While a large majority of The Matrix fans would put the first movie squarely at the top of the trilogy with no bother from its sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions do still have their cheerleaders. Cinematographer Bill Pope found himself dragging his pompoms after a gruelling back-to-back shoot on both, though, describing it as “mind numbing and soul numbing.”
Pope, who had previously worked with The Matrix directors The Wachowskis on 1996’s critically acclaimed Bound before climbing aboard the pair’s groundbreaking sci-fi action trilogy, revealed the exhaustive nature of the Reloaded and Revolutions shoot in a new interview with Roger Deakins on the Team Deakins podcast (via Indiewire).
“Everything that was good about the first experience was not good about the last two,” Pope said. “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.”
The trilogy’s cast, led by Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Ann Moss, were put through a “shoot more takes” approach in Reloaded and Revolutions, which added up to a “sort of torture,” according to Pope. The DP says he would regularly have to help produce “90 takes of many things” and he maintains that it was a waste of time, saying “you’re not gaining anything [by doing multiple takes].”
Pope also maligned the extended length of time it took to shoot the follow up Matrix films.
“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 explained. “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.”
It seems that time has healed the physical, mental and spiritual wounds of working on the Matrix sequels, however. Pope later said “I just transferred them all to 4K for archive purposes at Warners. and I wrote the Wachowkis and Keanu and Carrie Ann that we did a good job [on the sequels], we should be proud of them.”
Pope has not returned to work on the upcoming The Matrix 4, and is currently on board Marvel‘s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Instead, John Toll (Jupiter Ascending, Cloud Atlas) has taken over as the cinematographer on Lana Wachowski’s sequel, which will bring Reeves and Moss back to the franchise and add Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Aquaman), Neil Patrick Harris (Gone Girl), Priyanka Chopra (Baywatch) and Jonathan Groff (Mindhunter) into the mix.