Keanu Reeves goes behind the lines

Despite star turns in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” “Speed,” “Constantine” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” it’s the “Matrix” films that define Keanu Reeves.

“I’m the ambassador for the ‘Matrix’ trilogy and my operating hours are … ,” Reeves said, laughing, during an interview to promote his latest movie, “Street Kings,” which opens today and co-stars Forest Whitaker, Hugh Laurie, Jay Mohr, Cedric the Entertainer and rappers Common and The Game.

“Even some of the actors from this movie, like Common, were asking me questions about ‘The Matrix.’ I don’t mind. Those movies made an impact with people for a reason. I’m just hoping to be able to work in different genres and play different roles.”

“Street Kings,” directed by David Ayer, is based on a story by James Ellroy. Walking a fine line between hero and villain, Reeves plays an alcoholic Los Angeles Police Department officer trying to cope with the death of his wife and being falsely accused of murdering a fellow cop.

Calling the character one of his darker roles, Reeves says, “Tom Ludlow is a good guy with a good sense of humor. You just don’t want to get on his wrong side. It was a great role for me and I really liked the story. It was fun to be pushed to a place that I don’t normally live in. And I would love to play him again.”

Reeves, who trained extensively with the LAPD in handling weapons to prepare for the role (“I felt that I at least should look like I knew what I was doing”), says that while he always had respect for cops, making the movie has given him an even deeper appreciation for them: “I think that with the experience of this film, I got to have a greater knowledge of what it is to live outside of the job. It’s not an easy job to just live with. It comes home with you.”

Next up for Reeves is “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,” which starts shooting in May and features Robin Wright Penn, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Winona Ryder and Julianne Moore.

Reeves also is excited about “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” a remake of the 1951 sci-fi film. “It’s a classic,” Reeves says. “It’s got Kathy Bates, Jennifer Connelly, John Cleese, Jaden Smith — a great cast. Hopefully we’ll do the original right. It’s more of a reinvention, a kind of extension of that and sort of appropriated to our time.”

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