakespeare

28 years ago
Duration 0:43
In 1994, Keanu Reeves tells the CBC's Diana Swain about his interest in Shakespeare.

"That's, I guess, the first play that I was exposed to and I found myself enjoying reading it and speaking it aloud," said Reeves, who then participated in his first swordfight while acting it out. (This is well before he showed off his sword skills in Dangerous Liaisons or 47 Ronin, of course.)

"From that moment on, I have enjoyed [Shakespeare] and pursued learning about it and acting in it," he added.

The interview took place less than a month before the play was set to open. Swain asked Reeves how he felt tackling the title role in Hamlet.

"There's a lot there and hopefully I will be able to go as far as the play warrants," he said.

20,000 Hamlet/Keanu fans

More than 20,000 fans enjoyed seeing him perform Shakespeare on the stage at the Manitoba Theatre Centre, according to a CBC News report seen below. (According to the MTC website, it was the company's first-ever production to be sold out before it opened.)

From the CBC archives: Keanu's excellent adventure in Winnipeg

8 years ago
Duration 1:44
In this CBC-TV report from Feb. 4, 1995, fans of Keanu Reeves line up to see the Hollywood hunk star in Shakespeare's Hamlet at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.

Reeves was grateful for the support the theatregoers and the city had shown him as well. On the day of his last performance, Reeves — wearing a toque and Canada Goose jacket suited to Winnipeg's winter weather — signed autographs and mingled with fans.

Asked what his favourite part of Winnipeg was, Reeves said it was the people he'd encountered while in the city.

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