During the pre-release press blitz that lead to the release of Hobbs & Shaw, there was a persistent rumor that had to be debunked. That particular whisper was one that had stated for quite a while that director David Leitch had gotten his friend and colleague Keanu Reeves to sign onto the film in a mystery role.
Ultimately, that rumor was successfully debunked, as Reeves is nowhere to be seen in the film, just as folks were saying. However, new information has come to light from Leitch himself that it was a pretty slim margin that separated Keanu Reeves from partaking in this Fast & Furious spinoff. The director laid out the whole story in these terms:
It all stemmed from the fact that we had talked to Keanu early on. It was even before where we ended up with this draft. I had been talking to Keanu periodically through the shooting of it all and looking for opportunities of where it could be. I also wanted to make sure that it was enough — a real promise for something legitimate in the future — and wasn’t just a stunt casting role. We started to populate the movie with all these other personalities, and I just didn’t really think that we needed it, although I would’ve loved it.
Cameos in the movie industry have a bad reputation of just bringing people in for a quick laugh, or as a way to goose the ticket sales up to higher proportions. That can’t be said about Hobbs & Shaw, as this first in a prospective series of films chose its cameos to build a foundation for the potential future of the series.
With that, David Leitch recruited people he knew he could count on, such as his Deadpool 2 collaborator Ryan Reynolds. So of course, with all of the professional association Leitch has had with Keanu Reeves, it seems like a done deal that he would want to bring his John Wick collaborator in on Hobbs & Shaw.
Persistence was the name of the game too, as in his interview with The Hollywood Reporter, David Leitch elaborated that his hopes to bring Reeves on board extended into the later phases of the film’s production cycle:
We even talked in post, and I showed him a rough cut of the movie. Then, we had conversations about ‘is there something here?’ We came to the conclusion of ‘let’s put a pin in it.’ I’m all for finding opportunities, but I also didn't want to force anything.
If a cameo isn’t going to work, it has no business being shoe-horned into the film that it’s trying to be a part of. The fact that David Leitch knows this rule, in a world that loves to sometimes go overboard on celebrity cameos, is part of what makes his approach to filmmaking all the more exciting to watch whenever he’s at bat on a film like Hobbs & Shaw.
Plus, much like any good cameo, there’s room for Keanu Reeves to possibly poke his head in down the line, should this branch of the Fast & Furious universe take off the way it’s intended to. Not to mention, this could be part of the very reason The Director of Eteon wasn’t revealed at the end of Hobbs & Shaw. The rumors that Reeves was meant to play that role could have been half true, with the reveal being squashed after there was an agreement not to make it happen.
While it was said that he was never going to play the villain in Hobbs & Shaw, that could just be an extremely semantic way of saying, “Not this time, buddy.” It’s all speculation, and a lot of fun at that, but overall it’s better to bring Keanu Reeves into a project with a clear purpose, rather than to just to promise a sequel that may never happen.
Hobbs & Shaw is in theaters now. Should you be a Keanu Reeves fan in need of a fix, we would recommend either checking out Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe, or pre-ordering a copy of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, which will hit Digital HD on August 23rd, and 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD on September 10th.