Keanu Reeves is having a moment. He’s even become a meme after announcing that he’d star in a new roleplaying video game, Cyberpunk 2077. He recently appeared in Netflix’s “Always Be My Maybe” as the lead’s brief love interest, a space case celebrity too infatuated with himself to be her endgame lover. But he is, in reality, the opposite of that character, according to one of the video game’s designers.
Cyberpunk 2077, made by video game company CD Projekt Red, features V — a character the player customizes — who has a malware-infected biochip in their head. That malware takes the form of Johnny Silverhand, played by Reeves.
Pawel Sasko, the game’s lead quest designer, said that CD Projekt Red knew it wanted to bring back Johnny Silverhand, who was a rock band frontman in the 90’s role-playing title, “Cyberpunk 2020.” (Reeves did not play the character in the previous game, which was a pen-and-paper role-playing game.)
The developers needed “a strong actor that would be able to play this role” from almost the beginning of the game to the end, Sasko said.
Johnny Silverhand is one of the characters that players interact with the most. CD Projekt Red asked Reeves to play Johnny because the actor had a history of playing “very strong characters that are often fighting for something,” said Sasko. Sasko cited Reeves’ roles as Neo in “The Matrix” trilogy and as the eponymous hit man in the ‘John Wick’ films.
“And all those movies also have a futuristic element to it. So it fit really nicely and we were like, ‘okay, let’s try to hit him up,’” Sasko said.
After Reeves was hired on to do motion-capturing and voice Johnny Silverhand, the developers adapted the character to fit his personality. Lines were written to fit his tough street style.
Reeves has also been providing feedback on making lines in the game sound more natural, Sasko said.
Throughout the game, players get to see many sides of Johnny. Sasko likens it to Reeves starring in 20 movies at once. Because the video game is so expansive and interactive, players can take their relationship with Reeves’ Johnny in many different directions. What kind of directions? Sasko won’t spoil it.
What that means is Reeves’ deal with Cyberpunk 2077 is far from over. Since the game isn’t finished, the developer is still presenting Reeves with fresh lines for newly completed parts of the game. Sasko said that working with Reeves has been a pleasure because despite being a Hollywood celebrity, the actor is down-to-earth.
“For us as creators, it really makes a huge difference when you can normally talk to a guy and agree on something. It’s a great joy, actually,” Sasko said.
A representative for Reeves could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. Cyberpunk 2077 ships in April 2020 and will be available on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Windows PC.
– Correction: A previous version of the story misidentified the original publisher of Cyberpunk 2020.