Feature by: Jack Foley
KEANU Reeves may not be considered one of Hollywoods brightest
sparks, even though he is charged with saving humanity in his
role as Neo in the Matrix films, but, to be fair to the guy, he
isnt always given the chance to shine in person.
As part of a group of journalists lucky enough to hang out with
the stars of the film at Old Billingsgate Market in London earlier
this week, to mark the release of Reloaded, I listened with as
much disbelief as Reeves as certain questions were fired at him.
Aside from the obvious few concerning the cyberpunk culture and
the mythology of the series, the odd clanger was dropped, such
as, if Neo had to take on the Terminator in an ass-kicking
competition, who would win and why?
Yet when given a decent opportunity, Reeves speaks passionately
about the film series, even though he is unsure, as yet, what
he has taken away from it.
"I'm still finding that out," he told me "But,
I know that it was the most incredible experience of my career.
First of all, it's an incredible role, and I got to work with
really great artists and people.
"Participating in a film that I specifically loved so much,
on the page, and in the creating of it, and even with the amount
of time it took to make it.
"Sometimes, you go away for a few months and you make a
movie and you come back to your life. But this experience was
my life for so long. So, it struck a deep chord in me, even though,
in terms of trying to speak about it in an objective way, I don't
have that yet."
His co-star, Laurence Fishburne, who plays Morpheus, was similarly
humbled by being able to become part of such a massive cultural
"It's pretty cool, actually. Batman, Superman, Robin, I
mean, you know, we get to be superheroes, and the child inside
all of us is overjoyed," he said.
Not that playing superheroes made any member of the cast any
less prone to injury. Reeves, for instance, wore a neck brace
for much of the first film, which limited his ability to participate
in some of the stunts, while Carrie-Anne Moss, who plays his love-interest,
Trinity, broke her arm on the first week of filming the sequels.
Fishburne, too, suffered his fair share of sprains and bruises,
although he said that it comes with the territory
when dealing with the action genre.
And this was despite the intensive training, which Reeves said
was even harder this time around.
"The fights were a little more sophisticated; it wasn't
just one-on-one," he explained. "There were multi-character
fights and the weapons involved meant you needed more training.
"It started with four months of training - just basic stretching,
kicking and punching. Then the choreography, which is when the
whole dance comes together."
So were there times when the star would have preferred, simply
to hand over to the stuntman and put his feet up in the comfort
of his trailer.
"No," he laughs. "Why we do the training is so
we can participate in the physical action that they [the Wachowski
brothers] want us to do, for the simple reason that if you can
get close and see the actors performing in an action sequence,
hopefully your experience of the film will be enhanced.
"You're going to relate to the characters, seeing what they
go through. It's also, for me, one of the most enjoyable aspects
of it. It's good fun."
And fun is something that Reeves is still having with the entire
experience, noting that, unlike some of his movies, he is taking
an active interest in the films box office performance -
it is the second highest opening of all time in America - and
peoples reactions towards it.
"I am really excited about it, and I want to participate
in it as much as I can," he said. "I am watching its
progress, and I am seeing what's going on, and how people are
responding; just in a way, trying to soak in this exceptional
The same can be said for Fishburne, who also confessed to being
excited about the fact that the movie was finally due for release,
even though it was accompanied by a tinge of regret that the filming
process had been completed.
"Like most people, I am a big fan of The Matrix and I wanted
to see these movies and not just be in them. It's rare that you
get the opportunity to be in something that you really want to
see as well.
"But I miss the day to day that we had in training together,
eating together, drinking together, laughing, playing and getting
excited because Oh! The big fight is coming! Days
before the fight would happen, we'd get this energy.
"But what would happen at 4pm every day? The footballs would
come out, and the frisbees..., so I miss being a part of that."
It is clear from being around members of the cast that a deep
bond exists between them, and they often refer to themselves as
a family, which means that they are more than willing to step
in and help when the odd question arrives to stump them.
Which brings us back to the one about Neo and the Terminator,
which was answered - by Fishburne.
"Neo would kick his fuckin' arse," he responded in
a trademark deep tone. "Because I said so
And who would bet against The Matrix kicking every movies
arse in the race for box office supremacy this year?