He is one of Hollywood’s hardest working and well-liked actors. As the next instalment of his epic Matrix series hits the big screen, Tom Lamont meets the famously thoughtful star

Keanu Reeves covers his face with both hands. Long bands of the actor’s straggly, jet-black hair flit from side to side as he shakes his cradled head. Reeves, who is 57, has a new Matrix movie out soon. It will be the first instalment in that famous sci-fi series since the turn of the century, when a visually splendid trilogy – The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions – shook blockbuster cinema to its foundations. I have just been telling him what an unforgettable outing that first Matrix movie was for me, back in 1999, when I saw it in a packed, noisy cinema full of people who couldn’t sit still for excitement. I’ve also just admitted to Reeves that, when The Matrix Resurrections is made available later this month, via various platforms, I’ll probably stream it at home, probably on a laptop.

I only intend this as a light prompt to get him talking about Hollywood in 2021, a curious time for showbusiness, with Covid precautions and advances in streaming tech combining to make so many movies available for home viewing at the same time as they appear in cinemas. But perhaps Reeves is someone who feels things more deeply than most, because suddenly he begins to plead with me, through muffling fingers: “Dude? Don’t stream that movie… Don’t you fucking stream that movie.”

This conversation is taking place on Zoom, across a few time zones – it’s evening in my London and morning in his Los Angeles. By his own admission, he is not a morning person. As a young actor he’d tell his agents that if they wanted him to get a part, they must not send him to auditions before 11am. I note, today, that we’re talking at 10am Pacific. Adding to his slightly frayed-seeming vibe, Reeves has only just flown back to LA after a film shoot in Paris. Jet lag woke him at 6am this morning. He drank a coffee, ate a banana, smoked an American Spirit Blue and got dressed in his habitual black T-shirt, black denim and black boots. Now he’s on a Zoom call with me, staring out from between his hands and asking: “What are you, crazy? You’re going to stream the new Matrix on a laptop?

His harangue continues, getting louder (“My GOD, man”)and more eccentric (“I’m about to book a cinema for you, Thomas”) until some subtle, delicious shimmer behind his eyes lets me know that Reeves is teasing and has been all along. His hair sticks out at funny angles after all he’s pulled at it. He pats his knees, smiles, and says mildly: “I mean, sure, stream it if you have to.”