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Keanu Reeves was already a beloved actor before he became a meme. The Sad Keanu meme took on a life of its own. A photo of Reeves on location in New York, eating a sandwich on a bench, went viral, and he’s still answering for it today. But, at least in his latest interview, Reeves had made peace with Sad Keanu.

Keanu Reeves sits on a bench like his Sad Keanu meme
Keanu Reeves | ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP via Getty Images

Reeves was a guest on the Smartless podcast on March 27 after John Wick: Chapter 4 opened at no. 1. He actually brought up Sad Keanu himself. 

‘Sad Keanu’ was Reeves’ first meme

Reeves has been famous since the ‘80s so he was used to paparazzi following him around. As he told Stephen Colbert in 2021, via W Magazine, he was just hungry. Henry’s Crime was his movie that filmed in New York in 2010, and Reeves said he was already in post when he had lunch outside.

“Memes and stuff like that, I remember the first time someone showed me Sad Keanu and I was like what is this?” Reeves said on Smartless. “I was used to paparazzi photos but I wasn’t used to a pap– I was used to tabloid communication. That was the before. Now the now is something else. For me, I was like I was just eating a sandwich and I was in editing, I was kind of down.”

Keanu Reeves has a healthy relationship with ‘Sad Keanu’ now

In the immediate aftermath of Sad Keanu, Reeves gained perspective into how people were interpreting his lunch. 

“In order for self-preservation was like you can see a picture that can tell 1000 words but that’s always not going to be all the story to tell,” Reeves said. “But in the meme, that kind of lensing or focusing and then the way it gets shared…”

13 years later, Reeves acknowledges Sad Keanu was a good meme.

“Long story short, that was pretty f***ing funny and weird,” Reeves said. “It was funny and weird. It‘s weird and here you are on a candle and you’re carrying a lamb.”

Living in the public eye

Reeves’ enduring popularity has made it possible for franchises like John Wick and The Matrix to continue, and for indies like Henry’s Crime and Generation Um to get made at all. So, Reeves tries to keep it in perspective. He believes it’s harder for actors just establishing themselves now.

“Scrutiny and responsibilities,” Reeves said. “I’ve heard of just a lot of artists having the pressure to be on social media in order to get a job. To even get in the room and have an audition, the following kind of aspect to the capitalistic idea. I bet it’s tough. But also I’m sure it’s pleasurable for some people too, right?. And there’s artistry to it and involvement and creativity. I think the now is definitely more intense pressure on your private life than the before. The before had a lot of pressure too but I think the now is even more for sure.”