CBS Sunday Morning

Keanu Reeves:  A love of speed

Keanu Reeves got his share of kicks as leading man in the 1999 film, "The Matrix." Nowadays he's getting his kicks by leading the campaign for a brand new breed of motorcycle, as he explains to our Tracy Smith:

Keanu Reeves with correspondent Tracy Smith. CBS NEWS

Keanu Reeves with correspondent Tracy Smith. CBS NEWS

At age 50 Keanu Reeves has made as many movies as he's had years on Earth. But if he likes being on set, he may like how he gets there even more.

"I love riding motorcycles," he told Smith. "There's something about the freedom of it ... I love how they look, how they smell, how they feel."

Now Reeves has taken that love of bikes to a new level, co-founding Arch Motorcycle Company in L.A.

Back in 2011, Reeves had a bike custom-built by Gard Hollinger. He liked the result so much he suggested they make more.

ARCH Motorcycle Co-founders talk shop on CBS Sunday Morning.  Rest assured...we are all in.

But Hollinger had his doubts. "Quite honestly, we had conversations about how his celebrity might affect us negatively, you know?" he said. "Just the perception that it's a vanity project, that you've got this person who's a public figure involved just for that aspect. And it couldn't be further from the case, you know?"

Keanu Reeves on an Arch bike.

Keanu Reeves on an Arch bike.

Reeves is much more involved than just slapping his name on the product. "He's like the ultimate test rider," Hollinger laughed. "'Cause he rides so much. Anything that can be broken, he'll break it."

It seems Reeves has always approached what he does with a certain gusto, ever since playing Mercutio in a Toronto theater's production of "Romeo and Juliet."

"Performing or acting had a sense of freedom to it, a sense of pleasure," he said. "It was fun. But then also the places that you could go in that, and what you could say."

"Do you always immerse yourself in parts? Are you that kind of actor?" Smith asked.

"Am I 'that guy'?" Reeves laughed. "Yeah, only a couple of roles have I asked you to, you know, call me by my character's name!"

He was convincing as an airhead in "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure," and as an action hero in "Point Break," he was downright contagious.

"I can't tell you how many times I've run into people who have said, 'I started skydiving because I saw 'Point Break,' or started surfing because of 'Point Break,'" he told Smith.

And how does that make Reeves feel? "That's awesome!" he said, choking up. "When you're telling stories you hope to be able to affect people positively."

"And to know that people change their lives essentially because of a movie is kind of cool."

"Yeah, and especially with something like skydiving and surfing, you know?"

Reeves gets so into his parts, he does just about whatever is asked of his character, whether it's jumping onto an out-of-control bus in "Speed," or jumping 50 feet in the air in "The Matrix." "I do a lot of my own moves. I try to be there as much as I possibly can."

"Were you ever in one of those moments thinking, 'What the hell am I doing? Why didn't I just let somebody else do this for me?'" asked Smith.

"No, No! Because that's where the fat is, you know? It's telling a story. All of these things that go into a part of the embodiment or the expression of the role in telling the story. And so, whatever it takes."

"Whatever it takes" might apply to Arch Motorcycles, too. Each one of the 200 parts on the bike is custom-made in the Los Angeles shop with painstaking care. A tank shell alone took 64 hours to shape. Even the key is a work of art.

"The design of the tank, the frame, the scale here in the rear end and the cowling and rear wheel -- darn, she's beautiful!" Reeves laughed. "And then, you know, it's the ride.

"Let's go for a ride!"

That ride will be a solo one; there is no passenger seat. And the price? $78,000.

"Yeah, it's not cheap," Reeves said.

But worth it? "Yeah, I think so."

"Have you ever had anyone complain about the price once they get their hands on one of these bikes?" Smith asked.

"No," said Hollinger.

It's not like Reeves needs the money. In fact, he's kind of famous for giving it away. Back when he was making the "Matrix" sequels, he reportedly gave millions of his own profits to the movies' special effects and costume teams ... but he likes to keep that a secret.

"Do you not like being pegged as a nice guy?" Smith laughed.

"No, no."

"'Cause you get uncomfortable when people talk about your being generous?"

"Yeah, I'm pretty private," said Reeves. "So, I just ... yeah."

"And that's part of it?"

"It's nice if people have nice things to say about you. That's always nice, isn't it? Yeah."

"But you don't want people to know if maybe you've done something nice to someone in private?" Smith asked.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no."

"That makes you seem like an even nicer guy!"

"No, no, no. I'm not. So, yeah," he laughed.

He seems far more at ease talking shop. Each bike takes 90 days to make, and so far they've delivered about a dozen.

Of course, the road to success in this business can be tough. But Keanu Reeves seems to be enjoying the ride.

Smith asked, "Are you as invested in this as you are in any role that you take?"

Yes, he replied. "I mean, they look different. But what's from inside, or the commitment to it, I guess the express is 'all in.'"

"Are you all in?"

"I'm all in!"

Posted By: Mike Burns