Keanu Reeves gave away most of his paycheck for The Matrix

Our philanthropic king!

by Douglas Greenwood
04 January 2022, 12:04pm

Photography Stephen Hamel [ The Sound Issue, no. 115, 1993]

Hollywood actors make, after tech CEOs and footballers, some of the most obscene money in the world. Like, fair, you’ve got to throw yourself off buildings on bungee strings and get seriously into character, but is the job really worth tens-of-millions of dollars? Keanu Reeves, the reigning king of 90s and early 00s American cinema, clearly sees how obscene that is. It’s been revealed he donated 70% of his earnings for the first Matrix movie to cancer research. 

For the debut movie in the sci-fi franchise, written and directed by The Wachowskis, Keanu was reportedly given an upfront payment of $10 million which, following the film’s wild box office success (it racked up $463 million globally), later increased to $45 million. But that crazy amount of cash didn’t sit in his bank account for long. Nope, the philanthropic actor donated $31.5 million of it to a Leukaemia research charity. 

It was a move made in honour of his sister Kim, who had been fighting blood cancer for eight years when The Matrix hit theatres. He also sold his home to move closer to her, requested that the filming of the movie’s sequels be delayed, and gave Kim $5 million to fund treatment. She made a full recovery in 2001. 

Keanu is also known for being generous to his Hollywood industry peers. He took a pay cut for The Matrix sequels so the stunt and special effects teams could make more money. He then gave a dozen stuntmen who worked on The Matrix movie Harley-Davidson motorbikes after production wrapped. More recently, he gave four of his John Wick 4 stuntmen Rolex Submariner watches, valued at nearly $10k. 

His charity work is famously far more low-key than his peers. He quietly runs a foundation that continues to give money to children’s hospitals and cancer charities. “[It’s] been running for five or six years, and it helps aid a couple of children’s hospitals and cancer research,” he told Ladies Home Journal in 2009. “I don’t like to attach my name to it, I just let the foundation do what it does.” 

Keanu remains our egoless king!

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