THE MATRIX was released 24 years ago today. One of the most iconic and groundbreaking movies of its generation, the making of story is a fascinating one.

In 1995, Lana and Lily Wachowski had written Assassins. The producer of that film was Joel Silver, and the Wachowskis showed him their new screenplay – called The Matrix.

Silver loved the screenplay, but not the Wachowskis’ insistence that they direct it themselves.

Instead, the young filmmakers directed a crime thriller called Bound. It was a commercial flop but Warner Bros were impressed and offered to fund The Matrix, with the Wachowskis directing.


The Wachowskis worked out how much the film would cost - $180m! WB said they wouldn’t go over $60m so the location was changed to Australia.

So, sweeping cityscape shots we see in the movie are of Sydney, with street names taken from Chicago, where the Wachowskis grew up.

To visualise their script, the Wachowskis hired three comic book illustrators: Steve Skroce, Geoff Darrow, and Tani Kunitake. Together, they created a 600-page comic book that esentially worked as a storyboard for The Matrix.

The DP on the film was Bill Pope. He and the Wachowskis created a stunning looking film that still stands up to this day, as shown in our compilation of the movie's greatest shots.


Pope and the Wachowskis also used colour tints to enhance the story and signify locations:

-Any scenes set in the matrix have a green tint.
-Scenes in the real world have a blue tint, and feature no green.
-And scenes in the training construct have a yellow tint.

During filming, Warners were unhappy at how slowly things were moving and told the Wachowskis they’d step in. The Wachowskis and the editor, Zach Staenberg, finished the opening sequence with temporary SFX and VFX. After WB saw it, they didn’t bother the Wachowskis again.


Comic books and anime were a big influence:

The Invisibles (Grant Morrison) is about a character referred to as “The One” whose destiny is to free humanity.

And the Wachowskis themselves cited animes Akira (1988) and Ninja Scroll (1993) as major influences.

The biggest influence came from Japanese animation Ghost In The Shell (1995), where the world is connected by a digital network. The hero is a hacker who, when she accesses the network, gets superpowers. The Matrix lifts directly from the anime. Video credit: AnimeFaMo


A more diverse source was a book called Simulacra and Simulation by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard. The book explores simulation and hyperreality, and the Wachowskis asked the cast to read it before filming started. Also, we see Simulacra and Simulation in the film.


One of the film's famous images is the green code that runs down the screen. This was designed by the production designer Simon Whitely. He based it on rain running down a window pane, and it’s made up of Japanese katakana characters that Whitely copied from a cookbook.

Neo meets Trinity in an S&M nightclub - a real place in Sydney, called The Hellfire Club. The Wachowskis asked the clubbers to show up in their usual outfits and act as they normally would. So, the extras are behaving and look as they would on any regular club night.


Keanu Reeves wasn’t the Wachowkis’ original pick to play Neo.

Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Brad Pitt also said ‘no’ to playing Neo. Lou Diamond Phillips was sent the script and turned it down when his agent said, “it’s a guaranteed flop”.

WB were worried and thought about changing Neo to a girl. They sent the script to Sandra Bullock but she said no.

And, famously, the role of Neo was turned down by Will Smith. He turned the Wachowskis down to make Wild Wild West. He’s since said, “I’m not proud of it.”


Reeves went method for the role. To prepare for this scene, he lost 15 pounds in weight and shaved his whole body. And when the pod was tested, the tester suffered hypothermia so the water was heated prior to Reeves shooting the scene.


For starring in The Matrix, Keanu Reeves made $35m in total. He donated 70% of this to leukemia research. Also, when filming The Matrix sequels, Reeves gave the effects and costume teams $1m each. By the end of The Matrix Trilogy, he’d given away $75m.

There were lots of actresses up for the part of Trinity.

Marisa Tomei, Salma Hayek, and Angelina Jolie turned the role down.

Jada Pinkett Smith auditioned for the part, and screen-tested with Keanu Reeves, and was later cast as Niobe in The Matrix Reloaded.

Carrie-Anne Moss won the part and underwent months of training. She wanted to perform as many of the stunts as she could but twisted her ankle and injured herself. She was worried the Wachowskis would recast her so didn’t tell anyone she was hurt until after filming.


The chance to play Morpheus was turned down by Russell Crowe, Chow Yun Fat, and Sean Connery.

Crowe said he couldn’t get past page 42 of the script, and Connery turned it down because he didn’t understand it. It turned out pretty well with Laurence Fishburne, though.

Before Hugo Weaving was cast as Agent Smith, the Wachowskis wanted Jean Reno, but he turned the part down to appear in Godzilla (1998). Again, Weaving was a perfect fit.

The martial arts fight sequences in The Matrix are iconic. The choreographer was Woo-Ping Yuen, a legendary Hong Kong stunt coordinator. He had complete control of the fights, and trained the actors for four months prior to shooting.


The ‘bullet time’ effect was jaw-dropping at the time.

At first, special effects supervisor John Gaeta wanted to do it the old-fashioned way. They created a dolly and had a rocket strapped to a camera that would fire it round the actors at huge speeds. The tests failed.


How bullet time worked is that multiple cameras were positioned around the actors that all shot at the same time. CGI was then used to stitch the shots together and, to make it as fluid as possible, the cameras captured 12,000 frames per second instead of the usual 24.

The Matrix wowed audiences and filmmakers on its release.

James Cameron called The Matrix, “one of the most profoundly fresh science fiction films ever made”.

And Quentin Tarantino called seeing The Matrix, “a mindblowing experience.” Here he is talking about it.


If you liked this thread, please retweet the first Tweet 😀

We're looking to grow our YouTube channel so please subscribe 😀
See All