“The Matrix” was a mind-blowing film when it was first released. Now-famous aspects of the film, like the “bullet time” sequence, may no longer seem so exceptional, but they were like nothing that audiences of 1999 had ever seen. “The Matrix” broadened our perceptions of reality and kicked off a franchise with three sequels, including the recent film, “The Matrix Resurrections.”
From the monochrome costumes to the trippy premise and the wild fight sequences, “The Matrix” just oozed coolness. To give the super slick film a more grounded feel, the principal actors were asked to do their own stunts. Audiences were already savvy about distinguishing CGI from practical stunts in 1999, so knowing that the “Matrix” cast performed many of their own stunts brought authenticity and a more visceral feel to the film.
One of those stunts, however, almost took lead actress Carrie-Anne Moss out of commission. The scene in question is a big shootout that takes place in the lobby of a building. It’s a doozy of a scene that had audiences gasping. As it turns out, it didn’t just look dangerous, it resulted in Moss being injured.
That Sounds Painful!
According to Brian Raferty’s book “Best. Movie. Year. Ever: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen,” Moss was surprised to learn that she’d be doing her own stunts (via Wired): “I remember thinking, they don’t really think I’m gonna do this stuff, like jumping from one building to another. Of course I’m not going to do that!”
The scene in question has Neo (Keanu Reeves) doing a quadruple kick and Trinity (Moss) doing a crazy cartwheel off of a wall. Moss confessed to being quite nervous about pulling it off, recalling, “The weekend before I had to do it, I was in the training center in tears, saying: ‘I can’t do it! I can’t do it!'” Raferty goes on to tell how, “an hour before the cameras rolled, while practicing with her trainers, she injured her ankle and fell to the ground, moaning, ‘Oh no, oh no,’ as a team of stunt workers rubbed her back. She was able to perfect the cartwheel later that day during rehearsals but struggled once the cameras were rolling, letting out what sounded like a loud, anguished ‘F***!'”
Can you imagine the stress Moss must have felt? Knowing the film was resting on her ability to do things normal humans can’t, things that could really hurt her, despite all the precautions? There are stunt performers who pull off death-defying feats like this for a living, after all. Most of the stunt performers I know are professionals with years of training, but they’ve also all broken a good number of bones.
Ultimately, Moss was able to not only overcome her fear but her injury as well, managing the stunt beautifully. If you’ve seen the film, you know how gorgeous and grounded that sequence looks.
Leap Of Faith
Overcoming that fear helped Moss while shooting the latest installment in the franchise, “The Matrix Resurrections.” Moss’ memories of nerve-wracking, yet ultimately successful stunt work put her in a better mindset to prepare for the film’s big action sequences.
In one particular scene, Moss had to leap off a 40-foot-tall stack of shipping containers CGI’d to look like a skyscraper. Gearing up for this stunt required mental as well as physical preparation. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Moss said, “I spent a lot of time in my hotel room in the dark training my mind to do that. It was really, for me, I call it mind training. I had to train my mind to get to that point, which I, which I love doing. The mind’s powerful, you know?” That frankly sounds more terrifying than the cartwheel in the lobby of that building, but wow, did it pack a wallop on the screen.
As audiences understand more about filmmaking and what CGI can do, knowing that actors are doing their own stunts really ups the coolness factor. Seeing Trinity jump from great heights, knowing that Moss really made the jump, makes the scene in “Resurrections” all the more powerful. You can see that it’s really happening on her face, and on the face of her co-star and jumping partner Keanu Reeves.
Nothing can replace good stunt work. CGI may be utilized to achieve breathtaking visual effects, but there is just something you can feel when an actor does their own stunts. Next time you watch an action film or do a “Matrix” rewatch, take a moment to appreciate the actors that are doing it for themselves.
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Source: Slash Film