The Matrix: Casting

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The Wachowski brothers had always had Keanu Reeves in mind for the role of Neo. They explain, "When he came to meetings with us he had a real appreciation for the script. We could discuss the film with Keanu in the same way we'd discuss it between ourselves.

"Keanu has a boyish quality about him that was perfect for the role, but at the same time he has a maturity that allows his character to develop and eventually take control of the situation."

Says Reeves, "When I first read the script I thought it was pretty amazing. It has a great combination of crazy action, extraordinary characters and some interesting themes. And Larry and Andy are such good people - very generous, very kind. It all evolved into something I hadn't seen before in a film: a meeting of heart and soul, spirit and action.

"I play an interesting character called Thomas Anderson, known later as Neo. He is someone who is alienated from the world around him and indeed very suspicious of life itself. He is searching for something that will somehow make sense of his life, and believes that Morpheus, Laurence Fishburne's character, has the answers to all his questions."

Of Fishburne, the Wachowskis assert, "Laurence is a brilliant actor who brings great presence to his role."

Says Fishburne, "Visually, I thought the style of the film was very fresh and new - in fact, pretty extraordinary. My character, Morpheus, is the leader of this band of people and they move in and out of the 'real' world searching for the one person they believe can help them in their quest. The broader themes in the movie have to do with reality versus hyper-reality, and the difference between what's real and what you perceive to be real."

The character of Trinity was a little more difficult to cast; as one of the only female member of Morpheus' band of renegades, she is tough and deeply committed to her cause. Yet she is emotionally vulnerable to Neo and what he might mean to all of their futures.

The directors saw a number of actors before they found Carrie-Anne Moss, "but as soon as we saw her in the audition we knew we'd found Trinity," they say. "We wanted someone audiences didn't already know very well, so they wouldn't bring their preconceptions of whether she's supposed to be a 'good guy' or a 'bad guy.' Carrie-Anne had tremendous intensity and great physical presence. Even though she wasn't a trained fighter, she looked like she could throw a punch."

Comments Moss, "I had really enjoyed seeing 'Bound,' and knowing Larry and Andy had written 'The Matrix,' I was excited to have the opportunity to work with them.

"Trinity is a very strong woman who has a real mission and purpose in her life and will do anything to achieve that mission. In a sense she's a true warrior. But at the same time she's capable of real love and compassion, which we see in the love that she feels for Keanu's character, Neo. So there's a real contrast there. And she wears some great outfits!"

Larry and Andy found the actor to play Agent Smith in Australia. They had been impressed by Hugo Weaving's performance in "Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert" and "Proof" and were eager to meet with him. "Hugo came out to LA and auditioned for us. His performance was fantastic and he was willing to undergo all the fight training that an action part like this would require. He totally immersed himself in the role."

Says Weaving, "This was very different from the type of film and character I normally play, but I was very keen to work with Larry and Andy, who are very talented as both writers and directors. My character, Agent Smith, is a complex role and was a great challenge. Agent Smith is a law enforcement officer and a seemingly invincible machine. He has certain human frailties, though, like anger, pride and arrogance. Then he begins to develop certain theories and, consequently, becomes a mixture of the terrifying and the amusing - another reason why I enjoyed the role."

Joe Pantoliano, who previously collaborated with the Wachowskis when he played the starring male role in "Bound," came on board "The Matrix" as Cypher, one of Morpheus' renegade crew. Pantoliano brought his trademark cynical humor to the story, as well as a desire to work with the Wachowskis on another project.

"They know exactly what they want," he explains. "They see the whole thing at once, and when they say 'walk here; say this; go there' they do it with the complete vision of what they're trying to accomplish already in their heads. It's terrific and I love working with them."

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