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Keanu Reeves Talks His Toy Story 4 Character Duke Caboom

This summer, Toy Story 4 is going to come in with a kaboom — well, a Duke Caboom, to be precise. 

Keanu Reeves brings Canadian stuntman action figure Duke Caboom to life in Toy Story 4, and the Toronto-raised actor recently sat down with Entertainment Weekly to discuss (and gush about) his role in the hotly anticipated animated film. 

For starters, one of Reeves' biggest concerns when approaching the gig was ensuring that he made Duke Caboom entertaining as his own entity and not just as an evocation of Buzz Lightyear, the superhero toy who has been a lynchpin of the Toy Story franchise since the very beginning.

"I wanted to make sure I didn't do anything that would go into Tim Allen's space as Buzz Lightyear. That was one thing I was really paying attention to when I was thinking about the character and how he would talk," Reeves explained. "So I made Duke a little more gravelly but still tried to give him energy and a big personality ... I just thought that Duke should love what he does. He's the greatest stuntman in Canada! I wanted him to be constantly doing poses on the bike while he was talking, to have this great extroverted passion."

Duke's signature catchphrase — an enthusiastic "kaboom!" — is part of the character's poppy personality as the coolest stuntman in all of Canada with the greatest mustache and most powerful motorcycle, the tricked-out Caboom Cycle. But beneath the boisterous exterior is a big heart and an interesting backstory. Despite being the plastic version of Canada's most beloved trickster, Duke can't do any of the stunts his commercials claim he can. Instead of flipping through the air and sticking sweet landings, the action figure is relegated to a life spent in a creepy antique shop overrun with ventriloquist dummies and ruled by a pull-string doll called Gabby Gabby (voiced by Christina Hendricks), where all sorts of discontinued toys live. 

"Every kid has their toy, and Duke let his kid down when he couldn't do what the commercial said he could. So he's a wounded person! He's needing to have some, I don't know, catharsis. Some feeling. I wanted him to have a real sensitivity and a soft heart," Reeves shared. "I also saw him as a character that has a really wide dramatic bandwidth in the sense of being so big. 'Kaboom! Kapow! Let's go!' But who can also then share his wounds, like, 'You have a kid? I had a kid. I let him down!' And he can get quiet. So it was really a lot to play with on the playground."

Though he's known for his ultra-cool action roles in films like the John Wick series (the third installment of which is headed to theaters in May), Reeves was unabashedly giddy when he met with the Toy Story 4 creative team, including director Josh Cooley, scribe Stephany Folsom, and producer Jonas Rivera. Cooley told EW that Reeves presented a lot of ideas about Duke Caboom during the get-together, which lead the trio to go back to the drawing board and tweak Duke's personality to make him more complex — and a larger part of the film's narrative. 

"Once Keanu came to the table, he was just asking all of these great questions about the character, and it made us realize that we weren't digging deep enough for this character and there's a real opportunity to have him support Woody's story in a much bigger way," said Cooley. "It's not so much [that I wanted Reeves to do] Bill & Ted. But I wanted to hear the honesty in the character and the truth come out and not just that we're playing a crazy character. And so there's a bit of an intensity to Duke, and I knew Keanu could do that, but I didn't know if he could do the comedic side of it, and I was taught quickly that he can, because he was killing me. And I could tell in the room, he was just having a real fun time doing it, and that comes across in his performance."

Indeed, Duke will play a pivotal part in Toy Story 4 after Woody (Tom Hanks) and Bo Peep (Annie Potts) meet him in the antique shop after Woody embarks on a rescue mission to save his owner's newest toy, Forky (Tony Hale). "Duke becomes an important part of trying to save Woody and Bo's mission," Reeves said. "They take his skills as a motorcycle daredevil and ask him to confront his fear of failure in order to help the greater good."

Duke Caboom is certainly a far cry from the gun-toting, man-killing assassin John Wick with whom most people associate Reeves. But it's plain to see that the actor is thrilled to be a part of Toy Story 4 and has a genuine love for his plastic counterpart. It's a nice change of pace for Reeves, too, as we'd imagine slashing up bad guys day in and day out would get tiresome after a while. 

Hear Reeves as Duke Caboom when Toy Story 4 opens in theaters on June 21.