Keanu's fight club
by Phillip Koch
It's a punishing regime, with no favours given or received. Up early, arrive on the lot at 7.30am and train for up to 10 hours. Action man Keanu Reeves and his co-stars Laurence Fishbone (LOLOLOLOLOL - Ani), Hugo Weaving and Carry-Anne Moss (ditto. - Ani) are in training at Sydney's Fox studios to reprise their roles in the sequels to The Matrix.
"All the actors have been undergoing intensive martial arts training ", confirmed one insider on the set of The Matrix Reloaded.
"There is a small army of martial arts trainers out at Fox Studios. Keanu, Carry, Hugo and Laurence were on set every day last week. "They emerge only for a lunch break and they're usually in training gear. The caterer has also prepared high protein diets for them."
Forget Hollywood glamour. After tough workouts at the purpose-built gym to get in shape for the demanding fight sequences, even Reeves was hardly recognisable in a tracksuit, beanie and boots. Reeves said his role in The Matrix 2 and 3 would be far more challenging than the original blockbuster. "It's fantastic," the actor told US reporters.
"It has even more ambitions than the first one. My character is more developed. There are a lot of physical demands in it. It's more sophisticated in the action sequences and fight sequences." The star of Speed and Point Break has kept a low profile since his arrival last week spending most of his downtime in his hotel suite.
Matrix insiders say he is still suffering depression after the stillbirth of his daughter last year and the death of girlfriend Jennifer Syme in a car crash in April.
Moss was spotted picking up her husband, Steven Roy, at Sydney airport last weekend, and the couple have since spent much time on set together.
Fishburne, 40, who set up home in Bondi, has spent a lot of time on set and in the beach suburb with fiancee Gina Torres.
Local star Hugo Weaving obviously took his new exercise regime seriously and cycled to Fox Studios every day last week. Moss and Fishburne both joined former US president Bill Clinton, at a Sydney Children's Hospital fundraiser at Randwick last night.
The $200 million Matrix sequels will be filmed back to back at Fox Studios over the next four months, and will feature up to 40 Sydney locations. Although the sets are still under construction, filming is scheduled to start on September 24, with hundreds of local wannabe actors needed to play extras.
"We need hundreds of local men," confirmed Matrix publicist Fiona Searson. "But they need to stand between 183cm and 188cm to be considered for a role."
The men will play Keanu look-alikes for a cloning sequence laden with special effects, which is integral to both films. A Sydney City Council spokesman said while no official application had been received, Matrix Reloaded was expected to be less disruptive than the original.
"We believe the main unit will be shooting for two weeks only in Sydney," he said.
Brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski will direct the sequels, in which Will Smith's wife Jada Pinkett-Smith, will also star. Meanwhile, thousands of Keanu Reeves look-alikes queued for their chance at fame at Newtown theatre yesterday. The mass of hopefuls, all wearing dark glasses and dark suit jackets, stretched down several blocks of King St from 9am.
Hundreds who turned up after 11am looked despondently at the queue and headed back home.
Once inside the doors of the theatre, those auditioning were told to stand in front of a silhouette.
Those who matched the figure were then teamed with another candidate and photographed standing beside a Hugo Weaving cut-out.
In fine Hollywood tradition, those who reached the photograph-and-form stage were told: "We'll call you."