05/08/1995 at 01:00 AM EDT
BACK DURING HIS HIGH SCHOOL DAYS IN Toronto, Keanu Reeves
was "almost gangly—tall and thin, with long hair over his eyes," recalls John O'Flaherty, his former hockey coach. "He was always smiling, but I don't remember him ever being neat." So who said neatness counts? With a current asking price of $7 million per picture, the ethereal, brown-eyed actor, 30, can call his own fashion shots, which include leather jackets, lopped-off hair and Timberlands sans socks. In this summer's A Walk in the Clouds
, he has his first fully grown-up role, as a soldier in love with a Mexican aristocrat played by newcomer Aitana Sanchez-Gijon. It's a far cry from bubblehead Ted in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
—and so is Reeves, who showed up on that set in combat boots and a skirt. "It wasn't done for effect," insists the film's cowriter Chris Matheson. "He'd shrug and say, 'It's comfortable.' "
For last year's Speed, Reeves not only chucked the skirt—he altered his musculature. "I didn't want to be cut," he said, "but I wanted to have somewhat of a beefy aspect to my chest and arms." Nice, perhaps, but irrelevant. "Keanu has James Dean charisma, that troubled youth/pent-up sexuality quality," says Toronto photographer David Hlynsky, who knew Reeves as a teenager. "He's a beautiful man in an androgynous way." Make that any which way at all.