Menlo design firm puts shades on Keanu Reeves
by Bret Putnam
MENLO PARK -- Product design firm StudioRED has placed four of its recent creations where they can really be seen -- squarely on the noses of Keanu Reeves and three other stars of this summer's blockbuster movie "The Matrix: Reloaded."
StudioRED produced the futuristic sunglasses that Reeves and three other actors, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving, wear as they battle with an evil race of robots that holds them captive in "The Matrix."
When the original "Matrix" came out in 1999, it set a new standard for action films, with special effects that were revolutionary -- and serious intellectual content to boot.
It was also long on style.
The sleek neo-Gothic fashions worn by Reeves and his co-stars did much to give the film its arresting edginess.
StudioRED landed the job of updating that signature style for "The Matrix: Reloaded," the first sequel in a projected trilogy.
According to StudioRED founder Philip Bourgeois, the update was no easy task.
"The challenge of looking at a piece of white paper and worrying and stressing because I have to deliver something great-looking at the end" is always daunting, Bourgeois said.
Aided by a quartet of designers, and working with plaster busts of the four stars, Bourgeois produced four -- yes, only four -- prototype sunglasses. The cost per pair to create: a cool $4,000. Warner Bros. paid twice that for the glasses, but owns the rights to the prototypes and stands to profit from retail sales.
StudioRED, founded by Bourgeois 20 years ago, has designed a huge variety of products, from surgery instruments to folding chairs. But, not surprisingly, few of those creations get the world-wide exposure that "The Matrix" is providing for StudioRED's sunglasses.
The shades are so coveted that not even Bourgeois has a pair.
The film opened more than a week ago, and already Bourgeois is getting inquires from around the globe -- one just came in from a major Turkish eyewear distributor Friday -- about how to order the shades. Bourgeois directs all such inquiries to Warner Bros., which has a mass marketing strategy in the works -- but no sunglasses yet beyond the prototypes.
Meanwhile, Bourgeois, a resident of Woodside, planned to take in "The Matrix Reloaded" at a local theater over the Memorial Day weekend.
"When you see something come to fruition and have that impact that you desired and looked for -- I believe there is no greater reward," Bourgeois said.