‘It’s Too Late’: Keanu Reeves at 52 Gave up on Becoming a Dad While Robert de Niro at 79 Welcomed 7th Kid

    Two legendary actors, Keanu Reeves, 58, and Robert De Niro, 79, have had two completely different experiences when it comes to fatherhood.

    De Niro has just welcomed his 7th child this year and enjoys being a doting dad.

    On the other hand, Reeves believes he missed his chance to have children and was left emotionally scarred from a tragic loss in which he almost became a father.

    Keanu Reeves is so widely known for his incredible acting talents that fans usually anticipate seeing him in the next big action movie. However, due to “The Matrix” star’s reclusive and private nature, very little is known about his wants and desires outside of his hugely successful career. What’s known is that Reeves is notoriously down-to-earth and was, at one point, dead set on becoming a father.

    In 1998, Reeves met an American actress named Jennifer Syme. The two encountered each other at a promotional party Reeves was having for his alternative-rock band—Dogstar—and it was love at first sight.

    A year later, in 1999, the couple fell pregnant and were ecstatic about becoming parents. They were set to welcome a beautiful baby girl named Ava Archer Syme-Reeves, but unfortunately, baby Ava did not make it. Syme tragically gave birth to a stillborn at eight months old, and the couple was absolutely devastated.

    The tragedy took place on Christmas Eve while Reeves was busy filming “The Matrix.” Syme was especially shattered by the experience that she went into post-natal depression, and the couple’s relationship became burdened by insurmountable grief. Sadly, the grief-stricken couple’s relationship could not survive the tragedy, and they called it quits shortly after.

    To make matters worse, two years later, in 2001, Syme passed away from a severe car accident. On the fateful night of her death, Syme had been driven home by a friend after attending a Marilyn Manson party. When she got home, she reportedly drove her Jeep into parked cars on Cahuenga Boulevard in Los Angeles and died on impact.

    A bereaved Reeves was the one to carry her coffin at her funeral and bury Syme alongside their daughter in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetary in Los Angeles. It was especially devastating for Reeves as he and Syme were reportedly trying to fix things between them right before her death.

    Keanu Reeves at a press conference for "Thumbsucker" in Toronto, 2005 | Source: Getty Images

    Reeves found himself robbed of the domestic lifestyle he was so ready to lead and thus embraced a rootless one instead, living out of suitcases in a fleet of hotels. One of the cleaners at one of the hotels he stayed in had posted a claim on Reddit that stipulated that he barely left his room and would watch “Spongebob Squarepants” on a loop in his room.

    According to reports from the staff, Reeves was very friendly and got to know each of them, even remembering minute details about every person. He would tip generously and even leave notes for the chef if he liked their meal. In a sit-down interview with Roger Ebert, the “John Wick” star was asked about the Nomad-esque life he had reduced himself to living and how he stored all his stuff, to which he responded:

    “Sounds quite bohemian and gypsy-like, doesn’t it? It’s getting simpler [though, and] I’m down to one bag now, and smaller [hotel rooms], yes, I am. [All my books] go to my sister’s house; she’s got all my books from the past year, all in different boxes [but] just recently I’m missing a lot of my belongings…[because] it was nice to have them around when I did have a house, you know.”

    While in an interview, speaking about his then-new movie “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum,” Reeves was asked why he was so drawn to the grief of the character he plays in the film. The “Constantine” star explained:

    “Well, for the character and in life, it’s about the love of the person you’re grieving for, and any time you can keep company with that fire, it is warm. I absolutely relate to that, and I don’t think you ever work through it. Grief and loss, those are things that don’t ever go away. [Instead], they stay with you.”

    Reeves has been incredibly open about his battle with grief and how the feeling may change in form and frequency but will never be entirely absolved from existence. He even revealed that he has many moments where he wonders how things might have turned out for him and his almost family had the tragedies not occurred.

    Keanu Reeves attending ex-girlfriend Ava Syme's funeral in Los Angeles, 2001 | Source: Getty Images

    At 40, Reeves described how an immense depression overtook his life. He admitted:

    “They say life begins at 40, but for me, it had the opposite effect. I started to worry about how many years I had left before I die [and] I entered a dark period of morbid brooding [where] I became frighteningly aware of my own mortality. It was a nightmare.”

    On the other hand, De Niro has been extremely lucky in love and has been involved in quite a number of successful romantic relationships that did not end in tragedy. Outside of being an iconic movie star, De Niro was also known to be quite the charming casanova back in the day. The “Goodfellas” star has fathered a total of seven kids — the last of whom was just born a couple of days ago — from four different women.

    From his legendary films, fans know him as a hardcore rebel who is not to be messed with in most cases. However, the film star is also the most lovable dad and enjoys spending copious amounts of time with all his children.

    On March 17, 2023, De Niro and one of his sons, 25-year-old Elliot De Niro, were spotted out enjoying some fresh air on a father-son walk in New York City. Elliot is the third youngest of the De Niro brood, and his mother, Grace Hightower, shares another child with his dad — Helen Grace, 11. Apparently, Elliot enjoys tennis and plays the sport quite often.

    The 25-year-old is also autistic, and his loving parents make sure to let him know that he can achieve anything he sets his mind to. He has found joy in his love for tennis, participates in events organized by the Special Olympics, and has even made a close friend — Max Richter, while there. Proud Papa De Niro expressed how happy he was to see his son’s passion come to life and to know that the sport made him more confident:

    “It helps him be more confident when he sees that he’s actually good at this; that’s the best self-motivator one can have. He’s gonna feel better about himself, which he does. So, it’s a win-win for everybody, especially him.”

    A screenshot from an ESPN Special Olympics video of Elliot De Niro playing tennis with his mom, Grace Hightower, watching him in the background, posted in 2019 | Source: ESPN Special Olympics

    Hightower and De Niro divorced in 2018 after 20 years of marriage but still remain committed to being the best parents to their children. Hightower is just as proud of her son as his dad is and was just as equally delighted when Elliot found his passion for tennis:

    “That is the gift you give your child. That is the gift to be able to succeed within themselves and give them that motivation, confidence, [and] the knowing of who they are. [If] they have that, they can do so much.”

    De Niro spoke of his ex-wife in the highest regard when referring to their divorce. He reported having nothing but respect for the phenomenal wife she had been to him and the wonderful mother she continues to be to their children:

    “Grace and I have two beautiful children together. We are entering a period of transition in our relationship, which is a difficult but constructive process. I honor Grace as a wonderful mother and ask for privacy and respect from all as we proceed to develop our roles as partners in parenting.”

    Drena and Robert De Niro at the "Showtime" premiere in Los Angeles, 2002 | Source: Getty Images

    Before his marriage to Hightower, De Niro was married to American actress Diahnne Abbott. The couple shares two children together — Raphael, 46, and Drena, 51, whom Abbott had in a previous marriage and De Niro adopted.

    After Abbott and De Niro divorced in 1988, he briefly dated a model named Toukie Smith. The ex-couple have twins — Julian and Aaron, 27, via a surrogate.

    As a juxtaposition to Reeves’ tentative nature when it comes to opening up to the idea of fatherhood, De Niro, on the other hand, has become a father for the seventh time at 79 years old.

    The actor adores all of his children, and though he reinforces that he loves fatherhood, he admits that it has not always been an easy feat. While at the opening night premiere of “The Apollo,” De Niro gave insight into how he feels being a father:

    “I love my children, just being with them. It’s not easy. Sometimes, it’s fun, and you love your kids, and sometimes you want to kill them! Then, when you have the good moments, you forget about the ones that weren’t good.”

    The De Niro twins Aaron and Julian De Niro spotted in New York City, 1998 | Source: Getty Images

    There was a time when Reeves believed finding love again after his tragic loss was near impossible. However, in 2009, eight years following his ex’s passing, he met fellow actress Alexandra Grant, and the pair hit it off immediately.

    Grant admired Reeves’ poetry about his self-pity and the dark times he went through. She was given a few pieces of his musings by a mutual friend of theirs in Los Angeles, and she got inspired to draw some images to accompany his poems. The Hollywood actress presented her drawings as a gift, and the project then turned out to be a book that got published in 2011.

    Something that started as a gift eventually became a future frequent book-publishing collaboration between the couple. According to Grant:

    “It was a surprise and a [personal] gift. We didn’t make the book to publish it; it was meant to put a big smile on our faces and make everyone laugh.”

    The pair then went on to publish another book in 2016 called “Shadows.” A year later, in 2017, Reeves and Grant decided to start their own publishing house — X Artists’ Books which has a niche focus on promoting books with abstract and unusual stories.

    Reeves is well-known for previously keeping his love life incredibly private. However, he and Grant have made several red-carpet debuts in which they share a cute, tender moment or two. They’ve also shown PDA in the form of hand-holding and sweet all-knowing glances between one another. Though the couple is extremely happy being in love, Reeves is still doubtful of his capacity to become a father in the future, and in 2017, he said:

    “I’m too…It’s too late. It’s over…I’m 52. I’m not going to have any kids.”

    Naturally, his past rendered him deeply traumatized, undoubtedly affecting his outlook on love and life. Regardless, he and Grant have become inseparable, as reported by friends, and pretty much do everything together.

    Alexandra Grant and Keanu Reeves attending the Saint Laurent Men's Spring-Summer 2020 runway show in Malibu, 2019 | Source: Getty Images

    Many friends of the couple have all agreed that their relationship has gotten serious enough to the point where Reeves can see himself spending a lifetime with Grant. An insider reports:

    “He was in such a dark place for so long, but Alexandra’s positive outlook and support have played a huge part in helping him turn his life around. Some say she’s not only stolen his heart, but she’s also saved him. She’s kind, warm, and spiritual, just like Keanu, and a great communicator, [and] she’s one of the few people who’s managed to get Keanu to open up about his emotions and past.”

    Although the couple is on the fast track to a life together — with Grant even picking up Reeves’ favorite pastimes as hobbies of her own — Reeves is still working through the tragedies of his past. According to his close friend, the “Speed” star is still working through commitment issues.

    Keanu Reeves and Alexandra Grant at the 2022 MOCA Gala in Los Angeles, 2022 | Source: Getty Images

    As a juxtaposition to Reeves’ tentative nature when it comes to opening up to the idea of fatherhood, De Niro, on the other hand, has become a father for the seventh time at 79 years old.

    On May 11, 2023, CBS got exclusive rights to share the fantastic news about De Niro’s baby, who he welcomed with his partner Tiffany Chen. De Niro and Chen first met on the set of “The Intern” in 2015, where she played a Tai Chi instructor.

    Baby Gia Virginia Chen-De Niro made her debut in early April, with Gayle King breaking the story. King discussed how her segment of the show was only supposed to be an interview with De Niro and two fellow actors about an upcoming movie they had starred in. During the segment, King briefly touched upon the subject of fatherhood but claimed that the birth of baby Gia never came up in conversation:

    “So, what didn’t come up during our interview is that De Niro, who is 79, has a newborn! We were with him on Saturday, [and] that news was released on Monday, so I called him yesterday, and I said: ‘Don’t you think, Mr. De Niro, you could have just mentioned that in passing, that you have this baby?’ He goes, ‘Well, I actually thought about it, but we were discussing the movie.’”

    The CBS segment then ended with exclusive pictures of the gorgeous baby girl, and King revealed that De Niro and Chen had, in fact, planned to have the baby, and when she arrived, the couple was elated.

    In an interview that came out just before the CBS one, De Niro conversed with an interviewer about his parenting methods. During the conversation, the interviewer referenced that he only had six kids, and De Niro quickly interjected to correct her and said that he has seven children.

    Even though De Niro and Chen were thrilled to welcome their baby girl, the fact that the birth had been planned did not stop critics and haters from judging the actor for becoming a father for the seventh time. Many attacked the Hollywood star for choosing to have another baby as an elder.

    One Facebook user believes De Niro won’t even be around long enough to watch his baby grow:

    “It’s a shame [the baby] will grow most of [her] life without a father.”

    The criticisms surrounding the news all speak to a broader public opinion that one should not have kids past a certain age. Another Facebook user commented:

    “Just because you can…doesn’t mean you should.”

    De Niro does not care about the adverse reactions to his excellent news and maintains being a happy and loving father. And though there are no concrete plans for Reeves and Grant to start building a family, the couple remains in love and appears content with life.

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