Interview with Leon Fifita (APU Operator Extra) from The Matrix Revolutions (2003)

By Paul Martin August 7th, 2012, in Official Interviews, The Matrix Revolutions

Archival interview with Leon Fifita from the official Matrix website.

Leon was an extra brought in to have his facial expressions digitally captured by the Visual Effects Department. He was asked to sit in an APU chair – without the physical APU – and go through a battle, but only using his face. His facial expressions would later be used to place on one of the CG Zion soldiers operating an APU in the siege battle scene. We spoke to him before he did this, then after.

BEFORE

MATRIX: Have they told you very much about what you’re going to be doing?

LEON: We were here on Monday when we saw the Directors and I think they’re going to take a photo of our face and superimpose it as a computer generated image. I think I’m supposed to be one of the soldiers, which is one of the minor parts as an Extra. I haven’t done anything like this before, or even acted, so it’s a good experience.

MATRIX: Did you see the original film?

LEON: Yes, I think it was ground-breaking in the way they utilized some of the martial arts scenes, especially the stunts. I’m a big martial arts fan and I think that’s probably the first Western film where I’ve seen directors utilizing that type of knowledge and those particular techniques. Now of course all the other films are doing the same thing copying them as well, so it’s pretty unique.

MATRIX: How was it meeting the Directors?

LEON: It was a bit nerve wracking because I haven’t done any acting whatsoever before, so we walk in and the Directors seemed pretty friendly and they introduced themselves. You can tell they’re very creative because they just slotted in straight away the role that they would do if they were in our place, and then they asked us to do what they were just doing, but how we would perform it. They acted it out to they gave us an idea of what they expected from us.

MATRIX: What is your background; what brought you to this job?

LEON: I was born in Tonga and have been in Australia for almost twenty years. I’ve been here most of my life, and finished off primary school here and high school. It’s actually a funny story how I got the part: we were playing rugby on one Saturday afternoon out at Penrith, and the club I play for has a lot of Islanders playing in their club as well, as the team that we were playing against. Up in the clubhouse after our game one of the ladies came and asked our coaches to send all of the Islander guys to take their photos if they were interested in being Extras for THE MATRIX, and me and a few of my friends went up there to get our photos taken just for a bit of a laugh. They rang on a Sunday, we came into Fox Studios on a Monday, and then they told us to come back on Tuesday. When we came in there were eighty or a hundred Polynesians around, and they took us up for some more photos again, twice. After about a month they rang and asked us to come back in.

MATRIX: Was it an exciting call to get?

LEON: I’m not really an excitable person… but Monday was definitely exciting meeting the Directors and seeing Laurence Fishburne [Morpheus]. I’ll probably never get to meet them again or see them again, so I thought it was a pretty unique opportunity to meet the Directors and see the actors as well the other professionals at work.

MATRIX: What are your expectations of today?

LEON: I think the machine will be pretty rigid with its movement, so we will be limited in what we can do. I think they’re after our facial expressions of anger and frustration – they’ll probably tell you to do a face just before you’re about to be killed or something like that.

AFTER

MATRIX: What did you find yourself doing?

LEON: What we did was very detailed. They asked us to go through a range of motion, to go through and portray our facial features in every single expression starting from just normal breathing going all the way up to our death face. It gave me a new appreciation of cinematography and what the work is that goes into making a film – how detailed it is.

Basically we went onto the set and the gentleman, George [Murphy, Visual Effects Supervisor], told us what he expected us to do, and then as the film was rolling he would also speak to us in the background giving us emotions to go through. For example he would say, “You’ve just been stabbed, you’re going down, you’re dying, dying, dying, you’re dead.” He would basically direct what your facial expression should be, and we just went through the whole motion from just a normal breath to dying… and everything in between.

MATRIX: How difficult was it to be killed by a Sentinel?

LEON: It was a bit hard because you had to portray the pain without actually moving your head around. Everything was based on your facial expression more or less, so you had to pretend you were being stabbed from different angles and you’re imagining it and you’re grimacing and gnawing your teeth, but without actually moving your head. I found that to be the most difficult part actually, shooting the death scene and imagining how painful it is without actually moving your head.

MATRIX: Did it help that the Directors had already acted out the scene for you?

LEON: Yes that was very helpful. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it without that, I would’ve been a bit lost on what kind of expression I should do up there in front of the camera. He went through it step by step for each scene that we did, what he expected us to do and how long we should hold that expression for before we move on to the next one.

MATRIX: Will you be coming back to do more?

LEON: Yes, we’ll be back in the last week of June and on the first and second week of July. I think that we’re working for six days or something around that.

MATRIX: Did they explain very much about how they’re going to be using what they’re capturing?

LEON: They said that they were capturing our facial expression and they’re going to have computer generated images that they’ll just plonk our head onto. So maybe my face will be ten people, or someone else’s face will be ten people, and that’s for the army where they might use us as operators of some machinery. They said that when we’re coming back to shoot we’re supposed to be doing battle scenes and we’re supposed to be soldiers.

MATRIX: Thank you very much Leon.

Interview by REDPILL

June2002

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