In 2005, Warner Bros. Pictures partnership with DC comics led to the release of Constantine, a movie that focuses on a lesser-known character in the comic giant's vault. Created by Alan Moore for his first appearance in a 1985 Swamp Thing issue, John Constantine is a supernatural detective who exorcises demons and walks between the world of people and that of angels and demons. Constantine is British, blonde, and built like musician Sting, but casting Keanu Reeves as a dark-haired American version of the character didn't matter at the box office since the film grossed over $200 million on a budget half as large.
Critics disliked the film, however, and considered it a failure. Thanks to home video releases and fans, the movie has become a cult classic that still enjoys notoriety and a healthy fandom to this day. Most may be surprised to learn that no one in front of or behind the camera had knowledge of the character of Constantine prior to signing onto the movie, or that star Reeves met with a real exorcist to get a handle on his role. While no suspicious or supernatural events plagued production, the filming has its share of surprising stories from those involved.
Shia LaBeouf Felt Like He Was In A Terrifying Documentary Because Of His Religious Background
At only 18 years old during filming, Shia LaBeouf still had memories of his bar mitzvah and religious upbringing while on set. Raised in the Jewish faith, the actor found himself drawn to the sidekick character of Chas because the script was grounded in reality while still embracing the supernatural aspects that characterize a Constantine story. When asked about the presentation of heaven and hell in the film, LaBeouf shared that it felt like a documentary based on what he learned from his faith.
Characterizing it as a "nightmare," LaBeouf elaborated that the film itself makes viewers think and feel in certain ways that can be uncomfortable when assessing one's mortality and the existence of the afterlife. Costar Djimon Hounsou also related to the content on a spiritual level, pointing to his childhood in West Africa where the ideas of heaven and hell are intertwined with rituals and cultish fervor.
Peter Stormare’s Satan Was Modeled After Fagin From ‘Oliver Twist’
Dozens of actors have portrayed Satan over the years. Al Pacino as a lawyer in The Devil's Advocate freely indulged in vices while presenting a polished mask to the outside world. Tim Curry was a monstrous Devil in appearance and deeds in Legend, and Will Smith appeared as a laid-back, T-shirt-wearing Prince of Darkness in Winter's Tale. Director Francis Lawrence wanted Constantine's adversary to take after Fagin, the villain in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist who gives orphans shelter in return for committing illicit activities on his behalf.
Peter Stormare plays Satan as a greasy, dirty man with a sheen of misdeeds enveloping his entire character. Walking around in a white suit, Satan makes strange jokes punctuated by an unsettling smile before revealing his true face of lies.
The Director Pitched The Movie To Reeves The Day After He Returned From Making 'The Matrix' Films
Reeves received the script for Constantine while finishing up The Matrix and committed to the project based on the story and character journey in the film. When director Francis Lawrence was selected, Reeves, although initially skeptical, became the deciding factor as to whether or not the music video director had what it took to work on a big-budget movie. As soon as Reeves finished filming the Wachowskis' trilogy, he met with Lawrence to learn the director's vision for Constantine.
Once Lawrence showed Reeves a reel of his work, Reeves bought into the director's passion and thoughts for the film.
Reeves’s Physical Instincts Were So Good, The Stunt Coordinator Called Him A 'Godsend'
Reeves is no stranger to method role preparation. He entered into months-long training with famed Chinese martial arts master Yuen Woo-ping and read tomes like Simulacra and Simulation, Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, and the Economic World, and papers on evolutionary psychology for The Matrix films. Constantine starting filming immediately after The Matrix wrapped, and Reeves maintained his sense of discipline on set.
In response to Reeves dedication to his roles, stunt coordinator RA Rondell referred to the actor as a "Godsend" saying, "He's somebody I knew was going to participate continuously. He's a very quick study. You can tell him something, do a rough rehearsal of what it is, and he can pick it up that quickly."