When Keanu Reeves Explained What Happens After Death, His Revelation Blew Stephen Colbert Away

Although Keanu Reeves has previously labeled himself a “meathead,” that doesn’t seem to entirely be the truth. In fact, in some of the interviews in which the actor has taken part during his three-decade career in Hollywood, he has displayed quite the philosophical side by making observations that are perhaps unexpectedly profound.

And on a May 2019 visit to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Reeves proved just how deep he really is. On that occasion, the star spoke to the host about both his role in the John Wick movie franchise and the upcoming second sequel to the 1989 comedy classic Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

The new movie – provisionally titled Bill & Ted Face the Music – will see Reeves’ famous character fighting to save the universe and grappling with his own mortality. In response, then, Colbert posed the actor a tough question. “What do you think happens to us when we die, Keanu Reeves?” he wondered. And the actor’s reply was both touching and wise.

ADVERTISEMENT

Perhaps it’s not really surprising that Reeves is insightful, though, given his role as Neo in the Matrix movie series. Famously, the films in the franchise are more than just shoot-’em-ups; they also contain a good deal of existential contemplation on the nature of reality as we know it.

And Reeves has made similarly thoughtful statements of his own off screen. For instance, according to Hollywood.com, he once said, “Money doesn’t mean anything to me. I’ve made a lot of money, but I want to enjoy life and not stress myself building a bank account. I give lots away and live simply – mostly out of a suitcase in hotels. We all know that good health is much more important.”

ADVERTISEMENT

The actor has also ruminated on the opposite sex. “It’s always wonderful to get to know women, with the mystery and the joy and the depth. Men don’t have that. Anyway, if you can make a woman laugh, you’re probably seeing the most beautiful thing on God’s Earth,” he is quoted by CBS News as saying.

ADVERTISEMENT

Reeves has even pondered whether the skills required of a Hollywood star could help him off set, too. When talking to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2001, he revealed, “I know I want to have truthful acting. Maybe that can turn into a truthful life.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It stands to reason, then, that the philosophical star thinks about a life beyond this one. And that seems to be the case, with Reeves once explaining to the Associated Press his thoughts on energy and how it affects the present and the future. “Energy can’t be created or destroyed, and energy flows. It must be in a direction, with some kind of internal, emotive, spiritual direction,” he began.

ADVERTISEMENT

“[Energy] must have some effect somewhere… I do think there must be some kind of interaction between your living life and the life that goes on from here,” Reeves concluded. Nor would this be the only occasion on which the actor contemplated what happens after we pass away.

ADVERTISEMENT

You see, on a May 10, 2019, appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Reeves broached the topic of life after death in a manner that left the show’s host completely stunned. Before that moment, the pair’s conversation had centered mainly on the films Reeves had to plug.

ADVERTISEMENT

In particular, Reeves was on the promotional trail for his upcoming action flick John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which hit U.S. movie theaters on May 17, 2019. In the picture and its two predecessors, Reeves plays the title character – a hitman in search of revenge.

ADVERTISEMENT

And one major highlight of the John Wick franchise is the intense action scenes, leading Colbert to waste no time in asking Reeves about the thrills and spills in store in the third installment of the series. Yet as it turns out, the movie star is not responsible for all of the stunts seen on screen.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ll do some fight scenes. Then John Wick will get hit by a car, and that’s Jackson Spidell, who’s an amazing stuntman. He gets hit by the car,” Reeves explained. “Then, I’ll get up from the car, [and] I’ll do a whole bunch more of, like, kung fu, jiu-jitsu and judo.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“Then, maybe, if I get thrown off of something, then Jackson does his thing,” Reeves further reveals. “But you could [do the stunts] if you wanted to,” Colbert replies, referencing the actor’s string of starring roles in action movies such as Speed and Point Break.

ADVERTISEMENT

Reeves responds to Colbert’s statement, however, by quipping, “Yeah, I could get hit by a car but, you know, hospital.” He then explains how John Wick’s director, Chad Stahelski, has a very specific vision for his action sequences. “[Stahelski] wants to make it immersive. He wants to make it like a performance,” the star says.

ADVERTISEMENT

Colbert then compliments Stahelski’s directorial style, saying that, as a viewer, the fight scenes are “like watching dance.” Reeves agrees and shares that the director always has specific ideas for the more rough-and-tumble moments of the movies. And with Stahelski’s artistic vision in mind, the actors subsequently spend time training and choreographing their action sequences.

ADVERTISEMENT

After that, however, Reeves says something that gives Colbert pause. In the third John Wick film, the star divulges, “There’s a horse fight now.” The talk show host looks shocked and responds, “You fight a horse?” As the audience chuckles, the actor clarifies what he meant, explaining, “No, no. I’m on the horse, and then there’s a gunfight.”

ADVERTISEMENT

And Colbert digs a little to learn more about this equine-centric scene. “What’s it like to fight on a horse?” he wonders. Reeves replies simply, “It’s fun.” Yet Colbert also wonders if horseback fighting makes the actor nervous at all. “The horse is real. You could get thrown and trampled,” he says.

ADVERTISEMENT

In response, Reeves makes his first – albeit brief – mention of mortality. “Yeah, you can die,” he says. Nevertheless, as he explains to Colbert, the moviemakers have a slew of safety systems at the ready, although none of these can be seen in the final version of the horseback fighting sequence.

ADVERTISEMENT

Care had to be taken, too, when dealing with Reeves’ other four-legged co-stars: a pair of Belgian Malinois dogs. And the star goes on to describe how John Wick actress Halle Berry spent more than six months training with the animals. What’s more, when he, Berry and the pooches appeared in a scene together, the star received very specific instructions on how to behave around them.

ADVERTISEMENT

Reeves recalls, “The first day that I went to train with Halle, who had been training with these wonderful dogs, the trainer said, ‘So, Halle’s going to stand there. There she is, and there are her two dogs. You’re going to walk up to them, [but] don’t look at them. Don’t look at them in the eye.’”

ADVERTISEMENT

When Colbert asks him why, Reeves says that he can’t make eye contact because the dogs “might do something not good.” The talk show host rightfully replies that the situation “sounds really dangerous.” Then he asks the actor, “Did you go, ‘No more John Wick movies if that dog takes my face off’?”

ADVERTISEMENT

Once again, Reeves handles a tough question with ease. “No, you just have to pay attention,” he says coolly. And the actor goes on to share a few more humorous stories about animals on set. In one case, a dog chased after a cart-pulling horse in Times Square; in another, the canines were distracted by the stray cats on set in Morocco.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yet although Reeves primarily visited Colbert to talk about the John Wick franchise, the Late Show host can’t help but ask the actor about another upcoming project. “Your fans are pretty darn excited about a recent announcement. You’re reprising another classic role from your past,” Colbert begins.

ADVERTISEMENT

Yes, Reeves and his former co-star Alex Winter had by then announced that they’d be reprising their roles from 1989 comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. The original movie saw the duo playing slacker high-school students who have a class presentation to make. As a result, then, they head back through time and enlist the help of famous people of historical import.

ADVERTISEMENT

And Colbert asked Reeves if he can share any details about the sequel. “What are [Bill and Ted] dealing with in this one?” the TV host wanted to know. The actor starts by sharing the new movie’s working title. “Right now, it’s called Bill & Ted Face the Music,” he reveals.

ADVERTISEMENT

Reeves then explains the concept of the film. He says the flick will catch up with its titular characters “however many years later, I think it’s over 25.” And, somehow, Bill and Ted have been given the tough task of writing a song that “unite[s] the world and bring[s] peace and everything, but they haven’t.”

ADVERTISEMENT

But while Bill and Ted feel extreme pressure to pen the perfect ditty, each faces a slew of distractions, Reeves says. “You’ve got your family now, but you’re still trying to write the song because you’ve got to save the world!” Eventually, though, the characters’ grace period ends.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The future comes down and says, ‘Well, you don’t really just have to save the world. You have to save the universe. And you have to write the song in, like, 80 minutes,’” Reeves paraphrases. Therein lies the movie’s plot and Bill and Ted’s biggest problem: they have to write their best song in the same amount of time that it takes to watch a film.

ADVERTISEMENT

To clarify, Colbert asks Reeves, “What happens to you if you don’t [write the song]?” The Bill & Ted star replies, “It’s the end of the universe. It’s the end of the time and space continuum.” Colbert then responds, “So, you’re facing your own mortality and the mortality of all existence?”

ADVERTISEMENT

And Reeves confirms Colbert’s explanation just before The Late Show host comes up with the most left-field question of the night. “What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?” he asks. The show’s audience laughs, perhaps expecting the actor to give a silly answer to the inquiry.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Reeves has shown time and time again that he has a philosophical side, and answering this question brings that out of him once more. The actor pauses for almost ten seconds before he responds to Colbert’s prompt. Then, he simply states, “I know that the ones who love us will miss us.”

ADVERTISEMENT

And as the audience and Colbert himself take in Reeves’ words, the Late Show host sits in silence – seemingly stunned by the profundity of what the actor has just said. In knowing the star’s history, though, it’s no surprise that he had such a simple yet deep answer to a huge question.

ADVERTISEMENT

You see, in the late ’90s and early ’00s, Reeves played bass in a band called Dogstar. And at a party for the group, he met Jennifer Syme – an aspiring actress who had also worked as an assistant for director David Lynch. The pair bonded, too, as they started dating shortly after their first encounter at the soiree.

ADVERTISEMENT

But the couple would be blindsided by heartbreak the following year. In 1999 a pregnant Syme went into labor a month early, and when she gave birth to her and Reeves’ child, the baby girl was sadly stillborn. The loss of her daughter also caused Syme to experience postnatal depression.

ADVERTISEMENT

In fact, Reeves and Syme’s devastation at losing their baby led them to split just weeks later. Then, less than two years later, tragedy struck once again when Syme attended a party at rocker Marilyn Manson’s house. On that occasion, Manson realized that Syme wasn’t able to safely drive herself home, so he arranged a ride for her.

ADVERTISEMENT

Once Syme got home, though, she decided that she wanted to go back to the party – and she drove herself. And on the way, the 28-year-old slammed into multiple stationary cars and was launched out of her own vehicle. She died as a result of the crash in Los Angeles on April 2, 2001.

ADVERTISEMENT

Colbert, too, has a heartbreaking story in his past. On September 11, 1974, his father and two of his brothers boarded an Eastern Air Lines flight in Charleston, South Carolina, en route to Chicago. But in thick fog, the plane missed the runway at a stopover in North Carolina and crashed, with all three Colberts tragically perishing in the accident.

ADVERTISEMENT

So, when Reeves appeared on The Late Show and explained what he thought happens when we die, he may have answered from experience. “I know that the ones who love us will miss us,” he replies in the clip. And it seems that Colbert knows what the actor says to be true.

ADVERTISEMENT

In the aftermath of Reeves’ response, the audience exhales an emotional “Aww”; Colbert, meanwhile, simply mouths “Wow” to himself. Then the host’s face cracks into a genuine smile as he reaches across and shakes Reeves’ hand. And Colbert’s eyes glisten with tears as he thanks the actor for his visit before sending the show to commercials.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT