Keanu’s Mad As Hellblazer In Upcoming Comic Book Film

Reeves stars as angry but goodhearted liar in 'Constantine.'

Keanu Reeves’ next action hero won’t have Neo’s steady Zen-like calm, but it was the fiery passion that made the role of Hellblazer so attractive, according to the “Matrix” star.

“[It's] his anger. He’s angry, but he’s got a good heart,” Reeves said recently of the comic book badass, whose real name is John Constantine.

In the “Hellblazer” comic, which is aimed at a savvy adult audience, Constantine is an Englishman with occult powers who is both a liar and a cheat and yet nevertheless often prone to doing the right thing.

Reeves said he hopes to get moving on the big-screen adaptation, which will be called simply “Constantine,” as soon as September. Warner Bros. has long labored to get the DC/Vertigo comic into theaters, with Nicolas Cage at one time attached to the role before Reeves landed the job. The film will mark the feature film debut of video director Francis Lawrence, whose résumé includes clips for Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and P.O.D. (see “VMA Lens Recap: The Story Behind P.O.D.’s ‘Alive’” ).

Constantine was created in the pages of “Swamp Thing” by comic book visionary Alan Moore, whose “From Hell” was the basis for a 2001 thriller starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. Moore’s “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” is also getting the big-screen treatment, with a film version starring Sean Connery due later this summer.

Before he slips into Hellblazer’s trench coat, Reeves will finish work on a currently untitled project with writer/director Nancy Meyers (“What Women Want”), co-starring Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton and Jon Favreau (“Swingers”). Production started on the film in February, with the film’s producers eyeing a December 2003 release.

“Constantine” is tentatively scheduled for summer 2004.