There are some film franchises that have become forgettable over the years and then there are others that have become iconic in the minds of audiences. The Matrix film series started out with the first movie release back in 1999 and was ahead of its time in so many ways. While it was set in a futuristic environment and had a storyline with a number of twists and turns, it was more than just the plot that had audiences scratching their heads. The vision behind the scenes and the elements involved in creating the film and bringing it to the big screen was a huge part of what made it extra special. There have been a number of films that have underwhelmed once it made it to the movie theaters since not all big budget movies have gone on to become a huge success. Yet, The Matrix franchise not only brought in an astounding number of viewers at the box office but it’s often thought of as an inspiration for some of the other great films that were to come.
The Matrix franchise was also a driving force in furthering the careers of some of its actors, as well as the creative force behind the film, The Wachowskis. While they were once thought of as ill-experienced filmmakers with an almost scary amount of ambition when it comes to film, The Matrix proved that they could be trusted in bringing an over-the-top film premise to the silver screen. While there are those Matrix fans that have binge-watched the films more than they probably should admit to, it’s inevitable that there are a few tidbits of information about the films that have remained hidden. Check out our list of the 15 things you never knew about The Matrix and then you can truly call yourself a Matrix fan.
15. The Oracle Actress Changed Due To Death
Gloria Foster was the actress that portrayed the character, the Oracle, in the first Matrix film. She continued her role in the 2003 film, The Matrix Reloaded, but had health complications due to having diabetes. Foster ultimately died of diabetes during filming and the role of the Oracle had to be recast for the rest of the films. The actress, Mary Alice, replaced Gloria Foster as the Oracle in The Matrix Revolutions. Many fans didn’t think much about the fact that there were two different actresses playing the same character in a film franchise, especially since this is commonplace in big budget films. In fact, it seemed like this was a conscious decision to use a different actress because the franchise took a darker turn towards the end of the series. Mary Alice portrayed the Oracle character in a much more serious tone toward the end of the franchise, which was a huge difference from the former persona played by Foster in the first two films.
14. Neo Could Have Been Played By Will Smith
Hollywood is filled with films that could have been vastly different if the lead character was given to its first choice. From Pretty Woman starring Molly Ringwald instead of Julia Roberts to John Travolta playing Forrest Gump instead of Tom Hanks, it’s obvious that not all actors are able to tell which films will go on to become huge successes at the box office. Will Smith was actually the initial actor that was being considered for the lead role of Neo in The Matrix film series but he turned down the role. This was probably one of the biggest mistakes of his career in regards to film choices, especially since the Neo role went on to be reprised in a series of box office hits for The Matrix franchise. However, Keanu Reeves ended up being the perfect choice to play the role.
13. 9/11 Conspiracy In The Matrix
The world of film has a number of conspiracy theories that correlate to real world events. This is especially true for films about the future, with the most notable reference being in the film, Back to the Future Part II. The world went into a frenzy over the unmistakable reference to the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series. In The Matrix, there is a shot of Neo’s passport that has an expiration date of September 11, 2001. The film was released in 1999 but conspiracy theorists couldn’t help but correlate this expiration date to the real-life terrorist attack on September 11. While it’s obvious that no one related to the filming process of The Matrix could have known the real date of this terrorist attack, this is a coincidence that theorists couldn’t help but point out after the attack.
12. Morpheus Could Have Been Completely Different
When the first film in The Matrix franchise was being produced, not all of the characters had been cast and there were a variety of different actors being considered. In the case of Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne wasn’t the first actor that was considered to portray the character. In fact, Russell Crowe was the frontrunner for the role. This was prior to Crowe taking his iconic Gladiator role, which was probably a good thing that he turned down playing the role of Morpheus. He would have been tied to the franchise and probably would never have been able to partake in some of his most famous roles later on. Sean Connery and Chow Yun Fat also turned down the role of Morpheus but this could also be a blessing since Fishburne did such an amazing job as the character in the franchise.
11. Greek Mythology Comparisons
Although the premise of The Matrix film series is futuristic in nature, it’s interesting how many comparisons there are with Greek mythology. Morpheus is actually the God of Dreams in Greek mythology, which is somewhat appropriate since he is an integral part of awakening people from their dream-like state in the Matrix. In Greek mythology, Persephone is actually taken against her will to become the wife of Hades, the God of the Underworld. This is similar to Persephone’s character in The Matrix Reloaded since she seemed to be trapped with her husband, the Merovingian. It’s also similar in that Persephone helps the rebellion efforts in The Matrix Reloaded, which is very much like how Persephone would intercede on behalf of mortals in the Underworld.
10. Numerous Inconsistencies Throughout The Franchise
There are a number of films and television shows that are famous for having inconsistencies. In fact, it’s become a fun little hunting adventure for fans scrutinizing their favorite scenes. From actors holding completely different types of food from one scene to another to characters having different clothes on once the camera moves back into the shot, there are some small little subtleties that are often caught by a fans’ scrutinizing eye. The Matrix film series has numerous inconsistencies, which can be a little fun to hunt for when rewatching the films. In the sequence where Morpheus is in the altered state, his sunglasses change from black to matte within the scene. In another scene featuring the Oracle, she is holding a plate of cookies that all of a sudden has more on it from one shot to another. There is even a shelf that rearranges itself within the same scene.
9. A Minor Character Sued For Being Written Out Of The Sequels
There are a number of actors that have hurt their own careers by their words or actions. Hollywood is filled with promising actors that seemingly disappear from existence and fans are left wondering why they were blackballed from the industry. In the case of Marcus Chong, he has become a clear example of what not to do when negotiating. He played the role of Tank in the first Matrix film and was reportedly slated to reappear in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. However, in October of 2000 there were allegations that Chong made threats during the talks with the studio and there were also reports that he was having issues about wanting more money. He was ultimately written out and replaced by a totally different character.
8. Marvin Gaye’s Daughter Had A Role In The Franchise
As the Matrix film series continued, it opened the door to a number of new characters being introduced. This also became a huge opportunity for actors hoping to attach themselves to an already-established film series. Fans were already introduced to Tank and Dozer from the first Matrix film but then there was a need to fill the role of their sister, Zee, who was also the wife of the new operator on the Nebuchadnezzar, Link. Filmmakers ultimately gave the role to Nona Gaye, who is the daughter of legendary soul singer, Marvin Gaye. Although she had a bit of a small role, she was integral in the battle scene in Zion. She held her own as an actress and was great at making the romantic storyline between her and Link believable. She aided the defense during the battle of Zion and even helped to open the Gate to the Docks.
7. Writing And Directing Siblings Are Transgender
When the first film in The Matrix franchise was being shopped around, studios were wary about doling out tens of millions of dollars to two brothers that didn’t have a huge amount of experience in making films. Yet, The Wachowskis were able to win over the studio and even took a myriad of chances in getting their vision to come together on the big screen. While they have since been heralded for their accomplishments and vision in the world of film, it’s their personal lives that have made the biggest headlines. Formerly known as The Wachowski Brothers, the two brothers began transitioning and came out publicly as transgender. They now live their lives as women as Lilly Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. In a statement issued to Windy City Times, Lilly Wachowski wrote, “SEX CHANGE SHOCKER – WACHOWSKI BROTHERS NOW SISTERS!!!”
6. Stretching The Massive Budget
The first Matrix film had a budget of $63 million, which was a huge stretch from the $10 million they were originally offered by the studio. With a massive budget like that, you’d think that everything would be done to the utmost perfection. Yet, it’s hard to fathom how much a big blockbuster film with fighting scenes and CGI would take to get onto the big screen. Understanding that there was only a finite amount of money for the production of the film, there were a number of things that were done to cut costs. For instance, the costumes for the characters were cheaply made and the costume designer, Kym Barrett, stated that Trinity’s costume was actually made out of cheap PVC because of the budget. Neo’s coat was also made out of inexpensive fabric. There were also certain fight scenes that had to be done in only one take due to restraining costs.
5. Real World Film Locations
Oftentimes, TV shows and films have to disguise the film locations without making it obvious to the viewers. This can be extremely difficult for a film like The Matrix since it’s supposed to be set in a futuristic environment and a fictitious city within the Matrix. Although there are a number of references to Chicago in the street names and the terminology like The Loop, the majority of the film was actually filmed in Australia. The club that Neo meets Trinity in was actually a real S&M club in Sydney called The Hellfire Club. The scene where Neo is distracted by the woman in the red dress shows the circular fountain in Sydney’s business district, which is actually a popular landmark location that has been used a multitude of times in film.
4. Real Stunt Work
There is a big mix of digital processing and prosthetics that are used in The Matrix film series but it was only to help implement the real-life stunt work that was performed by the actors. The Wachowskis were adamant about getting actors that could perform their own stunts and they went through a great deal of training prior to filming. The opening fight involving Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, took around six months of training to lead up to the filming date. The legendary fight choreographer, Yuen Woo-ping, trained the actors for months on end to try and get them to appear like they had been fighting for years once they were seen on the big screen. In the scene where Neo rubs his nose with his thumb and finger during a fight (similar to what Bruce Lee is best known for) was actually improvised by Keanu Reeves during the fight scene.
3. Looked Real Because It Was
The world of special effects has evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years and there is a stark difference from the computer graphics in films in the ‘90s. While there were some great CGI offerings back when The Matrix was being filmed for its 1999 release, there is nothing better than the real thing. The filmmakers knew that when creating the film and made sure to forego CGI whenever possible. The scene where Neo was filled with medical pins, they used a prosthetic piece for his torso but a real acupuncturist came into place the needles on his head. The government lobby scene where Trinity and Neo went in to save Morpheus was almost all real in the stunt work, explosions and firing. While there were some special effects that were used, there was no CGI. Even the water pouring into the building was real, along with the helicopter being on wires.
2. Philosophical References In The Film
While it would be relatively easy to pitch a romantic chick flick concept, the storyline surrounding The Matrix would inevitably be a little bit more difficult to understand. The Wachowskis reportedly required the actors to read a number of philosophical books in order to prepare themselves for the role including Introducing Evolutionary Psychology by Dylan Evans and Out of Control by Kevin Kelly. One of the required reading books, Simulacra and Simulation by Jean Baudrillard, was actually used in the film. The book was hollowed out and used as the place where Neo stored his illegal computer files at his home and a line from the book was spoken by Morpheus when he was explaining the Matrix. The paraphrased sentence was, “Welcome, to the desert of the real.”
1. Set Material Was Recycled
One of the biggest things that is overlooked when it comes to getting a film onto the big screen is the amount of waste that is created. In the freeway scene in The Matrix Reloaded, that wasn’t being filmed on an actual highway. Instead, an entire stretch of freeway was built from scratch. Yet, all of these constructed pieces didn’t completely go to waste once filming was completed. Over 90 per cent of all the set material was recycled and reused as a joint project by Warner Bros., Alameda, the ReUse People Inc. and the waste authority. Tons of lumber was even sent to an organization in Mexico that built homes for low-income families and even the polystyrene blocks were sent out to be reused for insulation. Even the stretch of freeway that was constructed was broken up to become road base and therefore never made its way into a landfill.