When a character is already pre-established, it can be tricky to find a way to slip into their shoes comfortably. There's the weight of fan expectation, after all. The comic book fandom was nowhere near as overwhelming back in the early 2000s as it is now. But back when Keanu Reeves was cast as John Constantine in "Constantine," it was a surprise.
For one, visually, he was the opposite of what you'd expect from a character visually inspired by Sting. Secondly, the character of John Constantine came straight out of Liverpool. Dripping in cynicism, cigarette smoke, and an irreplaceable cunning, John Constantine was a character that seemed outside of Reeves' acting scope. But Constantine isn't wholly bad.
Mind you, playing someone with good in their heart wasn't anything new for Reeves. The role of Ted in the "Bill & Ted" franchise solidified him as the stoner with a heart of gold at the beginning of his career before moving on to action hero roles in "Point Break" and "Speed" in the 90s. Looking at these roles and comparing them to the role of John Constantine, it's almost making a comparison between night and day. But that didn't stop Reeves from taking the role on, especially given the character's complexity.
Figuring out how to become the titular character of "Constantine" was going to be a challenge. After some experimentation, Reeves relied on three key things to help make the demon-hunter with a chip on his shoulder click for him.
Wardrobe Maketh The Man
Costumes are easily one of the items on an actor's checklist to get them into the headspace of their respective characters. It comes as no surprise then that one of the ways in which Reeves tapped into his inner John Constantine was through Constantine's wardrobe. Costume designer Louise Frogley had been instructed by director Francis Lawrence, as she revealed to EW, to capture the idea of hell in Los Angeles through clothing.
With concept in hand, then came time to fine-tune the clothing for John Constantine. In his interview with IGN, Reeves broke down the entirety of the process before he felt they landed on something definitive:
"When seeking a costume, I went to the costumer and she had a rack of clothes and choices and shoes and stuff, and I was just trying things on. There was a concept for the piece. What clothes fit? It was like trying on the hat, it's this one. And I found that moment, I remember putting on the jacket and the shoes and I felt a certain way. Yeah, this is the Constantine. So going to rehearsal, you wear your wardrobe and eventually I find that not only do I have a feel but it seems that, they seem kind of connected naturally… When that happens it's great."
Clad in skinny ties, black pants, and a raincoat, it seems counter to the idea of what any Angeleno would wear. But for a man like Constantine, it fit the bill.
Lower Your Voice
Once the costume situation had gotten squared away, the next thing Reeves felt like he had to get tackle was creating the voice of the character. Known mostly for that Californian laidback voice, it'd be difficult to merge that into the noir-type of feel Lawrence was going for with the overall film. To create the character of John Constantine, someone tormented in his task of hunting demons while seeking redemption, there needed to be something more. For Reeves, he shared with IGN that he had to play around with the tone of his voice:
"I kind of knew his core, but in terms of embodying the character, I worked on, I lowered my register a little bit, working on the way he spoke, I was guided by Francis Lawrence the director in terms of wanting a kind of hardboiled… [Being guided] by the comic itself, a kind of noir aspect. And that has certain traditions in it that I wanted to utilize, especially with his humor, that kind of deadpan humor."
Dropping his register added further to the complicated character of John Constantine for the screen. Yes, it wasn't the Liverpudlian-accented voice that comic book fans were expecting, but the deeper tones combined with the dry wit and humor of the character helped sell things further. Most importantly, it got Reeves in the zone, but it wasn't quite there yet for him. With the wardrobe and voice tackled, what else was needed to make Reeves click with Constantine?
Exorcise The Demons
Sometimes all that's left to do for an actor to get into character is to just act. This seems simple enough, but it's a trial and error process. While it may seem silly, all the preparation ahead of time to fill in the finer details for the character helps once you get to actually tackling scenes. For Reeves, this seems to be the case when it came to bringing Constantine together for him. As he described it to IGN, that feeling of Constantine didn't hit him until he got down to the wire:
"It kind of happened a couple of days before I shot. The exorcism was the first scene and that helped a lot too. When I walked from the window and got on the bed, how do I get on this bed? And when Constantine stands up and walks over, it's like he's trying to walk over a puddle. I was like, 'Okay, I've got it.'"
From then on, Reeves was in the zone as the sarcastic demon hunter. While the film itself might not have landed for viewers immediately, "Constantine" and Reeves' take on John Constantine have stood the test of time. With the "Constantine" sequel greenlit, hopefully, the process to become John Constantine will be easier for Reeves. It's been some time but, once one establishes the framework of a character, it's like getting back onto a bike. A little rickety at first, but soon it's just smooth sailing from there.
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The post Three Things Came Together To Make Constantine Click For Keanu Reeves appeared first on /Film.