One night, when visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski woke up, in a lot of pain, and in the grief that she was experiencing with her parents dying, her brain wanted to imagine a story that would be soothing. “These two characters that were dead, my brain, one night, just resurrected them and brought them to life—Neo and Trinity. And I immediately responded to this hook of an idea that I woke up with, and I went downstairs and I just started writing it.”
“My art all comes from this emotional place. I think about things intellectually, but it’s all led by this emotion. This desire to say something about my heart to other people’s hearts,” says visionary filmmaker Lana Wachowski. “I wanted to bring that same heart to the trilogy. That the trilogy is a really beautiful love, and the struggle of human beings, and the meaning of our lives—it’s all in there. I was struggling with all of that when I was young. But, I wanted this older self, this older heart, to be a part of The Matrix Trilogy. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to go back.”
When a twist of something tragic led Wachowski to want to go back, she wanted friends around her. “Producer James McTeigue was one of the first people I called, and I’m very grateful he said yes. And this is why we both wanted to come back: because making The Matrix changed our lives, and it taught us something really profound about making art. Making art is transformational, if you bring your heart and everything in it, it changes you. So, we wanted to come back at the end and have this testament to what we’ve learned. And that’s in this The Matrix Resurrections,” says Lana Wachowski, who directed the film from a screenplay by Wachowski & David Mitchell & Aleksandar Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis.
“I think that the energy of ‘The Matrix’ set the tone for Lily’s and my careers. We’ve always looked for people who feel they can try and do anything differently, who don’t have to be doing it the usual way… who look for something that’s challenging and outside their comfort zone and realm of experience. And this is sort of who I am as a human and, probably, as an artist: that I push people towards trying things that maybe they didn’t think they were capable of. And maybe I didn’t think I was capable of, either.”
“I think these characters have evolved and as filmmakers we have evolved and the time feels right to tell this story. Our younger selves could never have made this film and we are all proud of that!, says Producer James McTeigue. “Lana and Lilly had a very precise way to make a movie, even though our friendship wasn’t precise. As Lana and Lilly evolved, our relationship evolved. The filmmaking side of it became freer, and that intersected with our friendship in a really beautiful way. They’re amazing partners and collaborators and the breadth of the films and series we have done together is a testament to that. Over this 23-year period from The Matrix to The Matrix Resurrections, we have intersected in and out of each other’s lives—I go off and make my movies and series, and then we circle back and make films together. But, our relationship with each other and our art never waivers. So, I’m beyond grateful to complete this once-in-a-lifetime journey.”
Says Producer Grant Hill: “So, the first time the script came out, we were up at Lana and Karin’s house. Everybody had read the script and we were just talking, testing a lot of it. But the result of the reading was that everybody was hooked straight away. We immediately felt that the script was intricately attached to the first film, but it was also breaking away. It was about how the narrative was done—I really can’t describe it. I’d never read anything like it. What came out… well, there were no notes. It was read, it happened, everybody stopped at the end and we were just like, “Wow. This is new. This is beautiful.” We thought it would be something that people would want, people might need.”
“Then later, after working on it, it just became apparent how beautiful the film is. I love it, across the board. I love the humor. The gentleness. I love the way that Lana has constructed the look and feel that makes that link to the past films, but also takes you to the future. Along the way, it addresses some issues that she feels strongly about. It got me right at the start and it just kept building as we worked. It’s just got a real heart.”
In The Matrix Resurrections, return to a world of two realities: one, everyday life; the other, what lies behind it. To find out if his reality is a physical or mental construct, to truly know himself, Mr Anderson will have to choose to follow the white rabbit once more. And if Thomas…Neo…has learned anything, it’s that choice, while an illusion, is still the only way out of—or into—the Matrix. Of course, Neo already knows what he has to do. But what he doesn’t yet know is the Matrix is stronger, more secure and more dangerous than ever before. Déjà vu. Keanu Reeves reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo, the man once saved from the Matrix to become the saviour of humankind, who will once again have to choose which path to follow. Carrie-Anne Moss portrays the iconic warrior Trinity… or is she Tiffany, a suburban wife and mother of three with a penchant for superpowered motorcycles?
The evolution of Lana Wachowski’s filmmaking
“After we finished Sense8, which was a peak experience, we felt like we were done. Lily didn’t want to keep making films either, and we decided that would be the close of it for now. Then our parents got sick and my wife and I came back to Chicago and moved in with them and we took care of them for the last few months of their lives,” says Lana Wachowski.
“I developed this new style of shooting during Sense 8—[directors of photography] John Toll and Daniele Massaccesi, and James, we all created this style—in which I am super flexible, a continual improvisational style. And then, of course, the brilliant [screenwriter] David Mitchell summarized it perfectly when he said, “It’s not a fourth rectangle in a series of rectangles, but rather, it’s a rectangle that encompasses all previous rectangles.”
“I evolved as a person and an artist, and I’ve become more and more comfortable with uncertainty—I actually began to really love it. Like, the sun is the most uncertain way to light a film. It’s so unpredictable. You never know what the sun is going to give you. You never know how it’s going to bounce, what magic quantum thing it’s going to bring to an image. And, in the beginning, I was terrified of the sun, because you couldn’t know what it was going to do. Then I met John Toll, and he taught me to love the sun. And loving the sun, that led me into loving uncertainty. When an actor brings some magic to a moment, and the sun and they all form this thing that you could not possibly imagine—it’s like the greatest energy—and for me, that is the greatest thrill. And so, we’re always looking, always changing.”
“And James got on board, and he fell in love with the same style—everyone grabs a camera and you’re always looking, trying to catch moments, catch beauty. The sun is out and blazing, and it’s perfect for 20 minutes, and you try to shoot an entire six-page dialogue scene in just those few minutes. In real-time almost, you capture wide shot, medium shot, close-up. All the things you need in this improvisational way. And that is what I wanted to try to hold onto as I came back to The Matrix Resurrections. Instead of being precise again, I wanted to bring this energy of improvisation.
Says Producer James McTeigue: “The shooting style we employed on “Resurrections” is an improvisational style that came out of the series “Sense8” and that takes experience. I think you have to have years of filmmaking experience to get to a point where you can shoot a dinner party scene in 20 minutes as the sun’s going down. If you gave that to most filmmakers, it would terrify them. We revelled in it. “Do we shoot this in the next two minutes, when the backlight’s behind them, or do we go over there?” It would drive a lot of filmmakers insane trying to do that. For years we would pore over stage lighting plans for days on end… Now, the thing you pore over is the sun path map. “Where does the sun go? Where’s it going to be between 11:15 and 11:18am?”
Says Keanu Reeves: “If I talk about Lana, the filmmaker that I worked with on the trilogy, to the Lana on The Matrix Resurrections… First of all, she’s worked with [cinematographer] John Toll, who taught her a bit about natural light. So, my experience [of the trilogy] was with her behind a monitor, now she’s in front—of course, she’ll reference the monitor. Her evolution as a filmmaker is extraordinary. So, what we have now is an artist who’s interested in natural light, who wants to be next to the camera and literally connects herself to the camera and becomes this other thing, which I’ve never seen before. You know, there’s an immediacy that’s very different. There’s still planning like before—plan, rehearse, shoot. Now, it’s “be ready in the moment… go.” As Lana likes to say, “We learn by doing,” and she knows, right?
Crafting the Screenplay
The screenplay was crafted by Lana Wachowski, & David Mitchell & Aleksandar Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis.
Says David Mitchell: “The journey from Sense8 to The Matrix Resurrections was, for me, a journey of scale. Both projects involved “pre-realized” worlds and characters that Lana invited Aleksander Hemon (aka Sasha) and me to inhabit, animate and extend. Both projects involved a creative collaboration with friends who possess different narrative strengths. However, while “Sense8” is pretty global in reach and sensibility, the “Matrix” universe is global and mythic, generation-spanning and embedded in popular culture. Scenes from the Trilogy have existed on replay in the minds, memes and memories of millions. This fact has density and a seat in the writer’s room. It’s an ally, not an obstacle, but it’s always there.”
Says Aleksandar Hemon: “David had moved to Chicago for two months when we were writing the finale of Sense8. And so, it was our turn, Lana’s and mine, to go to Ireland, where David lives. We took our families and landed in West Cork in a lovely hotel that, even though it had a few guests, had shut down. So, it was like The Shining, except Johnny wasn’t there and none of us went crazy (LAUGHS). We would get up in the morning and go to the conference room and talk about the Matrix. At some point, we started the process that we used working on “Sense8,” writing plot points on cards and laying the cards on the table. And I love that. I’m old enough to have started writing with pens, and so you get your hands dirty and your fingers dirty. When you type in the computer, your fingers are just your fingers. But Lana and David write notes—my handwriting is too sloppy—on notecards, laying them down and organizing the plot point. And at some point, the first phase of the project was a table covered with three or four coloured notecards, different colours with the different stages of the plot. And then, we would share those cards, and I’d say, “I’ll take a card—from this card to this card—and I’ll write this section.” So, we’d divide these cards and based on our own little stack, that is what we would write.”
“Because we have wildly different styles—not only in terms of language but also in thinking about the script—the first version was like 160-some pages, a mess of different styles and ideas. It’s a total mess. We call it the writers’ cut (LAUGHS). Then, a few weeks after our stay in West Cork, we got together at Lana and Karin’s place in San Francisco—in the meantime, Lana had worked levelling to some extent these different styles and ideas. So, it was a rough-ish cut. We worked more on that. Then, Keanu flew in, and we went through the script with him. Then we worked a little more, addressing his questions and suggestions. And then we were done and it got the green light at the studio. I loved that leavening process, the way ideas evolved and it all became more and more substantial. I really did.”
Says David Mitchell: The Pit is the name that mysteriously attached itself to the scriptwriting team of Lana, Aleksander (AKA Sasha) and me, plus other contributors at different times. As novelists, Sasha and I get to be autocrats who decide all things great and small in our narratives. Collaborative screenwriting, as the name suggests, requires negotiation, compromise and diplomacy. The idea of this third party, the Pit, helps the roses in the garden to bloom and keep blooming. Instead of declaring, “Well, I think we should do this because your idea is blah blah blah,” we’ll say, “I’d like to put this idea into the Pit for a spin…” Instead of saying, “But yesterday, you were arguing for the complete opposite!,” we’ll opt for, “Hmm, I notice the Pit has shifted its position a little…” This sounds as if we’re just noncing around with words, and it’s true, we are: but words are where relationships manifest themselves. Pronouns get possessive and accusative. Sentences beginning with “But” are pre-loaded with rebuke. An interruption is a micro-insult. The Pit suggests a few rules governing how we express our views, and by sticking to them we have good writing sessions, buoyant with good ideas and humour.
The colour-coded cards are pretty standard, I think. Scripts are made of ideas (lots of ideas) about characters, dialogue, plot, theme, or just “cool bits” (to give them their technical name.) The colour of the card denotes either the type of idea or its location in the script, depending on what stage of development we’re at. It’s a version of “a place for everything, and everything in its right place.”
Says Aleksandar Hemon: “David and I not only came into a previously existing world, but a world that was created down to the smallest detail. I had seen the movies well before I had even met with Lana. We then watched them again in preparation for writing the script. But, in our conversations with Lana, David and I discovered that she and Lilly had imagined things that are not even mentioned in the movies, let alone shown. So, we would have these long conversations, sometimes just sit and talk about it—the details of the world, hypothetical situations in this world and how they would develop if they came up. There was an enormous amount of Matrix knowledge in Lana’s mind that we had to absorb. Of course, not all of it. That’s impossible because it is endless. (LAUGHS) But, we would stop in the middle of discussing ideas and then pursue certain lines of inquiry, David and I. What if that happened? What kind of a world is it? What is the physics of the world? We had prepared by watching “The Matrix,” but there’s a ceiling to learning from the images. So then, when one of the minds that gave us the trilogy tells you all about a kind of the fine print, (LAUGHS) in the story and the whole world of “The Matrix,” it’s incredible. That was one of the great privileges of being involved in all this.”
Lana Wachowski’s collaboration with composer Tom Tykwer
“I have tried to bring more of my life into my art. And my art into my life. I really tried to bring them together. And what’s great to be here [with the crew] is that The Matrix really brought us all together. It was going to Australia, meeting James [McTeigue], becoming friends with him, and then Tom [Tykwer] had Lola at the same time The Matrix came out, and we both tell the story of seeing each other’s movie—and he had been affected by The Matrix. When we were looking for music [for The Matrix Revolutions], he heard that I was looking and we met for dinner, and it was like love at first sight. This movie brought us together, and then we kept making art together, kept growing as people and evolving as artists. It was beautiful to evolve as people and artists with each other. There are people that come into your life and you can’t imagine who you would be if you had never met that person. And that’s how I feel about James and Tom. And it felt like an opportunity to do something beautiful and close this circle—this narrative that brought us together—to all come together again and tell another part of it.”
In Conversation With: Keanu Reeves & Carrie-Anne Moss
“One day I got an email from Lana, “How’s it going? I’m thinking about…” And I was like, “What!?”, says Keanu Reeves, who reprises the dual roles of Thomas Anderson/Neo “Then, it was a conversation—she shared with me some of what was happening with her personally, and what had brought her to a place of telling a story with “The Matrix.” And she asked me how I would feel about it. “YES.” On these films, with Lana, it’s “YES.”
When Carrie-Anne Moss got a text from Lana saying “It’s Lana. Call me when you can.” she called her back from the car. “We’re talking and just talking, and I was like, “You know, it was so lovely to hear from you,” and then she said, “You’re never gonna believe it, but I wrote this script.”
“I hadn’t seen Keanu in a long time. We did the read-through. I hadn’t read it up to that point and I never in a million years would have imagined that it would be what it was, for my character or even just for the story in general. Because I had imagined a million stories—“I wonder how she’s gonna go with this?” We finished the read-through, and I think I was in a little bit of shock because it took time to process all of it. And, of course, so much of it was kind of personal, right? I processed it for a long time—I’m still processing it. Being in it again—it’s pretty great.”
Says Reeves: “In speaking with Lana and Lilly, even while they were making the first “Matrix,” they talked about the second film. They spoke about certain sequences that they had in their minds, so I knew that that part of the story was in them even in the first film. For me as an actor, my character had a wonderful resolution in the trilogy—it was a character that bridged the real world and the Matrix, a balance between human and machine worlds… just asking for peace. What happened to Thomas Anderson felt like that part of the story was told.”
Says Reeves: “Lana spoke about having another story to tell, which centred around Neo and Trinity, the love story of that, and that sounded really exciting to me. I felt like there was a perfect kind of union there. Borrowing from Thomas Anderson’s coding world, the word “binary” comes up, choices that are singular—this way, that way. Trinity and Neo to me kind of represent this union. I think they’re very complementary to each other in their thought, in their energy. I root for them. When I play the character and I work with Carrie-Anne as Trinity—it’s something beyond myself. It’s this big… whatever that is, it feels like they’re in that together.”
Says Reeves: “When I read “The Matrix Resurrections,” Morpheus was not the same Morpheus, Thomas Anderson wasn’t the same Thomas Anderson, and Trinity was Tiffany—it was another version of a wake-up call. For Morpheus, the journey that the character takes is very different, and the relationship with Neo is really different. Lana has written these very rich roles, and with actors like Yahya [Abdul-Mateen II], Jonathan [Groff]—they’re amazing at playing both the humour and the gravitas. They create these characters within these contexts, who have these inner selves that are both light and dark…it’s so cool to watch them.”