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You can count the movies in which actor Keanu Reeves played the bad guy on one hand. Reeves is usually the hero of his films, especially action movies like The Matrix, Speed and John Wick. But, when he is the bad guy, he commits all the same. Reeves even has two favorite bad guy roles.

Keanu Reeves clean shaven at the Cannees Film Festival
Keanu Reeves | Mike Marsland/WireImage

Reeves spoke with Chris Hardwick for his Idiot podcast in 2017 when it was still the Nerdist podcast. After discussing John Wick: Chapter 2, Hardwick asked Reeves about playing bad guys and Reeves picked his favorite two.

Keanu Reeves judges every one of his bad guys 

There is an old saying among actors that you can’t judge your character. If you’re playing the bad guy, he thinks he’s the hero of his own story. Reeves disagrees and relishes his rare bad guy turns. 

“I’m not that guy,” Reeves told Hardwick. “I’m not like, ‘You have to fall in love with them. They’re not bad people.’ No, man. He’s bad. Enjoy it. Come on. I’ve played a few villains.’

Keanu Reeves loved fighting the hero in ‘Man of Tai Chi’

Reeves played a Shakespearean villain in Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing movie. It was a Shakespearean comedy, but Reeves played Don John, the antagonist trying to sabotage young love. He also played the title character in The Watcher, a serial killer who stalks his victims. Reeves has little love for that film, since he alleges a friend forged his signature on the contract. 

But, one of the bad guys Reeves chose was in the movie he directed. Man of Tai Chi starred Matrix stuntman Tiger Chen as a Tai Chi master drafted into a fighting tournament. Reeves played Donaka Mark, the mastermind of it all whom Tiger has to face in the end.

Keanu Reeves and Tiger Chen face off
L-R: Tiger Chen and Keanu Reeves | Gary Miller/FilmMagic

“There was this English Chinese Kung Fu movie called Man of Tai Chi and I played the villain in that,” Reeves said. “He was delicious. He was interested in corrupting an innocent soul and interested in death. Yeah, that was fun because he was a little more fantastical.”

Another bad guy was almost too real

In the 2000 release The Gift, Reeves showed another dark side. The supernatural film was set in a small southern town. Cate Blanchett played a psychic tasked with solving a young woman (Katie Holmes)’s disappearance. Everyone in town could be a suspect, including Donnie Barksdale (Reeves), who abuses his wife (Hilary Swank). Reeves enjoyed the stretch but did not in any way rationalize Barksdale.

Keanu Reeves joins the cast of The Gift at the film's premiere
L-R: Cate Blanchett, Giovanni Ribisi, Greg Kinnear, Hilary Swank and Keanu Reeves | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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“I played kind of a villain character named Donnie Barksdale in Sam Raimi’s flm The Gift,” Reeves said. “Donnie Barksdale was an awful wife-beating f*cking *sshole. It was okay to play him but he was a jerk.”

Source: Idiot with Chris Hardwick podcast