Keanu Reeves Turned Down A Role In The Biggest War Movie Ever Made

Keanu Reeves was offered the lead role in Oliver Stone's award-winning classic Platoon, but he turned it down, saying that he didn't want a violent role.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

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Hollywood “What If’s?” are always fascinating, because it is so easy in retrospect to identify successful projects and films that ended up being duds, but at the time, everyone involved has no idea what fate awaits them. Take Keanu Reeves for example, now know for The Matrix and John Wick, two iconic action franchises, but back in 1986, the future star wanted nothing to do with a war movie from a legendary director. According to Oliver Stone himself, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Reeves turned down the starring role of Chris Tyler in Platoon.

The lead role in Platoon ended up going to Charlie Sheen, in what would be his break out role, playing a character that was essentially an on-screen version of Oliver Stone. The legendary director wrote the film based off of his own experience in the Vietnam War, primarily to counter the typical message of war movies by offering a more realistic take on the conflict. Stone says that Keanu Reeves turned down the starring role of Platoon, because of the violence required of his character.

Platoon includes lots of violence, both in the conflict between U.S. armed forces and the Vietcong, but more importantly for the plot of the film, between the servicemen. Tom Berenger plays Staff Sgt. Barnes, a man that in the fog of war has lost his sense of morality, with William Dafoe, Keith David, Forrest Whitaker, Corey Glover, and Johnny Depp as some of the other members of the titular platoon. Like with Keanu Reeves, Depp was up for the lead role, but the director still had him, after losing out, as a member of the platoon as Stone claims he knew that Depp would be a star.

tom berenger willem dafoe platoon
Tom Berenger and William Dafoe in Platoon

In 1986, Keanu Reeves was still years away from his action film debut with Point Break, and Platoon was very different from the roles he was currently taking, such as NBC’s tv-movie Babes in Toyland and Ron Howard’s Parenthood. Platoon was filmed on location in the Philippines, and for awhile, was one of the largest war movies put on film. As with most “What If?” questions, in retrospect it’s easy to say that Reeves missed out on breaking out earlier than he did in 1991, but at the time, the decision makes sense for the future John Wick.

Keanu Reeves has won lots of awards in his career, but no Emmys or Golden Globes, both of which Platoon earned at the 1987 awards. Oliver Stone won best director, the film won for Best Picture, and Tom Berenger was nominated, alongside William Dafoe, as Best Supporting Actor. Reeves career has gone well of course, with two hit franchises under his belt, three depending on how you feel about Bill and Ted, and plenty of iconic characters.

On the other hand, is Charlie Sheen, the man that took the role Keanu Reeves turned down in Platoon, became one of the largest stars of the late 80’/early 90’s, before moving to television with Spin City, Two and a Half Men, and finally Anger Management. After a public breakdown, the star has slowly stopped working and has not been apart of any projects since 2018.

John Wick 4, staring Keanu Reeves, will be out later this year.