Keanu Reees wowed audiences on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Picture: GETTY IMAGES
Keanu Reees wowed audiences on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Picture: GETTY IMAGES

You wouldn’t have thought it but New Yorker writer Naomi Fry’s recent piece of gushing appreciation for the humility of actor Keanu Reeves has caused somewhat of a viral gospel appreciation of his good nature (if not his less than impressive acting abilities) since its publication earlier this week.

Beginning with a meditation on Reeves’ recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in which the actor responded to a question about “What happens to us after we die,” with the answer, “I know the ones that love us will miss us,” Fry’s piece then goes on to ask why it seems that we know so little about an actor who has been a leading man for some of Hollywood’s biggest earning films for more than three decades.

Born in Beirut in 1964 to an English costume designer mother and a US-Hawaiian father, Reeves grew up in one of those typically dysfunctional and itinerant baby-boomer households — his father went to jail for dealing heroin when Reeves was very young, his mother remarried a few times and shipped off her family to Australia, then New York and finally Canada.

Reeves attended four high schools before finally dropping out and never obtaining his diploma but working as an actor from the age of nine before landing his first significant screen role in the 1986 drama River’s Edge. From then on the rest is, as they say, history, and Reeves has been a consistent presence on screens in a variety of roles and starred in some of the biggest films of the era.

In the late 90s he and then-girlfriend Jennifer Syme had a stillborn child and two years later Syme died in a car accident. But apart from these well-publicised and tragic details of his life, Reeves has managed to “pull off the nearly impossible feat of remaining an enigmatic cult figure despite having been an A-list actor for decades”, as GQ writer Alex Pappedemas wrote in a profile for the magazine in May

Reeves’ latest blockbuster is John Wick 3: Parabellum in which the actor reprises his role as an angry assassin determined to do what it takes to ensure his survival in the face of the retribution and threats to the life of his dog posed by various armies unleashed by a secret group of angry fellow assassins.

It was as part of the publicity for the film that the actor made his appearance on Colbert’s show and delivered the answer that left many fans and internet commentators so enamoured with him that they began to share stories of meeting the actor in real life. These have contributed to the recent evaluation of Reeves as a modern-day sage, a messianic figure whose attitudes to his fame provide an elixir to the self-aggrandisement of Generation Z.

In 2010 when a paparazzi picture of Reeves emerged — sitting scruffily dressed on a New York park bench eating a lonely sandwich — it prompted the declaration of June 15 as “Cheer Up Keanu Day”, and the viral phenomenon of the “Sad Keanu” meme.

Since then many fans and internet users have come forward with their stories of interactions with Reeves that prove, as Fry’s title claims, that the actor is “too good for this world”. A story of Reeves helping to transport fellow passengers redirected to Bakersfield after an emergency landing of a flight he was on from San Francisco to LA had the actor delivering titbits of information about Bakersfield to his fellow stranded passengers, while playing them country music off his phone. Another was of him talking to an unknown barman for 30 minutes about motorcycles, guitars and scotch while filming The Matrix.  The legend of Reeves has shown the actor to be, as Fry writes, “a considerate man who is aware of his status as a celebrity but doesn’t take advantage of it, and who is generous but careful with his presence”.

Is he the Jesus of the age of celebrity? Perhaps not. But it seems that, despite coming off on screen as a perfunctory pretty boy with little range, Reeves is basically just a down-to-earth, genuinely nice guy. In the age of influencers and Instagram stars, that’s a small, good thing that we can all be thankful for and which reminds us that humility and generousity are too undervalued.

Blessed is the Reeves then, for in spite of his success, he may yet still live to inherit the earth. Failing that, he will be finally making a reappearance in the franchise he was best made for when the third installment of Bill and Ted hits screens some time in 2020.