While video game companies have a history of bringing celebrities to their E3 press conferences, few demonstrated a performance as memorable or earnest as Keanu Reeves‘ visit to Microsoft’s theater. One of the third-party titles Microsoft highlighted during the program was CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077, a first-person role-playing game staring a beleaguered mercenary named V. The protagonist’s name, sex and veneer are highly customizable, but one character they’ll encounter on their quest is modeled after none other than the Matrix star himself.
Speaking with Variety, Xbox figurehead Phil Spencer discussed the actor’s role in his company’s E3 showing and his satisfaction with how it turned out. Reeves’ appearance was a closely guarded secret; another person covered his lines during rehearsals and the Xbox team referenced him by a codename. Sunday, the day of Microsoft’s presentation, was Reeves’ first visit to their theater.
“I was talking to him before he went out and I was trying to explain that this isn’t going to be like another corporate gig,” Spencer informed Variety. “I said, ‘You’re going to go out there and the fans are going to go crazy.” According to the Xbox lead, the John Wick actor simply responded by saying, “Oh, that’s cool.” According to Spencer, Reeves spent his time prior to walking on stage by examining the Cyberpunk demo with its developer.
However, the action star was not prepared for the overwhelming applause his presence would inspire. “I think he was kind of blown away by the response,” Spencer said. “And I loved how we just wallowed in it. and then when he came back off he was just like, ‘wow.’ It was a short but wholesome appearance, crescendoing in the moment where Reeves and an audience member called each other “breathtaking.” Spencer continued, saying, “They were so nice to him and everything, he was really blown away, which I thought was cool.”
In a presentation filled will announcements, big budget CG trailers and new hardware, Reeves’ time on the stage will likely be remembered as Microsoft’s brightest during this year’s E3. And Spencer is happy about that, saying, “I loved it. When I think about it, at the root of all of it, when we’re here we want to entertain people, right? I think it’s easy for us to get too much strategy in our heads. And to start thinking about what was our ratio of video to talking heads to PC games, Xbox games. Is this going to force somebody to buy a Scarlet or sign up for blah, blah, blah. But in the end, I want to put on an entertaining show where there’s great content. I didn’t know how it was going to go. It was actually CD Projekt Red’s that wanted us to go do this and we have a great relationship with those guys. But you know, I’ve seen my fair share of celebrity endorsements on stage at E3 not actually land that well. Obviously, when we saw how he was portrayed in the game, it was like, ‘OK, it’s very authentic.'”