“The Matrix” (1999) directed by the Wachowskis, was one of the biggest box-office hits of the ‘90s. It changed the course of cinema by being one of the first films to create a credible cinematic world that exists in the digital realm.
The special effects and action sequences were also groundbreaking at the time. The slow-motion “bullet-time” effects would become a hallmark of action films for the next 20 years.
The film’s success made its lead actor, Keanu Reeves, a very rich man. The actor made a $10 million salary for appearing in the film and received $35 million on the back end.
But instead of pocketing the generational wealth, he donated 70% of it to fund leukemia research. Reeves’ sister, Kim, was diagnosed with cancer in 1991 and battled it for 10 years, before going into remission.
He also sold his home to be closer to his sister and spent $5 million in therapies to help her recover. Reeves was the primary caretaker for his sister while she was sick, he cooked her meals, cleaned the house and prepared her medication.
He dedicated his life to being a cancer caretaker as his career as a leading man was skyrocketing.
Keanu Reeves with his sisters Kim and Karina during the premiere of Matrix pic.twitter.com/C0kJ5Z4fis— \ud835\udc70\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc90\ud835\udc8f\ud835\udc8a\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc94 \ud835\udc77\ud835\udc8a\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc94 (@\ud835\udc70\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc90\ud835\udc8f\ud835\udc8a\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc94 \ud835\udc77\ud835\udc8a\ud835\udc84\ud835\udc94) 1602885648
His dedication to his sister meant that “The Matrix”’s first two sequels had to be delayed.
“She was always there for me, you know. I will always be here for her,” he said.
The siblings have a close bond forged by a tough childhood. Their father walked out on the family when Reeves was just 2 and later served time for drug possession. The children were raised by their mother and they moved frequently, living in Canada, Australia, New York and Hawaii.
Reeves created a charity foundation to help those fighting cancer, although he doesn’t want any of the credit. “I have a private foundation that's been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children's hospitals and cancer research,” he said, according to The Mercury News.
“I don't like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does,” he added.
Reeves is also very generous with his coworkers. He reportedly gave a significant amount of the back-end profits he made from “The Matrix” films to the visual effects artists and costume designers, although that was apparently more an in-kind donation to the production of the films, and not literally a cash payout to crew members and some have claimed.
Reeves’ nomadic life as an artist has led him to the understanding that true happiness doesn’t come from accumulating wealth and material objects, but learning how to appreciate what you have already.
“That enormous sense of gratitude is enough for me–I don’t need to surround myself with a lot of objects and possessions to feel that way,” he said according to the Mirror. “It’s always nice to open your eyes every morning and see the world–it all seems so simple! That’s why I frequently use an expression that I like very much, and which gives me peace of mind: ‘I’m happy to be here.’”
Keanu, we’re pretty happy you’re here, too.
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