Keanu returns in double deal
by Philip Koch
KEANU Reeves will return to Sydney to make two sequels to Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix in a major endorsement of our exploding film industry.
The multi-million deal has been under negotiation for months but was finalised on Friday, according to a prominent industry insider.
"It's a bigger deal than (director) James Cameron got for Titanic," he told The Sunday Telegraph.
Cameron received a $115m pay cheque from Titanic, which cost $US200m to make and generated 10 times that in revenue worldwide.
The deal is yet another endorsement of Sydney's new role as Tinseltown Downunder, with Australian technology, cheaper production costs and crew efficiency luring major film companies away from Hollywood. The Mission Impossible sequel ($126m), The Thin Red Line ($55m) and the next Star Wars film ($150m-plus) have injected millions of dollars into the Australian economy and added thousands of jobs to the burgeoning industry.
As filmmaking takes off in Sydney so does the market for actors, singers and dancers. Fox Studios is auditioning thousands of performers for a new interactive exhibition, titled Backlot, which will include six shows a day at the studio from November.
Payroll tax concessions and a favourable exchange rate are part of the attraction for companies such as Warner Bros and Village Roadshow which will jointly make The Matrix sequels - to be simply entitled Matrix 2 and Matrix 3 – at Fox Studios and on location in Sydney's central business district.
The planned back-to-back productions are expected to inject more than $150m into Sydney's economy and are expected to help entice other major film projects to the city.
The Matrix, which starred Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss, Lawrence Fishburn and Hugo Weaving, cost $US80m to make in Sydney last year and took $US27.7m when it opened in the US over the Easter holiday weekend.
The film's co-director Andy Wachowski hinted last month that the movie was always intended to be one of a three-part series.
"We always conceived The Matrix as a trilogy," he told a Canadian newspaper.
"We could do a prequel and a sequel to this episode or two prequels or two sequels.
"The story and characters lend themselves to any number of permutations and combinations."
It is believed that Matrix co-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski had negotiated for a cut of the two sequels gross box office takings.
Hollywood insiders said yesterday that there was an expectation that the first sequel would be a cliffhanger leading to the second.
The two sequels are expected to be made back-to-back and released within months of each other in a complete break with cinema marketing tradition.