The movie blew everyone's mind in 1999, and these The Matrix behind-the-scenes stories might just blow your mind now. At the very least, you'll probably find them pretty fascinating if you're a fan of this groundbreaking science fiction epic.
Writers/directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski created something unique - an adventure that pulled together various pop culture inspirations and married them with deep philosophical ideas about the nature of reality. Audiences couldn't get enough, turning The Matrix into one of the year's biggest hits. Two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, followed.
Getting the movie made was a challenge. From the famous "bullet time" sequence to the action-packed lobby scene, all manner of stunt work and visual effects were necessary to bring the story's imaginary world to life. During production, one star was battling injuries, another experienced racism, and the filmmakers infused the movie with a personal sense of rage. There were happy events too, most notably Keanu Reeves once again proving himself to be the most decent guy in Hollywood.
Do you want all the scoops from the making of The Matrix? If so, pop the red pill and read on.
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Keanu Reeves Signed Away Millions In Residuals To Give The Crew More Money
Keanu Reeves has a long-standing reputation as a very nice guy. It's not just idle talk, either. His actions are legendary on film sets.
After The Matrix became a blockbuster hit, he signed up for the two sequels. As the star, he was entitled to residuals from the original. Instead of keeping all the money he could have earned, he gave a huge portion of it to the trilogy's special effects crew. Reeves believed their work was so integral to the series' success that they deserved a big bonus.
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The ‘Bullet Time’ Effect Required 120 Cameras To Pull Off
The big "money shot" in The Matrix is the now-famous one in which Neo bends over backward to avoid bullets flying toward him. The camera rotates around him as he virtually freezes in mid-air. No one had ever seen that particular effect, called "bullet time," before then.
Effects designer John Gaeta came up with the way to pull it off. He suggested putting 120 still cameras side-by-side, then timing it so they all went off within microseconds of one another. When the images were compiled by a computer, it created the unforgettable visual that has become iconic.
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'The Woman In Red' Caused A Car Accident
There aren't many bright colors in The Matrix. Lots of blacks and greens, but not a whole lot else. That makes "the woman in red" stand out. The character, a mysterious blonde in a red dress, distracts Neo, leading him to have a weapon pointed at his face by an Agent.
Fiona Johnson, the actress portraying the woman, turned heads as well. Crew members reportedly couldn't take their eyes off her. Even worse, she caused an accident when a distracted driver eyed her up and subsequently drove his vehicle under a giant roller door. The door slammed down onto his roof, leading the embarrassed driver to speed off.
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'The Matrix' Code Was A Sushi Recipe
The "code" used in The Matrix continues to fascinate audiences. It's a long string of symbols, green in color, that look somehow both inviting and menacing. If you've ever wondered whether it's some sort of actual computer code, rest assured that the truth is far more banal.
The Matrix code is actually just a bunch of sushi recipes. It was created by Simon Whiteley, a production designer at Animal Logic, an FX company in Australia. The Wachowskis asked him to come up with something new after the code designed by another company failed to meet their expectations.
Whiteley went home and began looking through his wife's Japanese sushi cookbooks for inspiration. He used the recipes he found in them as the basis for his code, hand-lettering and painting the Japanese characters, then sending them to be digitized and animated. The rest is history.
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Keanu Reeves Had A Herniated Disk And Wore A Neck Brace To Do Martial Arts Training
Due to the amount of fight sequences and stunts necessary in making The Matrix, it was physically grueling on all the actors. You wouldn't know it from watching him onscreen, but Keanu Reeves put himself through the wringer to look so natural as Neo.
A few weeks before physical training was set to begin, the actor underwent surgery for a herniated disc. Reeves showed up for the first day of fight training wearing a neck brace. When filming actually began, his neck was still in pain. He had to push through that, so it wouldn't look like Neo was suffering.
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The ‘White’ Shirts Were Dyed Green To Go With The Color Scheme
Part of the style of The Matrix is that whenever the movie ventures into that world, everything turns green. Even things that aren't that color have a green tint to them. Interestingly, the white shirts worn by characters were dyed green for these sequences.
Costume designer Kym Barrett explained: "We made a rule: there is no blue in the Matrix. But in the Matrix, we do infuse almost everything with green, so even what you see as white on the screen has been through a green dye bath. If you look at our white shirts, or our grays, they’ve all had a green wash."