Interview with Keanu Reeves
by Steven Horn
Neo chats about the end of the Matrix world, the coat, and getting ready for the film.
Despite his previous career successes in the action genre (Speed and Point Break), Keanu Reeves will go down in the history books as Neo, the hero of the Matrix trilogy. On the eve of what will likely be the largest film of his career, Reeves spent some time discussing his character and role in The Matrix Reloaded.
One of the first questions asked of Keanu was his approach to fame as well as the huge fan support for the films."I don't seek it out really. The Brothers will talk about it sometimes, they're really appreciative of it. They really enjoy the excitement, everyone enjoys the excitement. We all really enjoy the project and so it's great when other people dig it as well."
Reeves has transformed himself physically over the past several years and has become adept at the wire work necessary to be Neo. He discussed what it took to get ready for the next Matrix. "It took a lot of training, the usual four or five months before and then the usual training while shooting. I would have a fight, do some acting, and then choreography would come in and then train with the actors. It's demanding, but it's also one of my favorite parts of the piece. I would more proficient with the wire work. I was able to catch on to choreography much quicker. When they would come in with the choreography with the fights, I would just pick it up. I guess just because my body had the memory of those kinds of movements and knew how to absorb them.
"The fight that was all of the Smiths was a lot of moves. I got to work with twelve of the stuntmen and so for three weeks we just did that fight. And the other thing was just trying to learn the weapons, there was a lot of different weapons, the sais, the swords, the sticks."
Why is The Matrix Reloaded coming out now, 4 years after the first film? "They had to write it, they had a little bit of pre-production to do (laughs) and I think it took some time after the first one, especially for the Brothers, to come back and be able to write it. It was a hard endeavor."
Keanu realized what he was getting in to from the beginning. "I knew it was a trilogy making the first one. I recall at the end of the first Matrix, the Brothers talking about some of the images they were thinking about for the second one. The machines that the Zion fighters have, the robots. I knew that it was alive and then when the first one came out and was received so well, I guess that's when people started to go, 'Okay, let's see what we can do now.' I think that was late 2001. I started training November 2001. It was 270 days, 14 months. I didn't work everyday. The Brothers, what they've done is extraordinary in terms of the effort and focus in getting this on the screen."
One of Neo's hallmark is his fantastic and black wardrobe. "When you first put it on, it's very exciting and it really does inform a lot of your character. It's so iconoclastic. I have 23 different versions of that costume depending on the lighting, the fighting, acting, rain or no rain. They wanted different ones because they catch different things. It has monastic, clerical, priestly overtones but what kind. It's an individual priest, the archetypal cape, it's the overcoat, it's Superman. In the odd way, it's the lone wolf, it kind of has the man apart aspect. It's evocative of many things."
Can he top Neo? "Hopefully I'll get to work with some artists who have another vision. In terms of topping it, I don't know. I don't think like that. I'm really grateful to be a part of this experience and work with the artists I worked with, to have such a great role, to be a part of something that people are so excited to see."
Reeves talked a bit about the philosophy of the Matrix. "What is reality, what is truth, what is fate, dealing with man and technology. What is AI? What is the real? And if real is just sensory perceptions why can't the matrix be as real and the whole aspect of finding authentic life. I don't believe that the Brothers, in terms of the first one, there are elements of the first one that were kind of pulled back in terms of trying to tell the story. In terms of the characters who were in the Nebuchanezzer, like Switch, they had the same physical incarnation in their matrix selves. Way back when, when they were in the matrix, they looked completely different."
Reeves has trouble picking his favorite scene in the film. "I really enjoy so many of them. I really dig the scene with the Merovingian. It's wonderfully performed, wonderfully written. The scene with the architect is really awesome, well-written, well acted. The things that come out of that scene are pretty interesting to think about. I like the tea house fight and the ones with the Smiths. I like the scenes with Trinity and Neo, some of the more emotional scenes. I love the new characters, I think Jada is kicking some ass. Morpheus is wonderful. I love the look of it, the cinema of it, I didn't find myself when I saw it going, 'Oh yeah, The Matrix. It's very unique and exciting to watch. I loved how much movie is on the screen. I loved the world that they created. You just go right into it."
Is it really over? "We're done. The actors are done. The last scene was a shot in Revolutions. It's a scene with Neo in the machine city. I guess there we're about 250-300 people in the sound stage. It was a close-up and there were a lot of takes. It was a very unique feeling to come to the completion of the project. I was feeling sad, affected emotionally by having all these people, all these craftspeople, people who participated in the film. Our lunch was 1,000 people. We were in 26 or 27 soundstages in Australia. We would be in, say, soundstage one and there would be people hanging lights in another soundstage who did that for 6 months. They literally were working nights for 6 months. There were cats working on the movie that you didn't see. It's like coming in at the end of a long voyage I think. It's like getting off the boat and stepping onshore after crossing an ocean."