Spike’s Voice Actor on Keanu Reeves’s Love for ‘Cowboy Bebop’

Karla Clark
TV Movies
TV Movies Anime

Shinichiro Watanabe‘s Cowboy Bebop has become a cultural phenomenon that we continue to revisit even 20 years later. With its wide appeal and western pop culture references, it’s a miracle that it hasn’t been adapted yet. But that doesn’t mean that no one’s ever tried. FANDOM sat down with Spike‘s English voice actor Steve Blum to discuss Cowboy Bebop‘s lasting success, that time he met Keanu Reeves at an airport, and the rumored live-action series.

Unexpected Success

Faye Valentine from Cowboy Bebop with a shocked look on her face
The anime's success even surprised its cast.

Back when Cowboy Bebop‘s English dub was being recorded, the cast didn’t know that fans would continue to praise the anime for the next two decades. Even Spike’s voice actor Steve Blum was surprised by the anime’s wide appeal, particularly the English-dubbed version of the show.

I had worked on so many other shows prior to Bebop that we all loved and the audience really seemed to like, but when I would go to conventions people would still scream at us saying that we were destroying the art form,” Blum recalls. That’s if anyone even saw the anime they worked on at all. Finding anime back in the ’90s wasn’t as easy as it is now. Niche streaming sites like Crunchyroll didn’t exist yet. 

In those days, we had no idea if anybody would even see them because most anime shows were going out on VHS, and they were super expensive,” says Blum. “TV airplay was very limited. So, once it got out there to the masses, we were actually kind of shocked at how well it was received and how many demographics it would cross.

It broke the mold for anime and got a lot of people interested who wouldn’t even give dubbed anime a chance until that point.” Cowboy Bebop broke the mold when it came to English-dubbed performances, throwing a wrench into the argument that dubs are inferior. Blum continues, Once people gave it a chance, they saw that this was something very different and really special. It was an homage to American culture as much as it was for Japanese culture.”

Keanu Reeves and the Live-Action Film

Keanu Reeves in John Wick 2
Keanu Reeves was actually a fan of the anime.

Indeed, Cowboy Bebop introduced anime to an entire generation of fans and quickly ingrained itself in Western pop culture. So, it was no surprise when Hollywood decided to try and capitalize on the animated space western. When word of the live-action film spread, fans were doubtful that Hollywood would do the anime justice. Blum had his concerns, as well. So, he did what any of us would do. He spoke with the man whose name was attached to the film — Keanu Reeves.

“I actually met him in an airport, and we had a discussion about [the film]. I had a little fanboy moment with him at first,” Blum gleefully recalls. “Then I told him who I was and he said that he knew my work. He had just watched the show. After going through my 8-year-old, internal fanboy squee that he knew who I was, we settled into a conversation. And I just asked him about his thoughts on doing the live-action film.

“I wanted to know if he was as invested in it as people needed him to be for something like that, and he certainly was. He was incredibly enthusiastic about it. I believe he actually optioned the rights to the movie,” says Blum. “He said at that time that there’s this beautiful script for it. It’s amazing, but it would cost half a billion dollars to produce. His concern was that it just wouldn’t get greenlit in time for him to be able to do his own stunts without being an old man.”

Casting a Live-Action Cowboy Bebop

Shinichiro Watanabe, director of Cowboy Bebop
Blum believes that Watanabe and Kanno should be involved in any live-action adaptations of 'Cowboy Bebop.'

Unfortunately, despite Reeves’s enthusiasm, the project never came to fruition. But Blum thought it would have been interesting to see Reeves take on his iconic role. “The passion was certainly there. He certainly has the right body type for it and he’s got a zen way about him. In person, he’s a really, really cool guy. He would’ve been an interesting choice.”

When asked who should be cast in the rumored live-action series, Blum can’t think of any big names. It’s more important to him that the adaptation does a great job of honoring the original. However, he is averse to casting big-name celebrities in iconic roles just for publicity’s sake.

“I would love if they found unknowns who can do it perfectly,” says Blum. “It’s one of my pet peeves when they stunt cast big celebrities, especially in iconic roles. That said, if they find stars who nail it and truly care about the franchise and the fans, then good on ‘em.

“As far as the TV show that apparently has been greenlit now. I haven’t heard anything about casting or the writers or whether or not Watanabe-san is even involved,” Blum notes. “As long as he’s involved and they get Yoko Kanno to do the music and they get a solid cast, I don’t care who is in it as long as they’re good.

“I would love a cameo, please. Even some narration would make me very happy,” he adds.

All We Can Do Is Wait

Spike from Cowboy Bebop smoking a cigarette without a shirt
We'll just have to wait for the next adventure.

Not much has been said about the live-action series since 2017. Until we get another update, all we can do is hope that those involved will heed the advice of those who helped make the show a success. Casting unknown talent sounds like a great place to start when adapting an anime with such humble beginnings. As Blum says, “There are plenty of really, really great actors who haven’t had a shot. If they’re right for the part, then they’re right for the part.”

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Karla Clark
Karla Clark is the FANDOM Contributor Program Manager and a writer and blerdy mommy from Oakland, California. You can find her words here on FANDOM, BlackGirlNerds.com, and TheGamer.com. Other gigs: unofficial anime consultant, gamer yearning for couch co-op's return, peruser of manga and comics.