Richard Linklater is an incredibly well-respected filmmaker. His films have touched on a whole host of themes, but notably, his explorations of suburban life and the passage of time have been the two standouts. Whether it be Dazed and Confused or Boyhood, Linklater’s organic style has given us some of modern cinema’s most memorable moments and made an indelible imprint on popular culture at large.
Hugely influential, if we were to erase Linklater‘s works from the shared library, life would look markedly different. It’s safe to say that without him, Matthew McConaughey probably wouldn’t have blossomed as the actor that he is today.
Given that Linklater is an icon when it comes to cinema, there’s no surprise that his opinion is a valued one. In 2006, he undertook one of his most ambitious projects to date, his animated adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s 1977 novel A Scanner Darkly. An engrossing take on the book, it remains one of the most striking entries in Linklater’s varied filmography and has a star-studded cast to boot. Legends such as Winona Ryder, Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. helped to bring the story to life.
Although the supporting cast is nothing short of incredible, it’s leading man Keanu Reeves who really steals the show as Bob Arctor/Fred. Edgy and thought-provoking, this is one of the most outstanding Keanu Reeves performances, as well as one of his most constantly overlooked.
It turns out that Linklater was a massive fan of Reeves’ in the run-up to shooting the film, and only had The Matrix actor in mind when casting the protagonist. After shooting the movie, Linklater offered up a candid account of the ‘internet’s boyfriend’.
“I was thinking about Keanu,” Linklater explained. “My biggest thing about his quality is that, you know, I’m sure everyone says he has that good-hearted, kind-hearted guy quality. Not a suck-up, though, like he’s trying to be a good guy or impress anyone. He’s not running for class favourite. He’s not asking for your vote for anything. And yet, he exudes total decency.”
This effortless etiquette is what really endeared Reeves to Linklater many years prior to A Scanner Darkly. “I think it’s from the jump,” the director posited. “Right at the start of River’s Edge you’re like, ‘Who’s that guy? I like him!’ Even though he’s fucking around in that movie or being a fucked up teenager (Laughs). It’s an edgy and wonderful movie. I think his curiosity about the world and searchingness, all of that equals an interesting thing to look at, be around, or package.”
Reeves’ quality as an actor quickly shone through, and Linklater was captivated by his skill. “You’re just intrigued,” the director said. “Whatever is going on in his head, it’s worthy of your attention.” Linklater also found that he and Reeves shared a mutual understanding when shooting the film, which helped to imbue the film with an authentic feel, bringing Philip K. Dick’s many complex themes to life.
“So many movies take the core idea and make a Hollywood film,” Linklater concluded. “Not all of them, but you know, we wanted the wicked humour, the sadness, and the loss, and Keanu clocked all of that so well. I don’t even remember having to say, ‘Now this is the sad part.’ (Laughs).”
It seems as if it’s not just the internet that’s totally enamoured by Keanu Reeves. A brilliant man and actor, seemingly, there’s nothing he can’t do (apart from English accents).
Watch the trailer for A Scanner Darkly below.