You’d think big-time stars would have something better to do in the morning than hang around a bunch of videogame journalists — and they probably do. Fortunately for us (and unfortunately for them), we caught up with a few of the stars of The Matrix: Reloaded at a recent Hollywood event for the upcoming videogame Enter the Matrix.
Bright and early in the morning, we sat down with Jada Pinkett Smith (Niobe, the best pilot out there), Anthony Wong (Ghost, a Zen Buddhist Apache assassin), Lachy Hulme (Sparks, the Logos operator) and asked them about the movie, the game and their experiences with the Wachowski brothers.
When in the process of signing onto the movie did they bring up this videogame thing with all this other footage to shoot?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I didn’t get the videogame until after I signed on for the movie, and then they go, “Yeah, there’s this videogame. Here’s the script.” And I’m thinking, “Videogame? Script? What, you need a bunch of sound effects of me getting kicked in the gut?” or “Give a grunt as you throw a punch.” or “Stop, don’t go there!”
And I get a script with all this action, and I’m thinking, “Are we shooting another movie?” The script was crazy! So I sit down with the boys, well actually over the phone, and they kind of broke it down for me. I still wasn’t clear, but I didn’t care because I knew anything the Wachowski brothers do — whether it’s a movie or a videogame — they’re going to take it to the next level, and I wanted to be a part of that, period. I’m with you.
Lachy Hulme: I didn’t know anything about the game at all. I thought I had just signed on to do two or three scenes in the film, which is fine. When I got to Alameda where we were shooting, they said, “You know about the videogame, right?” At this point, I’m thinking exactly the same thing. I’m just going to be going “Pow! That’s a day’s work and we’re done!” So I said, “How big of a role is it?” to Andy Wachowski and Andy leans back in his chair and says [extending hands], “Big!”
So I get back to the hotel and I get the film scripts and I have a scene or two, and then I get the game scripts, which they’ve written, and I’m on every page. I’m the operator of the Logos so I gotta keep these two alive, so I’ve got [points to Anthony Wong] his script, I’ve got [points to Jada] her script, I’ve got my own script, I’ve got the Enter the Matrix script on top of that along with tutorials. So that’s how I found out about it, and we started working on it the next morning.
Anthony Wong: I kept being told before I signed, “You have a pivotal role.” And, because of the confidentiality agreement, they wouldn’t let me see a script, which is pretty much the case with most of the actors. I took the job on complete faith because I love the Wachowski’s work. I got to Alameda and I saw my scripts and I’d heard about a very low-key videogame that was going to be on the Internet. I didn’t hear anything about any PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, PC thing, and then I saw this thing and I was like, “I’m one of the leads. My god, that’s what they’re talking about being pivotal,” and that was the first I’d heard about it — when I got to my hotel room after arriving in America, so it was quite a shock but it was a nice surprise, too.
How would you compare working on a Wachowski videogame to working on a movie?
Jada Pinkett Smith: There’s no difference.
Lachy Hulme: You’re working on a Wachowski brother’s product.
Jada Pinkett Smith: It’s serious business, down to how you walk, the tone of your voice, how you pronounce the words, the whole attitude — just everything. They were just as involved in the process of the videogame as they were the movie. It’s all one in the same — there was no separation. It was just one, big, massive project.
Lachy Hulme: You literally go from the videogame for two hours in the morning, then you’re on set shooting stuff for the movie, then you’re back on the game. There’s no difference. You don’t refer to it as the game.
We would find ourselves in Sydney getting asked questions. Fishburne goes, “What happened just before this scene?” Of course they ask us because it’s in the game, and he doesn’t know because it’s not in his script but it’s in the game script.
Jada Pinkett Smith: Well, they would ask Lachy because if you asked me I’d be like, “I have no idea. I don’t know if we’re in the game, the movie. I don’t know.”
Lachy Hulme: I’d just re-read these things so much I became like the encyclopedia.
Jada Pinkett Smith: I was too scared to travel with my script because there were so many accidents. Aaliyah had a car accident first, and the Wachowski’s called me and said, “You know, Aaliyah had a car accident and we’re trying to get the car that they impounded because the script is in there.” After that I said, “I’m not taking this thing anywhere!”
Lachy Hulme: Didn’t you lose your script at one point?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I did!
Lachy Hulme: And guess what happened the next day, remember? I lost mine!
Jada Pinkett Smith: Right! And they put your name on every page. It’ll say “Pinkett Smith” on every page, so if it comes up on the Internet, guess what? They’re going to know who’s leaking the script on the Internet.
Anthony Wong: I was carrying my scripts along with my passport. In the morning I’d put it into my bag and I’d be like, “Scripts, first,” and then wallet, passport, traveler’s checks…
Lachy Hulme: Seriously man, these guys at Warner Brothers aren’t *&$%ing around. You lose those scripts, they’re going to kill you. They will kill you! There’s like teams of assassins who sit there sharpening knives waiting for sucker actors like us to lose those scripts.
Anthony Wong: I asked the brothers how long the whole from their first concept of The Matrix to now and they said, “Eleven years.” When they told me that, of course you’re going to be obsessed about security and confidentiality.
Lachy Hulme: And thanks to the Internet, actors like us don’t get scripts before we show up anymore in fear of being leaked. It screwed the industry. I hate to say that, but it has. It’s been a big plus as well, but it’s screwed us. James Cameron told us about it and said, “It’s screwed us because you’re in a position where some twit out there wants to ruin it for everyone by publishing the screenplay.”
What was it like meeting the Wachowski brothers for the first time?
Jada Pinkett Smith: Well I met them for the first time on the first Matrix. First they were interested in Will [Smith] for the concept, and Will had brought home all of these massive drawings that they had done. I could just tell from the drawings. The first drawing I laid my eyes on was the first Trinity scene in the first Matrix. I was like, “Will, this is serious. These cats, they got something.” And he’s like, “They don’t even know how they’re going to do the movie.” And I said, “These cats will figure it out.”
Then they called me in for the Trinity role, and I went through two weeks of training. That’s when Val Kilmer was going to be Morpheus. Keanu was on, and I met Keanu, and I met the brothers several times.
From the first time I met them, I knew where their heads were. They were Japanese animation fans — I was too. They were videogame fanatics — I was too. I knew exactly what it was they were looking for. I knew exactly what it was! So this time, when they created the Niobe character, I was clear.
With them it’s kind of a secret language. They don’t communicate very well.
Lachy Hulme: They’re not the kissing, hugging kind of guys. They’re tough Chicago boys.
Jada Pinkett Smith: They are, but the thing is, if you know their world and you understand their world, you know their language without having to say much of anything.
Anthony Wong: My first meeting with them I was a little enthused because I had seen Bound and The Matrix and I was like a kid in a candy store. I went into their trailer and I was like, “Hi! I love your work!” And they were so dry and laid-back. They were like, “Good to meet you. Thank you.”
Lachy Hulme: The same thing happened to me. I’m about to meet the famous Wachowski brothers — they made The Matrix for God’s sake! I’m a Matrix junkie.
I bounded on the set the first day and I went straight up to them and I say, “So you’re the two psychos that signed on for this!” They just stared at me and Larry goes, “You’re Australian, right? We get confused because you guys all look the same.” [laughs]
Jada Pinkett Smith: They’re the same cats they were before. When they first came on the scene, they didn’t even have the camera developed for their concept. They had to create that camera. They invented the camera, you know what I mean? So when I first met them, they were just a couple of cats with a great idea, but they’re still the same cats that I met that didn’t have that camera invented yet that they were after they had this huge success.
Anthony Wong: The other thing I want to share about the brothers which is relevant to who they are is there’s a scene in the game where there was a bookshelf with all the great works of literature and philosophy throughout time, and they walked onto that set and they were going, “Oh yeah, that’s a good book. Shakespeare, fantastic! Kierkegaard, amazing! Did you read this one, Larry?” They read all of these books. You meet them for the first time and you would never think that they’re so well-read.
Jada Pinkett Smith: No, they’re beyond well-read. [laughs]
Lachy Hulme: I would lay money down that they chose all the books.
Anthony Wong: They did. There was even an Art of The Matrix book in there as an in-joke.
Because you’re in the game and the other guys aren’t, have you guys developed a camaraderie? Like, when they ask you questions, are you like, “Well if you were cool enough to be in the game then you would know that.”
Jada Pinkett Smith: No, no, no.
Lachy Hulme: It doesn’t work like that, mate.
Jada Pinkett Smith: We all work way too hard. When you actually see what Keanu, Carrie-Anne and Laurence go through to make those action scenes — we got off easy. And that’s real.
Were any of them kind of like, “Oh man, I really wish I was more in the game?”
Jada Pinkett Smith: No. [laughs]
Lachy Hulme: Like Jada was saying, it’s one big project. To reference Andy and Larry again, Andy said to me, “The thing you got to understand is you guys are kind of like a basketball team. Some days you’re going to be on the bench and some days you’re going to be center court.” We’re all a team. We’re sitting there watching them do it and then we’re up there and they’re watching us do it.
Anthony Wong: I think there was a tremendous camaraderie for the collection of the people that the project attracted versus the kind of people who were attracted to it. There was very little ego on this shoot…
Lachy Hulme: Which is extraordinary just considering us three alone! [laughs]
Anthony Wong: But also historically what happened. We were shooting in the middle of September 11th. Aaliyah died. Gloria Foster died. We had another crew member die. They were starting to say stuff like, “The Matrix is jinxed.”
Jada Pinkett Smith: [whispers] Don’t say that.
Anthony Wong: No, it isn’t jinxed. Some cynics were saying, and they’re going to be proven wrong. We were already a tight unit, but that pulled us together even more.
Jada Pinkett Smith: We went through a lot. I remember Larry and Andy coming to my trailer like, “Do we stop?” And I said, “Oh hell no! I got on that plane and flew over here on September 19th. You’re not going to stop now!”
Anthony Wong: I think also that September 11th fueled the performances, because there are parallels with things that happen, so we were seeing stuff on the news and seeing all that tragedy…I remember a particular scene that we shot with Laurence and Keanu and Carrie-Anne and Randall [Duk Kim], and that was amazing that day because it was shortly after September 11th — I won’t tell you what the scene is because I don’t want to spoil it — but it was really fueled by what was going on at the time.
Is last night the first time you had to play the game?
Lachy Hulme: No. We played it the day before. [laughs]
What was it like to play with yourself?
Lachy Hulme: You may want to rephrase that a bit. [laughs] Are we talking about last night, or…
Jada Pinkett Smith: For me it’s nerve-wracking. I like to win, and so they have this image of you on the screen that has you going into this combat that you’re in control of; it’s a lot of pressure.
It’s a lot of fun, too. For me it’s just great to see my alter-ego live and breathe on that screen. I think, “That’s a bad chick!” It’s totally like a whole another part of my self, but it’s not who I am. So that part I really do enjoy.
Anthony Wong: I enjoyed that too because Ghost is so tough. He’s military tough, and I thought I could use that when I go into a restaurant. I’m pretty tough too; I’ll send a steak back occasionally. It was just great to see me doing Yuen Wo Ping style, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon moves.
Lachy Hulme: Just ask yourself what it would be for you. To actually do backflips and coming off of walls and driving stakes into vampires. Of course, it’s a self-evident question. What would you feel like?
Lachy Hulme: No, not what I would feel like! [laughs]
Jada, you mentioned being into videogames, so I was wondering what videogames you all were into.
Anthony Wong: Mine goes way back. Mine goes back to arcade games. I loved Terminator: Judgement Day and I loved that Alien 3 game.
Lachy Hulme: I loved Galaga in the arcade. Grand Theft Auto is mine. I haven’t played Vice City yet.
How long was the movie shoot and how long was the videogame shoot?
Jada Pinkett Smith: They were simultaneous, so you can’t really separate them.
How long was the entire project then?
Jada Pinkett Smith: I think they left in what, September? The beginning of September. I left in July.
Lachy Hulme: I left in September, and I started in May of the previous year.
Anthony Wong: I took 15 months, but Carrie-Anne and Hugo had gone longer.
Lachy Hulme: A year and a half? Two years? That’s all a blur now. We were all drunk reading Hustler magazine, so the days just flew by! [laughs]
Jada Pinkett Smith: For me, I went to Australia for two weeks then came home for a couple of months and went back to Australia and just stayed. Then I was flying home for the weekends, and for the Oscars.
Lachy Hulme: Oh, well! We all had to do that! [laughs]
Did anybody lose track of what you were shooting? Like, is this for the game?
Jada Pinkett Smith: Lachy is the only one. He’s the only one! I would ask him and he would be, “Jada, read the script!”
Lachy Hulme: I was the encyclopedia. I was the idiot savant of the Matrix.