A conversation with the cast of The Matrix Reloaded
Tribute's Bonnie Laufer had the unique opportunity to talk to the principal cast (Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburne, Jada Pinkett Smith, Hugo Weaving, Monica Bellucci) and special effects guru John Gaeta of The Matrix Reloaded in one group session. Here is what she found out.
B.L. Keanu, let’s start with you. After you made The Matrix and you knew that you were committed to do these sequels and you really had to raise the level of your training and everything that you had to do for it, were you completely freaked out?
K.R. No, I was just really excited. I thought that the brothers (Larry and Andy Wachowski) had written two beautiful scripts and I was really just inspired by them. I was eager to start and glad to be there.
B.L. You were obviously very devoted to this role. Can you tell me a little bit about your training and how you got into it?
K.R. Well the basic training was the same for all of us. It was about two hours of stretching and kicking. We’d have lunch and then after lunch we’d warm up and stretch again. If you like, do some more kicking, and for me it was working with weapons sometimes. Everyone was doing weight training for the first few months, definitely. As it developed it turned into choreography and I think that Lawrence had choreography for the truck fight that he had. That was basically everything before filming.
B.L. Laurence, how did you step up your training for these films?
L.F. It was really a lot more difficult to get into it this time because we kind of knew what we were in for. We didn’t know what we were going to do the first time so when we went in, it was like ‘okay, we have to do this? Okay, fine.’ The second time we knew so it was a little bit harder. Essentially it was the same deal with the exception of some of the choreography. Some of the choreography was a lot more sophisticated, like the wire moves that we had to make were a lot more sophisticated than what we had in the first movie and as Keanu said, with the weapons it was a lot more detailed and intricate, so they pushed us a little harder.
B.L. Carrie-Anne, Trinity just kicks some major butt in this film. It’s amazing to do this stuff. How freaked out were you to get started, especially shooting a key scene where you have to ride a motorcycle going against traffic without a helmet? What was going through your mind while you were making this movie?
C.A.M. This movie represents for me and I know for everybody so much in our hearts. I really believe in this film so much that when I was asked to do it again and I said yes to it, I really chose to have the experience. To really show up to have a full rich experience because I knew it would never happen to me again. So it was really such an opportunity to have an experience unlike any other experience, number one, and to face your fears. For me, facing the fear of the motorcycle for instance was really difficult, but something that I was really proud that I overcame and that I had the opportunity in my life to face something like that. I kind of look at life like that anyway. Playing Trinity has been such a challenge for me. I adore her, I love her, I respect her and I honor her. I just feel so lucky to have been able to play her.
B.L. Are you done with action films now? Perhaps a romantic comedy maybe?
C.A.M. Yeah, I’d like to do something beautiful - that would be nice.
B.L. Hugo, kudos to you as Agent Smith—what an exciting role you have in The Matrix Reloaded. What was your initial reaction when you saw your work and there were hundreds of you on screen at once, especially for the one fight scene that you have with Keanu called the Burly Brawl?
H.W. It was really exciting. I really had a great time working with Keanu in the fights, I know that he does a lot more work than I do actually on the fighting but that sequence was very difficult to get in the can. So, seeing it in the end and to see what John Gaeta (special effects wizard) had brought to it and what all the stuntmen who were acting as Smiths had brought to it made me look like I’m absolutely fantastic, which I’m not. It’s a great sequence—it’s very funny as well, which I think is wonderful. There’s a lot of humor in this film and I think that’s remarkable. You can really enjoy the film and you can really enjoy that sequence even though it’s a major fight sequence that’s breaking new boundaries.
B.L. Jada, you come on this set, you had just had a baby! My god, I would love for someone to get me into shape like that and pay me for it! What was it like to be a newcomer with this cast, but also train the way you did and have a chance to be in this movie?
J.P.S. It was very exciting. When I say this is a dream come true for me I really mean that. I’m a big Matrix fan and there are just no words to explain how I felt when I found out that there was even a possibility of me being able to play this character Niobe. Part of that excitement was yeah, I had just had Willow and I started training two months after having her, but it’s like that adrenaline and that excitement just took me a very long way. So the training for me it was like ‘come on, you gotta do what you gotta do, period!’ I got to get in the best shape of my life and get paid for it. I’d say that’s a pretty good deal.
L.F. Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty good deal, nice work if you can get it.
B.L. Monica, you are also a newcomer to the film. What was the importance for you to be a part of this amazing movie?
M.B. I’m European, so to be a part of it is something great. I’ve always been a big fan of Larry and Andy Wachowski and I’m just sorry that I don’t fly around like the rest of the cast! So the only way I have to fight is with lips and silver bullets. It was really great to be a part of it. I’m only in the movie for about 10 or 15 minutes, and even though the character is so strong, there is something tragic about her, I mean really sad. She’s not evil but she is desperate and is someone who just doesn’t have feelings anymore, and so she feels things just through others. It’s something tragic.
B.L. This next question is for John Gaeta. Congratulations, you have outdone yourself. You won an Oscar® for The Matrix for those groundbreaking special effects. What kind of pressure where you looking at - what was your biggest challenge?
J.G. All of my pressure came from two large Polish men that I know, who if anyone knows what it is like to work with them have tenfold what the outside world can put upon you.
B.L. Your biggest effects challenge?
J.G. Really, to go exponential on the idea of the superhero and superhuman abilities from the characters, and to make it authentic and not rigid or hokey looking. Trying to get fluidity and the Wachowski perfection into the choreography was really something that took us years to get through.
B.L. How do you feel about all these other movies copying your style?
J.G. At first it’s kind of funny, fun and complimentary. After a while it gets to be a little frustrating or boring that nobody had done their own thing and try to be original in their own way. There are a couple of examples but I know that I wish that folks would experiment more and take advantage of the new tools.
B.L. Keanu, how does using all of this new technology and great special effects affect you as an actor?
K.R. You find yourself in environments that you haven’t had to act in before that you just have to adjust to. Working with John Gaeta doing facial capture, in a situation where they are giving a lot of light because of the cameras they are using to capture your features, and being asked to give a facial performance but without being able to move your limbs because you can’t block the light. So you find yourself in different places having to act that are certainly not the stage. In the game, Jada had a lot of acting to do in motion capture and you find yourself just having to perform in places that you haven’t performed before that can feel very artificial. I mean, John Gaeta’s screaming at you, now you’re swooping in to catch Trinity and that’s something you want to physically move for but you can’t move and so you’re becoming this kind of emotion plant. (laughs). They are squeezing more emotion out of you to plug into this. So you try to find a way to perform in this new context and give a natural performance in what feels to us as very new and very artificial but in a sense it’s still acting.
H.W. Especially for the facial capture and motion capture they are very oppositional in a way because with facial capture you feel very rigid and you constantly think that you are acting very badly. With motion capture you feel like you’re inside your own head. It’s like an imaginary world where you can do anything and you feel like a child so they are really interesting areas to go into for an actor. If you had to do them in every film you do, I think that you’d want to get back on the stage or something. But it’s a real interesting step to go into because it’s all new territory for us.