On March 31, 1999, Lana and Lilly Wachowski changed the way moviegoers experience films forever. Besides earning $463.5 million worldwide at the box office, The Matrix was ahead of its time, so much so that one prolific actor turned down the role of Neo because he didn’t understand the direction the film was going to take (more on that later). Two decades have gone by and The Matrix Trilogy aged better than most movies that old. Let’s get to know the franchise better, shall we?
Explaining The Matrix
The Matrix must have been a lot to dissect in 1999. Today, even the densest films get accompanied by a thorough breakdown of the movie by some random YouTuber. That’s probably why the cast of The Matrix was suggested to read a dense piece of postmodern philosophy called Simulacra and Simulation.
The book is basically about the idea of any realistic simulation being indistinguishable from reality (sound familiar?). Keanu Reeves had it the worst because he had read that book as well as Out of Control, which was a book about the impact of machinery.
Three Months Of Research
The Wachowski’s put in a ton of work for the production of this film. There’s a scene in the first film where an attack helicopter explodes into a building but in slow-motion. The Wachowski’s wanted this to be the “definitive action scene,” so they asked their special effects team to study like they were trying to get into medical school.
The Wachowski’s wanted to make sure that the team knew how glass reacts to an exploding helicopter and all the other types of physics going on. The research took three months, and the scene was almost removed because it was starting to cost a fortune. The idea came to life, however, thanks to nearly every kind of special effect available at the time.
He Really Did That
As you may or may not recall from the first film of the trilogy, Neo had a phone delivered to him at his office. It was Morpheus on the other end giving him instructions to escape and that included scaling the building.
Many might not be aware, but Keanu Reeves climbed out of the window. He didn’t have a stuntman and was 34 floors up, which is all incredibly dangerous. Reeves is one of the few actors that do their stunts.
Revolutions Premiered At The Same Time For Everyone
Movies don’t usually have a simultaneous release. They have a specific set date they will come out in different countries, and that’s all you get. In an unprecedented move, The Matrix Revolutions had a simultaneous global release.
That means it opened at the same time in every major city across the world on November 5, 2003. The times were: nine A.M. in New York, 11 P.M. in Tokyo, six A.M. in Los Angeles, and one A.M. in Sydney.
Mr. Nice Guy
There is a rumor that hits the internet from time to time about how Keanu Reeves gave away a large share of his salary to the special effects team. Some say it was millions and because Reeves is such a nice guy, that’s what makes this so believable.
The truth is that he signed away his rights to a few residual payments instead. That way, the producers could funnel that money back into production. It’s still unclear how much money was involved.
600 Pages Of Comics
The Wachowskis were an unproven directing duo before The Matrix. All they had to their name was two sub-par films, one of which they tried to have their name removed because it was so awful (it was a Sylvester Stallone piece).
Warner Bros. appreciated their other film, which led to a chance at shooting the movie. As a result, the Wachowski’s went to comic artists and asked to have them turn the script into a shot-for-shot storyboard of the whole film. It ended up being their 600-page proof-of-concept that gave Warner Bros. the confidence to fund this movie.
White Shirts Or Not?
If you pay close attention to the three films, you will notice a subtle yet noticeable tint change on screen depending on where the characters are. While in the Matrix, scenes have a green tint to them to simulate looking through a computer monitor. When in the real world, there is natural coloring.
Costume designer Kym Barrett wanted to make this effect pop more, so she put every lighter colored article of clothing worn by a cast member through a greenwash. It’s subtle, but you can’t miss it after you know it now.
So Many Twins
In 1999, there weren’t many special effects to go around. Due to this, the filmmakers had to get creative with how they went about certain things concerning the movie. Do you remember the woman in red?
During one of Neo’s training sessions, a lovely woman in a red dress passes by as Morpheus speaks with Neo. It’s meant to show the dangers of getting distracted. Around the woman are many copies of the same people, and this was no computer effect. The moviemakers hired a ton of twins so it could look like Neo and Morpheus were walking through a computer simulation.
Recycling The Set
Did you know that around 97% of the materials used in The Matrix Reloaded and Revolution ended up getting recycled? That’s a ton of items that would have gone to waste if they didn’t recycle.
A large amount of wood went to Mexico to build low-income housing. Not only was that a fantastic idea that helped out Mexican communities, but it also made for a more sustainable production throughout the series. If only every movie set did something like this…
They Never Fell Off
The wardrobe for most of the characters in the films are unusual, and all include a pair of sunglasses that attempt to make them look cool. The most obscure character clothing would have to be Morpheus, but mainly his choice to wear those tiny glasses.
The glasses ride the bridge of his nose, and it looks like it takes a sheer force of will to have them stay in place. Despite all of that, Laurence Fishburne pleads that they didn’t fall off even one time during filming. Fishburne said, “You just gotta be really cool when you wear them.”
The Raindrops Secret
In the iconic fight during The Matrix Revolutions that saw Neo go toe-to-toe with Smith had some symbolism to it. As they duked it out in the “rain,” not all of that was water. Some of it was single lines of Matrix code.
They did this to imply that the Matrix started to destabilize. If you were watching on IMAX, then you would have caught the subtle trick reasonably easy. On smaller screens, it looks like rain that is jumping like static during the close-ups.
MetaCortex Wasn’t Random
In the first movie, Neo is at work at his company called MetaCortex. Sounds like your average company name, but it meant more than that. All you have to do is break down the meaning of each word. Meta means to transcend or go beyond.
Add that with cortex, which means the outer layer of matter surrounding the brain. The two together stand for transcending the boundaries of the brain, which is what Neo ends up doing.
A Sad Realization
Throughout the history of the franchise, Neo had to square off with Agent Smith and sometimes a whole army of them! Hugo Weaving played the role of Smith, and he did a fantastic job. One day during filming Weaving came to a shocking discovery.
To make all of the Agents, they used CGI, and they also made a good portion of the stunt actors to look precisely like Weaving with masks or makeup. When Weaving came face to face with his look-a-likes, it made him realize he was going bald. He thought his hair looked fine up until that point.
Watch The Kicks
Everyone who was fighting in the films had to receive four months of extensive training with a martial arts choreographer. It prepared everyone for what was to come, but Reeves almost had to miss out on training.
The star had cervical spine surgery before preparation started, which forced him to wear a neck brace throughout the training. As a result, legendary trainer Yuen Woo-ping adjusted things for Reeves, so he didn’t have to kick that much. That’s why in many scenes, he mainly uses his fists.
An Intense Scene
One of the best scenes from the first film took some time to put together. The lobby fight has to be one of the most action-packed moments in the movie for multiple reasons. Neo and Trinity come in armed with tons of weapons as they prepare to take down all the guards in the lobby.
It took them ten days of filming for that part. They didn’t use any special effects, but instead, all of the gunshots, explosions, and fighting were practical effects.
Marketing is always a big part of a release. For movies, there are trailers, pre-screenings, soundtracks, and of course, movie posters. Many people admired The Matrix posters so much they began stealing them! Whether it was the theater employees or eager fans, they started coming up missing.
To fix this, the studio sent posters in a tube labeled with Caddyshack 2 and The Replacements. Confused, theaters didn’t open them up. The day before the release, they realized what was happening and scrambled to get the materials up!
Risking It All!
The Wachowski’s are great. One thing that makes them so unique is their ability to take high reward risks. The Matrix was a high budget film, but Warner Bros. only gave the Wachowski’s $10 million for it even though they wanted $80.
They elected to spend the entire $10 million on the opening scene with Trinity suspended in the air and frozen in time before she kicks the security guard to smithereens. The studio was so impressed by it; they ended up giving the dynamic duo the original $80 million they asked to get at the start.
Wild Wild Will
Jada Pinkett-Smith is in this franchise, how cool would it have been if her husband was too? According to Will Smith, the Wachowski’s asked Smith to play the role of Neo. This was around the time Smith was doing a ton of blockbuster films and decided to turn it down to do Wild Wild West instead.
Smith admittedly said he didn’t understand the vision that the Wachowski’s had pitched to him. Had he knew how epic the movie was going to turn out, we’d like to think he would have accepted the part.
Will Smith was going to play the role of Neo, but he kindly rejected. In a different case, filmmakers had another star in mind for a minor role. The woman who played the wife of Link (driver of Morpheus’ ship) was Marvin Gaye’s daughter Nona Gaye.
Sadly, that was initially supposed to go to singer and actress Aaliyah. She tragically died in a plane crash coming back from the Bahamas after shooting a music video.
A Fourth Matrix?
Rumors and comments about there being a fourth installment to the Matrix Trilogy have swirled around the internet for quite a while. It wasn’t until recently that someone important made confirmations. The director of John Wick 3, Chad Stahelski spilled the beans.
“I’m super happy that the Wachowski’s are not just doing a Matrix, but they’re expanding what we all loved,” Stahelski told Yahoo Movies UK. No news yet on any dates, but it sounds like it’s currently in the works.
The Exact Timeline
The Matrix can be hard to follow let alone yet alone understand the exact timeline. Especially with the films being so spread out, it’s easy to forget how long has actually passed in the series. As it turns out, things moved rather quickly within The Matrix universe.
It took exactly one year and seven months to succeed in getting Mr. Anderson to save the world. When Trinity and Cypher first speak, the trace program states that the date is 2-10-98. Then, towards the end of The Matrix Revolutions, the trace program reads 9-18-99
The Wachowskis Were Inspired By The Invisibles
Before The Matrix was ever even an idea, the film’s creators were involved in the comic business. They worked for Razorline on projects such as Ectokid. Lana Wachowski notes that “Because we grew up on comic books and the Tolkien trilogy, one of the things we’re interested in is bringing serial fiction to the cinema.”
Many of the things that make The Matrix unique were actually inspired by the comic book series The Invisibles. The author, Grant Morrison, wasn’t annoyed by this either, as he claims his comic books achieved higher success after the release of the films.
The Matrix Defense
In 2002, a woman named Tonda Ansley murdered her landlord in cold blood. As she was being arrested for her crimes, she defended herself saying “They commit a lot of crimes in The Matrix.” She continued with this defense during her trial proclaiming that “Our world is just an illusion generated by our machine overlords.”
Unbelievably, the jury sympathized with Ansley. This led to several other people using “The Matrix Defense,” which in some cases saved killers from going to prison or facing the death penalty. This is most likely because they were classified as insane.
Ever Notice That Neo Asks A Lot Of Questions?
Sure, plenty of audience members had countless questions as the credits rolled at the end of the film. Of course, they weren’t the only ones, as the main character, Neo, had his own share of questions throughout the film. While actor Keanu Reeves only had 164 lines of dialogue, an incredible 94 of them were questions.
Luckily for audiences, Neo’s questions provided some much-needed answers as the movie progressed and slowly but surely became more confusing. This also helped audiences sympathize with Reeve’s character who was truly living in a constant state of confusion.
There’s An Homage To George Orwell’s 1984
In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Room 101 is used by Big Brother as a torture chamber where victims are subjected to their worst fears and phobias to brainwash and manipulate them. It’s no coincidence that Thomas Anderson’s apartment is also Room 101, the home of a secluded hacker, obsessed with finding meaning to his life.
His apartment even resembles Room 101 in 1984 as it’s dark, depressing, and overall uncomfortable. There is another nod in The Matrix Reloaded when Neo, Morpheus, and Trinity realize their lives are at risk after walking through a hallway with “10” posted at the front.
The Second Two Films Were Supposed To Be Released Almost At The Same Time
Although it’s still quite impressive that two movies in a sequel were released within just months of one another, the original plan was even more ambitious. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were original filmed back to back and then edited at the same exact time.
Each film spent one year in pre-production, one year in production, and slightly more than a year for post-production. This was done so that The Matrix Revolutions would be released just weeks after The Matrix Reloaded. Unfortunately it didn’t work out how they intended.
The Loop Highway Was Built Specifically For The Film
In The Matrix Reloaded, the 1.4-mile three lane loop highway was built specifically for the film. It was used for quite an exciting chase scene and it came out beautifully. The set was built on the decommissioned Alameda Point Navy Base, with the scene taking over three months to film.
After filming was complete it was promptly destroyed. On top of that, almost all of the over 100 cars donated by GM were destroyed in the process too.
Belinda McClory Only Auditioned For Half A Part
Initially, when Belinda McClory auditioned for the role of Switch, the plan was that she was only going to play half of the role. This is because Switch was written to be played by a pair of androgynous character.
In the real world, the character would have been played by a male actor, whereas in the Matrix, the role would be played by a female. This is why the character’s name was Switch. Warner Bros. didn’t like the idea, so McClory ended up playing both roles.
The Movies Are Packed With Religous And Mythological Symbolism
In The Matrix Reloaded, the Keymaker explains to Neo how to reach the architect. During his explanation, he states that they will have to knock out 27 blocks of power, giving them 314 seconds before the power reroutes once again.
This is a reference to the 27th book of the New Testament, better known as Revelation, and the scripture 3:14, which discusses witnessing the source of creation, or in this case, the Architect. Furthermore, in Greek mythology, Morpheus is the god of dreams, so it’s ironic that Morpheus in the films awakens people from their “dreams.”
Smith’s License Plate Is Another Religious Reference
Along with some of the character’s names and references to scripture by the Keymaker, another Biblical reference can be seen in Smith’s license plate. At the beginning of The Matrix Reloaded, Smith pulls up in an Audi that has the license plate IS 5416.
This is another reference to the bible which is Isaiah 54:16. The scripture reads: Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.”
In Memory Of Thomas Andersen
As the trilogy comes to an end and we see our hero Neo risk it all by sacrificing his life, he didn’t do it in vain. All of those bouts with the agents finally led to his demise in Matrix Revolutions.
At the end of the film, the Oracle sits on a bench that has a small metal dedication on it. It reads “In Memory of Thomas Andersen.” If you didn’t catch it in the films, that’s the name Neo gets in the first Matrix movie.
Black cats carry a lot of mystery with them. They make people superstitious as well due to the idea that if one crosses you, then you will have a ton of bad luck. The allure surrounding these felines allowed them to give audiences a faint case of deja vu.
At the end of The Matrix Revolutions, a black cat walks by. That’s the same black cat from The Matrix and they even meow the same way.
The outfits that the characters wore in the Matrix looked super fancy and futuristic. They look like if you wanted to buy them it would cost you a pretty penny, but that wasn’t the case.
According to designer Kym Barrett, she says, “Often we’re using 3-D printing, we’re using all kinds of new textile technologies,” Barrett explained, adding, “we’re inventing machines to do things.” They used tech to make Trinity’s costume that they made with cheap PVC look as nice as it did.
Important Moments, Familiar Places
The Wachowski’s did an amazing job with this trilogy. They paid attention to detail like no other and only the savviest of filmgoers probably picked up on the tiny details.
At the end of The Matrix, Neo makes an important phone call on a street corner. In The Matrix Revolutions, Neo and Smith fight in that same location, the corner of Pitt, Hunter, and O’Connell Streets in Australia. The phone booth is the giveaway.
The Long Burly Brawl
There are plenty of scenes throughout the trilogy that are truly memorable. One cannot forget about the freeway chase scene or when Neo had to escape his office building. One of the most fun scenes was when Neo fought many Agent Smiths, also known as the “Burly Brawl.”
What’s crazy about it is that it took 27 days to shoot. Some feature-length films take that long to finish entirely! Bowling balls knocking down pins were the sound effects used to simulate punches and kicks.
Jet Li Was Almost This Character
There are a ton of high profile actors and actresses that could’ve been in those Matrix movies. We already told you about Will Smith and Aaliyah, but another one is Jet Li.
That’s right, Li was going to play the role of Seraph in The Matrix Reloaded. Li asked to receive the same amount of money as Reeves but the studio and producers refused. After they told him no, he turned down the part. Collin Chou eventually picked up the slack.
Connery Didn’t Understand
Another one bites the dust. We’ve explained a good chunk of what went into creating this movie. Things like the actors having to read books and take training to prepare for their roles aren’t done for every movie.
The role of the Architect could have gone to Sean Connery. He would have filled that part perfectly, but in an interview, Connery admitted that he “didn’t understand the concept of the movie.” Maybe he should have read the books!
Banned In Egypt
You’re probably aware that certain TV shows and movies receive bans all the time. It’s always for different reasons, but one common theme for banishment is too much violence. That was the case in Egypt for Matrix Reloaded.
They banned it due to its content and how it deals with different religious themes. The censorship board said the violent scenes could “harm social peace.” We aren’t saying they’re wrong, but they missed out on a good film!
On Board In A Hurry
Usually, when it comes to making films and getting everyone on the same page, the actors and everyone else involved go through the final script before they decide to be a part of it all. In this scenario, a few actors knew before even looking at the script that they wanted to do it.
Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus), Jada Pinkett-Smith (Niobe), and Anthony Brandon Wong (Ghost) all hopped on board, trusting that the script and production would be amazing without reading it.
We’ve revealed that they filmed this movie in Australia, but isn’t that such an obscure location to shoot? Not many blockbuster films get shot out there, so there must have been a reason.
Since they did it there, they cut the film budget in half! If they shot in America, it would have cost $180 million. They kept it well under $100 million thanks to doing it in Australia. These days, $180 million is low for action movies.