Who is this man to you? Is it Keanu Reeves, beloved A-list actor who is suddenly having a huge comeback in our pop culture consciousness? Is he the guy who played Neo in the hugely influential Matrix movies? Maybe you know him as John Wick?
Well, if you ask a child, it’s very likely that they’re going to tell you that’s the guy from Fortnite, the battle royale game that came out in 2017. But up until very recently, Keanu Reeves wasn’t actually in Fortnite. All the same, Keanu kept getting kids coming up to him to call him “Fortnite guy,” according to a recent E3 interview with Epic Games creative director Donald Mustard.
Keanu “was starting to have all these kids come up to him, all these teenagers on the street, and they weren’t doing the normal ‘Oh you’re Neo, oh you’re Wick,’” Mustard, who talks to Keanu, told host Geoff Keighley. Instead, they kept referring to Keanu as “Fortnite guy!” right to his face.
Likely, the kids were referencing a suit-wearing character called The Reaper who is colloquially referred to as John Wick by Fortnite fans. (Which makes sense: One of John Wick’s aliases is “The Reaper.”) The Reaper has become a huge part of the game’s culture, as Fortnite devotees will often wear the skin to communicate that they’re a hardcore player. And John Wick, of course, is played by Keanu Reeves.
The funny thing is, according to Mustard, Keanu had no idea what Fortnite was when this first started happening, nor did he feel that The Reaper looked much like him at all. But the run-ins with kids got frequent enough that Keanu and Epic Games decided to actually make an official John Wick skin happen, so that people would stop confusing a John Wick knock-off for the actual thing. This is apparently how Epic Games was able to get an actual John Wick skin added into Fortnite earlier this year.
What gets me about this anecdote is that it’s a perfect distillation of how much Fortnite has taken over the world. While the game references all sorts of pieces of pop culture, for many kids who play the game, Fortnite will likely be their first introduction to the concept in question. This is why there was such a ruckus over crediting the creators of dances that end up as emotes in Fortnite — without a visible reference, people will just assume Fortnite is where everything originates. Even Keanu Reeves.