Lana Wachowski explains why now is the right time to return to The Matrix

(Courtesy of Warner Bros.)

We are only a couple of weeks away from the opening of the fourth, and long-awaited chapter, to The Matrix, the groundbreaking 1999 film that redefined a genre. That trilogy came from the visionary minds of Chicago-born writer/directors Lilly and Lana Wachowski.

Now, Lana is out on her own as she brings The Matrix: Resurrections to life. In the new film, we 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 (Keanu Reeves) 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. Watch the trailer below:

According to Lana, she believes that the energy of The Matrix set the tone for Lilly’s and her 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.”

Lana shared her thoughts on returning to the world.

What motivated you to return to The Matrix?

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. And that became more and more clear through my career.

Cloud Atlas was a real breakthrough for me, artistically, and then Sense 8 was probably the most autobiographical thing—that is really me—that I’ve made. And 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.

It’s been 22 years, What makes this time the right time?

Lana Wachowski: 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.

One night, I woke up, and I was in a lot of pain, and in the grief that I was experiencing with my parents dying, my brain wanted to imagine a story that would be soothing. And so, 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.

How was it seeing Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss re-enter the world?

(L-r) KEANU REEVES as Neo/Thomas Anderson and CARRIE-ANNE MOSS as Trinity in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Venus Castina Productions’ “THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

It is beautiful to watch Keanu and Carrie in this. They’re the perfect age to do this right now—we’re the perfect age. Everything about it seems to be just in focus in a way. And Keanu’s at this cusp age, where if he was too much older, it wouldn’t be possible.

And if he was too much younger, it wouldn’t have as much weight and resonance. But, when he says these lines, like “I feel like nothing I’ve done in my life has mattered,” these are questions we’re grappling with and we wonder about. And you get to this next part of your life, where you start really focusing on “What is real?” And what matters gets finer and finer. And you see them both reflecting that in this way, and it’s only possible because of the time that has passed.

Carrie brought a whole new level— I mean, she was fearless and fierce through the first trilogy, but she’s taken that to another level in this, and she is just extraordinary. And of course, Keanu, I love him, and really I wanted to have another experience, to see what it was like to go back into this narrative with him.

They are older. Were you worried about Keanu and Carrie-Anne doing their own stunts?

(L-r) KEANU REEVES as Neo/Thomas Anderson and CARRIE-ANNE MOSS as Trinity in Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures and Venus Castina Productions’ “THE MATRIX RESURRECTIONS,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release.

There was something that was really energizing about seeing Keanu and Carrie doing their own stunts in The Matrix, which was new back then. Now, everybody does it, but back then, nobody was doing it. And that realness, I think, really went into people’s hearts and bodies, and they experienced it. And so, I wanted something that spoke to that, something symbolic.

And I told them both, I wanted to do this sequence where they are on the top of a building, they take hold of each other’s hands, they run full speed and they jump off a skyscraper together. And I wanted it in the perfect sunlight, in the perfect moment. And I wanted it to feel completely real.

And I said, “It can’t be about fear in this moment. It’s about something else.” So, we built a tiny platform, and they baby jumped and learned. We built higher, and higher, then higher. It was training for their hearts and their minds. There was so much energy to try and stop us. And then, the weather was complicated.

We only had these tiny windows of space to jump. And so, we would have to climb this mountain every night, around 3:00 a.m. We put everything in these elevators—the poor crew had to lug everything up—and we would just wait. But we went up there almost like a vigil, like a pilgrimage, to this skyscraper. And we just kept thinking, “Please, please, please…”

We hear you called old friends to join The Matrix Resurrections.

When a twist of something tragic led me to want to go back, I wanted friends around me, and [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 film. 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.

This crew is f***ing amazing. 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.”

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How do you feel like your filmmaking has evolved since 1999?

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.

What was it like collaborating with [composer] Tom Twyker?

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.

Lana Wachowski directed The Matrix: Resurrections from a screenplay by Wachowski & David Mitchell & Aleksander Hemon, based on characters created by The Wachowskis. The film was produced by James McTeigue, Lana Wachowski and Grant Hill. The executive producers were Garrett Grant, Terry Needham, Michael Salven, Karin Wachowski, Jesse Ehrman and Bruce Berman.

Wachowski’s creative team behind the scenes included Sense8 collaborators: directors of photography Daniele Massaccesi and John Toll, production designers Hugh Bateup and Peter Walpole, editor Joseph Jett Sally, costume designer Lindsay Pugh, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, and composers Johnny Klimek and Tom Tykwer.

Other Matrix returnees include Jada Pinkett Smith as Niobe, Lambert Wilson as The Merovingian, and Daniel Bernhardt as Agent Johnson. Also joining the cast will be Andrew Caldwell, Priyanka Chopra, Jonathan Groff, Neil Patrick Harris, Ellen Hollman, Eréndira Ibarra, Toby Onwumere, Christina Ricci, Max Riemelt, and Brian J. Smith.

The Matrix Resurrections will be released in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously on December 22.