Netflix’s latest film Always Be My Maybe has all the elements of a hit rom-com: a star-studded cast led by comedian Ali Wong and Fresh Off The Boat star Randall Park, a killer hip-hop-leaning soundtrack featuring Bay Area artists like Souls Of Mischief and Too $hort and a satisfying, “Awwww” ending that the romantic comedy genre delivers best.
However, the real kicker comes just as the film ends and the credits roll — Park performs an additional track titled “I Punched Keanu Reeves.”
Some back story for those who haven’t seen the film: arguably the most-buzzed-about scene of Always Be My Maybe occurs when Marcus and Sasha (played by Park and Wong) introduce each other to their then-significant others Jenny (Vivian Bang) and cinema legend Keanu Reeves, who makes a hilarious cameo playing an elevated and much more pretentious version of himself. The double date ends disastrously, with Keanu daring Marcus to hit him and Marcus actually delivering the blow.
The movie ends with a clever exchange between Marcus and Sasha, where Marcus asks, “Do you think everyone knows I punched Keanu Reeves?” and Sasha responds, “You should probably write a song about it, just to be sure.”
Marcus decides to take her up on the challenge. “Best believe I punched Keanu Reeves/ And it was better than any scene you could see in Speed,” Park raps on the final track in character. “I hit John Wick and now I’m feeling so appealing/ Basically I’m a god/ You can call me Hercules.”
And while the resulting track provides an amusing and fulfilling end to the film, Park tells Billboard that “I Punched Keanu Reeves” wasn’t initially planned. When the movie reached its final post-production stages, it was screened for some members of the cast along with Netflix executives, where Tendo Nagenda, Netflix’s vp of original films, suggested they write and record the song for the end credits.
Park — who also wrote the lyrics for the film’s two other original songs — got started on the extra track almost immediately. A lifelong Keanu Reeves fan, Park says The Matrix and the Bill & Ted films were “so pivotal” to him growing up, so the Keanu-centered lyrics came easily to him.
“Ultimately I wanted to write a tribute to Keanu Reeves, because I still couldn’t believe that he did our movie and I’m such a huge fan of his,” Park explains. “So the direction of the song as far as basically listing off all these iconic roles that he played and these iconic movies — that came to me right away.”
Dan the Automator, a veteran hip-hop producer that recently scored the coming-of-age comedy film Booksmart, crafted the beat for the track in addition to the rom-com’s other original songs. He met Park almost a year before the movie began filming, when Park attended a Handsome Boy Modeling School show in L.A. and was asked to give an impromptu introduction for the hip-hop duo. Park clearly was a HBMS fan, as his character Marcus proudly displays a poster of their 1999 debut album So… How’s Your Girl? in his room.
Dan the Automator says when he first heard Park’s rhymes for “I Punched Keanu Reeves,” he thought they were “hilarious,” and exactly what he’d expect from Park. The song, he says, perfectly encapsulates the seasoned actor’s distinct, deadpan comedy.
“When you listen to it, you get to feel his personality and you get to feel the dryness of the humor,” he says. “One reason you can really get into it too is like, having seen Randall in Fresh Off the Boat or this movie, you can kind of picture him saying all this stuff.”
Bay Area artist Lyrics Born, who plays Park’s bandmate Quasar, wrote and rapped a verse on “Hello” for the film’s soundtrack, but wasn’t involved in the last-minute track. Shortly after it was recorded, he heard about the song from Park.
Praising Park’s creativity and writing ability, Lyrics Born says he thought the song was “so brilliant” and was impressed with its thoroughness in citing Keanu’s acting roles in Speed, The Matrix and the John Wick franchise.
“Best believe I punched Keanu Reeves/ And it was better than any scene you could see in Speed/ I’m tellin’ you for real, I punched Neo/ He could duck bullets but he couldn’t duck me,” Park says on the second part of the chorus.
“Like, that would’ve taken me a while to write because I would’ve had to do a lot of research,” says Lyrics Born. “And I was surprised Keanu was cool with it. That kind of speaks to Keanu’s character as a person. You kind of see that on screen as well; he obviously doesn’t take himself that seriously and I just thought that was so cool.”
It turned out the longtime movie star was more than OK with the playful, reference-filled track. After Park finished a draft of some of the lyrics, he emailed them to Keanu to gauge his thoughts. Reeves not only gave his blessing, but also lent his opinion on how to take the lyrics to the next level.
“He totally got it,” Park recalls. “He was like, ‘This is great,’ and he had some suggestions for the song that ultimately made the song better. In the version I sent him there was like one line referring to Sasha, and his suggestion was to make it a little more about [the] relationship and less about [him]. And that’s so Keanu — he really cares about the project and he’s not looking out for himself. Not that he has to at this point.”