While The Matrix remains a science-fiction classic, the sequels are not often held in quite the same regard (although some people disagree (opens in new tab)). The experience of shooting The Matrix Reloaded (opens in new tab) and The Matrix Revolutions (opens in new tab) back-to-back was also not a particularly pleasant one, according to cinematographer Bill Pope.
Speaking to fellow cinematographer Roger Deakins on his podcast "Team Deakins" (opens in new tab), Pope spoke about his time filming The Matrix sequels with the Wachowskis, going as far as to call the experience “mind-numbing and soul-numbing.”
“Everything that was good about the first experience was not good about the last two,” Pope said, via IndieWire (opens in new tab). “We weren’t free anymore. People were looking at you. There was a lot of pressure. In my heart, I didn’t like them. I felt we should be going in another direction. There was a lot of friction and a lot of personal problems, and it showed up on screen, to be honest with you. It was not my most elevated moment, nor was it anyone else’s."
"The Wachowskis had read this damn book by Stanley Kubrick that said, ‘Actors don’t do natural performances until you wear them out.’ So let’s go to take 90! I want to dig Stanley Kubrick up and kill him.”
Pope claims the directing duo decided to shoot as many takes as possible for each scene, calling it “sort of torture.” There were some scenes shot as many as 90 times, with a lot of people working on the production growing disgruntled with the exuberant amount of time spent filming certain moments. The experience of making the movies back-to-back also proved tiresome.
“There is something about making a shoot that long, 276 shoot days, that is mind-numbing and soul-numbing and it numbs the movie,” Pope continued. “You think about The Hobbit, where they [shot] one, two, and three, and the movies are just numbing. In the books, you don’t feel that because you pick it up and put it down. In a movie shoot, it’s too long. There’s a limit from what you can take in.”
Pope went on to add that The Matrix movies are still a rewarding watch. “I just transferred them all to 4K for archive purposes at Warners and I wrote the Wachowskis and Keanu [Reeves] and Carrie Ann [Moss] that we did a good job [on the sequels], we should be proud of them.”
Work has begun on a fourth Matrix movie, which will see John Toll – who worked on Cloud Atlas and Jupiter Ascending with the Wachowskis – act as cinematographer. Meanwhile, Pope will next work on the Marvel Phase 4 movie Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.