There are many wonderful things about Randall Park's and Ali Wong's film, "Always Be My Maybe," but one of the best things about it is how it centers the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islanders) community in what would otherwise be considered a fairly traditional romantic comedy — a genre of film that often has a bad habit of favoring white actors for the leading roles. "Always Be My Maybe" has a diverse Asian cast, but immediately upon its release in 2019, one very famous AAPI actor, in particular, stole the show in a short, sweet, and chaotic dinner date scene gone horribly awry.
If you've seen the film, then you know the person in question is Keanu Reeves who plays a caricatured version of himself that's meant to gently poke fun at his occasionally spacey personality and "good guy" persona. Reeves plays the new boyfriend of Sasha (Ali Wong), a well-known chef who has remained best friends with her childhood friend — and crush — Marcus (Randall Park). Marcus and Sasha are obviously meant for each other, but in true romantic comedy fashion, they have to watch each other date other people before realizing it's really them that are meant to be together.
However, for nearly 20 minutes, Reeves is all anyone can think about in the movie. He's delightfully unhinged, entering the restaurant to the tune of AWOLNATION's "Sail" while wearing a Tom Ford outfit that Movie Keanu boasts was customized just for him. His character is charming, funny, and eventually pretty weird, and off-screen Reeves had a large part in helping to shape his on-screen counterpart. In fact, Reeves was extremely committed to the bit, fully immersing himself in bringing his comedic role to life for the film.
Keanu Reeves is obviously not meant to end up with Sasha (though, if you ask me, Marcus is one lucky guy because I'm pretty certain that no one can actually compete against Keanu in real life), and the version of himself that he plays in "Always Be My Maybe" is meant to be exaggerated for dramatic effect. Movie Keanu is charming but pretentious — he wears glasses without lenses and cries thinking about the animal that had to die for his meal — and he eventually spirals out of control as he tries to outcompete Marcus in a strange bid for Sasha's affections.
In an interview for IndieWire, the director of "Always Be My Maybe," Nahnatchka Khan, talked about how Reeves was thrilled to be part of the film. "He immediately got it," explained Khan about Reeves' enthusiasm for the part, going on to talk about how the actor even had a hand in writing some of his own lines. "We were talking about the character, and he just had so many funny ideas and pitches that we went back and revised the script with those in mind," Khan said.
Wong shared that Reeves' dedication even got down to page-specific detail. She told IndieWire, "I was shocked because I remember he said, 'On page 80, this happens,'" noting that he had memorized key moments in the script down to the exact pages they occurred on. Reeves even managed to fit four days of filming for "Always Be My Maybe" in the middle of his work on "John Wick 3," proving that he really is willing to go above and beyond for the roles he plays.
WWKRD? — What Would Keanu Reeves Do?
Keanu Reeves is responsible for coming up with a handful of Movie Keanu's comedic idiosyncrasies. For example, the aforementioned "fake eyeglasses" that Movie Keanu wears to dinner was all Reeves' idea. As Nahnatchka Khan told IndieWire, "One of the things was he said, 'I think it would be funny if I was wearing glasses for a part that had no lenses. So we were like, 'Yeah that's definitely funny, that's amazing. Let's put that in.'" That detail serves to encapsulate everything we are supposed to believe about Movie Keanu. He looks good, but the whole thing just might be an illusion.
Khan also told IndieWire that some of Reeves' dialogue during the after-dinner party came from Reeves. "He was like, 'I have a couple of alt jokes too if you want to try them.' A couple of those are in the movie," explained Khan who chose to use a lot of improvisation for that particular scene. The Chinese dignitaries moment, in particular, was all Reeves.
However, in true Keanu fashion, Reeves was careful to keep himself from outperforming the real stars of the film. Ali Wong explained that Reeves purposefully resisted making Movie Keanu "too cartoony because then that hurts my character." There had to be a reason Sasha went for Keanu Reeves, aside from the fact that he's, obviously, Keanu Reeves, and if he was too obnoxious, it just wouldn't make sense. "He's very considerate in that way. Super thoughtful," said Wong, echoing pretty much every single person's feelings about the actor since, well, the beginning of time.
Maintaining A Moderate Level Of Self-Awareness On-Screen And Off
While Movie Keanu boasts that his childhood crush was Mother Teresa and has absolutely no qualms about smashing a beautiful vase of flowers over his head in an attempt to assert himself to Marcus, real-life Keanu Reeves is decidedly less attention-seeking. Randall Park told IndieWire, "Throughout the process [of filming], he was very much like, 'This is Marcus and Sasha's story, and I don't want me to get in the way of their story.'" Ali Wong said that Reeves even made attempts at downplaying his stardom during the movie's premiere. "He kept on moving to the fringe when we took group shots," she explained, saying, "Everyone else looks like garbage when they're next to him, so I think he just wanted to be considerate and tried to keep the focus on us."
Considerate, indeed. And while Reeves is extremely hard to ignore the minute he enters a room (something that I'm mostly just assuming here because I've never actually had the pleasure of standing in the same room as Keanu), he certainly maintains a level of self-awareness that enabled him to masterfully make fun of himself all for the betterment of the film, a feat that only Keanu Reeves could have done.
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