Keanu Reeves has featured in some of our favorite movies. He’s gifted us with enduring memes. He kills bad guys by the dozen as the melancholy assassin John Wick, but he’s a legendarily kind, generous, thoughtful person in real life. He even made us reevaluate the mockable hover hand. At a moment when it seems as if no male celebrity deserves our trust — that each and every one is about to be exposed as a creep, if they haven’t already — Keanu is a port in a storm.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy being Keanu. Quite to the contrary, almost 10 years ago we were alarmed to see a now-familiar photo of him sitting alone on a bench, looking totally bereft. The “Sad Keanu” image now marks a lull before the “Keanussance,” a period of renewed popularity for the middle-aged actor that has forever cemented his icon status. And in this stage of his career, we’ve taken to wondering: When will this man have the romantic love he so clearly deserves? We knew that he’d lived through a grief-stricken separation from his girlfriend, Jennifer Syme, in 2000, after she gave birth to their stillborn child, with Syme dying just 18 months later in a car accident. Perhaps those wounds would never heal, we thought.
So we were pleasantly surprised to learn that, as if to embarrass every other man in Hollywood (though of course with no such petty designs), Reeves has a super-cool, age-appropriate partner. The exact nature of their companionship isn’t altogether confirmed, but it sure looks dreamy.
Incredible stuff. And it just gets better from there. Alexandra Grant, an L.A.-based multimedia artist focused on explorations of text and language, has been close with Keanu for a good while now. Per the Los Angeles Times, they’ve even been affectionate in public before. The pair first collaborated on a book called Ode to Happiness, published in 2011. According to Grant, the inspiration was a poem spontaneously written by Keanu, which she arranged with ink drawings for a volume intended as a surprise gift for him. Shadows, a book and exhibition encompassing Grant’s photos of Reeves and text he wrote “in tandem” with these images, followed in 2016.
A millionaire celebrity dude nurturing a close, creative peer relationship with a woman whose craft he admires, for almost a decade? Dare we conceive of it? Didn’t I read something about 65-year-old Dennis Quaid getting engaged to a woman in her 20s like… two weeks ago?
While we’d be hearing a lot more about how low the bar is for men if it were any star besides Keanu dating an artist in her 40s who wears flat shoes on the red carpet and doesn’t dye her hair, it’s easy to root for their joy. Keanu may get bonus points simply by favorable comparison to the legions of old assholes dating women right out of high school (à la the aforementioned Quaid), but this is still a shining example of his soft power. For him to simply hold hands with Grant in front of the paparazzi shifts the culture in a way that wearing a Time’s Up pin to an awards ceremony despite facing accusations of sexual misconduct (James Franco) or domestic abuse (Gary Oldman), or working with Woody Allen (Justin Timberlake), does not. Keanu isn’t trying to co-opt the fight for women’s equality and dignity in Hollywood to sound woke; instead, he’s leading his fellow men by example. Incidentally, I think he also proved that the so-called “friend zone” is a perfectly nice place to be.
Anyway, well done, Grant, and kudos to Keanu, the undefeated and endlessly charming hero of an industry that grinds almost all into problematic dust. We sorely wish his healthy intimate life, and his apparent happiness with it, were not so exceptional for that world. But this is the state of it. Thanks for showing us, again, that quietly walking the walk — as you do by working with way more women directors than the average A-list actor — is more effective and meaningful than the lip service often paid to the women fighting for the bare minimum of respect.
I’d quote Bill and Ted and advise you and Alexandra to “be excellent to each other,” but I feel like you’ve got it covered.