Keanu Reeves will fittingly voice the titular cat in Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele’s upcoming movie, Keanu.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, director Peter Atencio explained that he, Key and Peele were initially wary about reaching out to Reeves due to the similarities between their movie and John Wick (beyond the name itself): In Wick, Reeves’ character seeks vengeance on Russian mobsters who kill his dog, while Keanu finds Key and Peele trying to track down a kitten stolen by gangsters.
At the behest of Warner Bros., however, Atencio said they reached out to Reeves, but his representatives declined. “Who knows if he ever even heard about the offer,” Atencio said. “But then we got a call after the trailer came out — apparently, his sister showed him the trailer and said, ‘Hey, you gotta see this. You’re gonna love this!’ He flipped out and got in touch with us directly to say ‘If there’s anything I can do, let’s make this work.'”
To fit Reeves in the nearly completed film, Atencio said they expanded a scene where Keanu the cat guides Peele’s character through a drug trip. With Reeves filming John Wick 2 in Italy at the time, he went to a Rome recording studio and spent about an hour recording dialog with Atencio, who called in via Skype.
“The studio [Warner Bros.] was wanting him to drop a bunch of references to his old movies,” Atencio said. “But we didn’t want to make it overt or too pointed. We don’t want him to do, like, his Bill and Ted voice and beat you over the head with it. And he had great ideas for lines. He was having fun with it.”
Atencio added that while the cat, and movie, were named for Reeves “as an act of love for his movies, and especially the kind of movies that he makes,” Keanu doesn’t try to make a big deal out of the connection. “We didn’t want it to be something where you’re just kind of waiting for the big Keanu payoff, which is why it’s cool that he’s involved in this way — it’s a subtle way of acknowledging that of course he’s the direct inspiration for that name.”
Keanu premiered at SXSW in March, and opens in theaters on April 29th.