CD Projekt Red surprised the world when Keanu Reeves took the stage to announce he’d be playing Johnny Silverhand in Cyberpunk 2077 during Microsoft’s Xbox E3 briefing earlier this year. And when the creator of the Cyberpunk universe and tabletop roleplaying system Mike Pondsmith found out, he was surprised too – although perhaps not quite as much as the developers had hoped.
“CDPR didn’t tell me who they’d got,” he told us at Gamescom this past week. “They said, ‘We have an actor.’ So I said, ‘Who have you got?’ And they said, ‘We can’t tell you, wait until you get to Warsaw.'”
Pondsmith periodically traveled to CDPR’s Warsaw studios to collaborate on the development of Cyberpunk 2077. While they were preparing for their next visit, Pondsmith spoke with his wife Lisa Pondsmith, who handles the business side of their company R. Talsorian Games. Lisa made a guess at who CDPR had found to play Silverhand.
“It’s Keanu Reeves,” she said.
“And I said, nahh, that’s way below his paygrade, no way,” Mike recalled. “Besides, he’s never going to do Cyberpunk stuff again.”
When they arrived in Warsaw the next day, Pondsmith said, the developers were eager to reveal the secret.
“They say, ‘Before we tell you who it is, would you like to take a guess?’ And my wife says, ‘It’s Keanu Reeves, isn’t it?'” Pondsmith said. “And their face falls, and they say, ‘How did you know?'”
Pondsmith says he and Lisa checked out Reeves’ motion capture performances and were impressed – even though Pondsmith himself always imagined Silverhand as looking more like David Bowie.
“Keanu worked out really well, because he got across the essential element of Johnny, which is that in the end, Johnny’s not a person you cross, and Johnny’s looking out for Johnny.”
So far, Pondsmith hasn’t had a chance to chat about all things Cyberpunk with Reeves in person.
“I haven’t met him yet, but sooner or later, the trap I’ve set will bring him in,” Pondsmith said.
We’ll get to see more of Reeves’ performance as Johnny Silverhand, and of CD Projekt Red’s vision of Pondsmith’s Cyberpunk universe, when Cyberpunk 2077 launches April 16, 2020.