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Feature: Constantine

On Screen…

Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves faces his latest hellish challenge as John Constantine, anti-hero of the cult comic book Hellblazer

Your character was British and blond in the comic. Did you have any desire to play it British?
We spoke about it, but… Los Angeles seemed to be attractive and make sense. We’re kind of doing a hard-boiled kind of take on the piece, so we went this way – a more Gothic aspect.

Constantine is known for having a devilish sense of humour. Is that reflected in the dialogue?
It’s serious and hopefully funny at the same time. Again, go back to that hard-boiled motif. Constantine in this film is in a hospital and he finds out he’s dying of lung cancer, and he lights a cigarette up inside the doctor’s office. He gets into an elevator and this character comes by and the elevator doors [are] closing and the person says, ‘Going down?’ and he says, ‘Not if I can help it.’ The next scene he’s in bed with a half- breed demon drinking whiskey with scratches on his back! So hopefully we have the spirit of the Constantinian factor. I’m always asking, ‘Is that Constantinian enough?’

Is the story at all film noir, like something Bogart would be in?
Well, there is that kind of aspect to it, but I’d say more kind of Californian noir from a literature standpoint. So there’s light and shadow. There’s a couple of shots of Constantine just smoking in a doorway. You see the smoke rising behind him. It’s bright outside, but it’s dark in the hall and there’s a [set of] stairs going up before he does his first exorcism, so there’s that kind of cinematic motif.

Is it nice to do a movie with Horror elements where you don’t yell and scream but get to play it cool?
Well, Constantine gets his ass whupped a lot in this movie, but he keeps coming. We’ve got some Ceplavites, some kind of demon aspects and they fight. Demons are coming up onto our plane, which isn’t supposed to be happening. So there’s elements where he does play it cool, but he also gets thrown on his back and choked and thrown against walls and all sorts of fun stuff like that.

So is it physical?
Yeah, there’s certain elements that are physical, but I think it’s part of the hero journey that you gotta go through. You run and jump and get hit and kind of pull yourself back together again, and shake it off and keep going.

You’ve mentioned that the character has an ambiguous morality that you found attractive.
Yeah. He’s not the nicest guy all the time. I don’t know if he’s immoral, but it’s something that he’s negotiating with.

Can you describe the scene you’re shooting today?
Right now I’ve asked the character Midnite to use the chair, which turns out to be the electric chair from Sing Sing. Right now this is his reliquary where he’s collected all of these objects, religious icons and things like that. So now we’re walking toward the chair where John is going to get electrocuted.

by Mark Wheaton

Get the full interview, plus producer Lauren Shuler Donner and co-star Djimon Hounsou in
Starburst #321

Photo © Warner Bros
Feature © Visual Imagination 2005. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Starburst #321, see below for ordering options
Starburst #321
March 2005
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