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“The Matrix” Crashes the Millennium

For a century poised on the brink of the millennium, the nature of reality warps faster than a nanosecond in the futuristic sci-fi thriller “The Matrix.” Keanu Reeves stars as Neo, a computer programmer who finds himself trapped in an elaborate virtual reality. Neo must distinguish between the nightmarish world of his dreams and the seemingly complacent world of his waking days, but finds the dual realities merge and shift until the foundation of his existence crashes in the web of “The Matrix.”

Reeves, who hacked the cyberpunk genre with “Johnny Mnemonic,” returns to sci-fi despite the less-than-stellar reception of “Mnemonic.” As he reclined in a control chair from a re-creation of the film’s spaceship on the Warner Bros. lot, Reeves relaxed in a regulation black suit. Reeves, 34, said he enjoys the sci-fi genre for the style as well as the substance.

“I enjoy watching them, and I enjoy acting in them. I like the motifs that are acted out in science fiction, and the style,” Reeves said. “You know, actually, I remember actually seeing the trailer for it [“Star Wars”]. I remember being in a cinema and seeing the trailer, and everything just kind of activated. I was just so excited, ‘What was that? What is that? I can’t wait to see that.’ Then of course I saw the film, thought it was great, and spent years and years after, going zzhhtt, zzhhtt (light-saber noises). I was tickled.”

While Reeves does not get to battle with light sabers in “The Matrix,” he does perform some mean feats of kung fu fighting. Laurence Fishburne stars as his mentor Morpheus, who trains him in the art of war. The fight sequences, shot with a cutting-edge technique called wire fighting borrowed from Hong Kong action films, required months of training from the actors. The actors hung suspended from wires while performing the stunts, and motion capture technology allowed computer-generated frames to be added for slow motion shots. Fishburne recalled the arduous training process.

“Too long, too long. We started our training in October of ’97, all the way through February when we left the States and went over to Australia,” said Fishburne. “Then we trained as often as we could until we shot the Dojo sequences sometime in May. In the meantime, Carrie-Anne and Keanu had done the rooftop helicopter sequence earlier on. Training really was throughout both pre-production and principal photography.”


While Fishburne and Reeves perform more than their fair share of action, “The Matrix” also stars Carrie-Anne Moss as a hacker who can hold her own against the big boys. Moss, a former star of “Models Inc.” said she relished the chance for action, and even endured the vinyl costume her character Trinity wears throughout the movie.

“Sometimes it got sweaty,” said Moss. “Your body has nowhere to breathe in that fabric. But over all it was really actually a comfortable costume, believe it or not. I really enjoyed wearing it. At first, I was like ‘Oh, God!’ The last day that I wore it, and I knew I was hanging it up for good, I was pretty sad about it. I loved playing her so much, and part of playing her was that costume. It’s all part of it.”

While on the surface a straight action film, “The Matrix” shares a philosophical undercurrent with sci-fi films such as “Dark City” and “Total Recall” that question the nature of reality. Producer Joel Silver, who also produced “Batman,” said “The Matrix” possesses a deeper message beyond the slick effects and stylistic flourishes.

“Our movie’s about people who are afraid of change,” said Silver. “The movie’s about the fact that anything new or different scares people, and makes them feel that that somehow is against who they are or what they are. But what I think directors Andy and Larry [Wachowski] have done, is they figured out a way to tell the story in an exciting and unique way that makes it understandable and accessible to the audience. So that they realize there’s more than just a lot of explosions and fights and gunshots.”

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