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Keanu Reeves Reveals He Was Asked To Change His Name, And The Alternate Choice Was Truly Wild

Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix Resurrections
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

Keanu Reeves is one of the biggest stars in the world and he’s also, without question, one of the coolest people in Hollywood. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has an incredibly unique, and thus also cool, name. But some people apparently thought the name Keanu Reeves was a little too unique and tried to get the actor to change it.

Speaking with Michael Strahan on GMA, Keanu Reeves tells the story about being asked to change his name when he was first starting out. Keanu admits to considering it. He was new to Hollywood and young, and while the iconic actor ultimately decided against changing his name, I wonder if he might have done it if somebody had a better idea than calling him Chuck. Reeves explains… 

So I’m 20 years old, I’m in my first car. I wanted to be in movies, went to Hollywood. And I get there and they’re like ‘We want to change your name.’ I’m like ‘Why?’ and they’re like ‘Well, Keanu maybe it’s a little too exotic.’ And so yeah, I did. Like Chuck Spadina. They just came up with ridiculous names. I just actually couldn’t do it.

Changing your name in Hollywood is as old as the industry itself. Lots of huge stars changed their names and it’s never even really been much of a secret. Even today stars who have difficult to spell last names, or who have similar names as already established stars, might change their name.

The changing of names in Hollywood to make them less “exotic” which often means simply less ethnic, is nothing new either. And there’s certainly no argument that Keanu Reeves is an exotic name, the man has an exotic background. He was born in Beirut to an English mother and a native Hawaiian father who also had Chinese and Portuguese in his background. The name Keanu is a native Hawaiian word.

Maybe there were other names that would have worked for Keanu Reeves, but clearly none of the names that were presented to him sounded any good. The one name that he mentions here, Chuck Spadina, is…a choice. It’s certainly a neutral, boring, not at all exotic name. So it checks all those boxes. But did somebody really look at Keanu Reeves at 20 and think he looked like anybody would ever call him Chuck? If I was a 20-year-old guy trying to make it in Hollywood and my name was Chuck Spadina the first thing I would do is change my name. 

Luckily for us, and probably for him too, Keanu Reeves decided he simply couldn’t change his name. At the time it likely seemed like a risk, but clearly nobody ever had a problem with a guy named Keanu. He got noticed in Hollywood very quickly and is as big a star now as he has ever been, exotic name and all. 

Dirk Libbey

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.