Movies

Keanu Reeves On ‘The Matrix Resurrections,’ The Theory Of Living In A Simulation, And The Co-Opting Of ‘Red Pill’

The odds are this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this, but I get the impression interviews take their toll on Keanu Reeves. It feels like there’s a focus he wants to maintain, but this focus takes a lot of energy. (And, to be fair, if he did like doing them, that would be unusual.) But the thing about Keanu Reeves is he’s always as nice and pleasant as anyone could be under these strange circumstances. For someone who has, literally, probably done somewhere in the ballpark of 1000 interviews in his career, he still kind of acts like someone who is doing one for the first time. Those initial moments of trying to figure out what my angle will be, then deciding, okay, this guy seems normal enough I guess, then easing up a bit and trying to give actual thoughtful answers.

(Now I know I’ve mentioned this before. But as an example, at Sundance in 2015, I had just finished interviewing Eli Roth for the film Knock Knock. Out of nowhere, Keanu Reeves, who had just finished his own set of interviews, pulled up a chair next to me at this big circular table, gave me a polite nod, then promptly put his head down and went to sleep.)

It’s been 18 years since the last Matrix movie and there have been some changes. The Neo/Thomas Anderson we find in The Matrix Resurrections isn’t quite the one we’ve seen in the past movies. Which makes sense since, you know, this character (spoiler if you haven’t seen the third movie, The Matrix Revolutions) died in the previous film. Another change is, this time, Lana Wachowski is directing solo, as opposed to the directing team with Lilly Wachowski, who is sitting this one out. And there are a lot of meta-references in this movie to sequels and reboots – and a direct line aimed squarely at Warner Bros. themselves, which Reeves, as he says ahead, even found shocking.

Ahead, Reeves gives us his interpretation of what makes this Neo maybe a little different than in the previous versions, and why this movie itself is turning the whole idea of the first movies on its head. Also, Reeves delves into the idea that, maybe, The Matrix movies themselves have helped make the idea that we live in a simulation more mainstream. (At least to the point, now, a lot of people will say, “yeah, maybe,” instead of completely dismissing the idea.) And we talk a bit about the far right-wing and groups like QAnon co-opting the term “red pill.” Lilly Wachowski has already made it clear what she thinks. Reeves, in all earnestness, doesn’t feel comfortable telling people what to think but also makes it clear what those original Matrix movies represent.

It’s pretty wild you’re in a new Matrix after all this time. I remember everyone being excited for The Phantom Menace, then that first movie came out of nowhere and changed everything. And here you go again…

We are. Did you see the film?

I did see the film.

I mean, how did you like it?

It’s a different Neo. That was kind of surprising. I’ll admit, I was kind of overwhelmed a little bit the first time seeing you and Carrie-Anne Moss on screen together as these characters again, if that makes sense.

Yeah, no, I kind of share that sentiment. It was really something. It was wonderful to work with Carrie-Anne again. It was wonderful. I love the love that Thomas Anderson has for Trinity. It feels really good. And to fight for, to be with – and so that was actually probably one of the highlights of doing the film.

Do you agree it’s kind of a different Neo, right? Obviously, in the first one Thomas Anderson is pretty confused at what’s going on, but in this one…

“Doubting Thomas.” He’s still doubting Thomas. It’s just an older, more experienced doubting Thomas.

He is, but it’s a different kind of confusion. Because he sort of remembers what happened before, but now it’s like everything’s different again. And he doesn’t seem as confident at times, especially in the first half.

No, absolutely. I mean, I would pitch that Resurrections is a kind of dynamic inverse of the trilogy.

What do you mean by that?

[Laughs] Just that.

Okay.

Where in the trilogy Trinity’s trying to support and wake up Thomas Anderson, now Thomas Anderson is in that position and role for Trinity.

True, but he has to kind of go through his own stuff first.

And where he’s supposed to be the one that’s going to be the… I don’t want to give too much away.

Right.

But the relationship is different. It’s inverse.

Okay, I see.

Yeah. Or maybe the opposite? Inverse-opposite? I don’t know. Okay, sorry. Go ahead!

I saw where you mentioned you were talking with a younger person, maybe it was a friend’s kid, and you were explaining the plot of The Matrix to them and they were like, “Why would your character want to know this? Who cares if it’s real or not?”

Oh, value of reality. Yes. They didn’t care if it was real or not.

That’s fascinating, and it made me think about it more. The idea that we are living in a simulation has become a lot more mainstream since the first Matrix movies came out. If someone says it now I’m like, “Yeah, maybe.” And I wonder, do you think The Matrix movies showed a visual representation of that, where that really pushed that theory forward?

Ah, wow. So are you getting into the idea of, that it was presented, which helped promote the idea and advancement of the idea that was presented?

Well, people like visualized things, and a visualization of you waking up in a pod…

Like the Star Trek communicator for the phone?

You know what? That’s a really good example.

Absolutely. For sure. But I think also, I think that the films, and Resurrections, too… I think they can, for me, I think it could also be a tool, or a mechanic, to help us understand the world that we’re in.

Because a lot of people don’t think it’s nuts anymore. The attitude shifted to, yeah, it’s possible. Most people are just more open to the idea.

Literally, yeah, it’s a Matrix. Yeah. I mean, infinity is enjoying really a wonderful popularity. Multiple, infinity, infinity plus one. I mean, they’re old ideas, that there are multiverses.

I have a kind of a heavy question, but I’ve been wanting to know your opinion of this for a while about groups like QAnon co-opting “red pill.” Lilly Wachowski has spoken out that’s it’s an allegory for being transgender. But it’s still such a bummer that they have co-opted that. And I’ve been curious what you think of that, because that’s not what those movies were about, the way they’re using it.

Yeah, I don’t know… I’m not super familiar with it, in terms of QAnon, and red pills, and appropriation. But yeah, I mean, the idea of the mechanic of it is you take this pill and you’re able to be able to see the nature of reality. So escaping a simulation of a reality. So I could see how that’s appropriate for a lot of perspectives. I mean, I think, just hold onto the idea that it came from The Matrix.

I warned you that it was a little heavy, but I have been wanting to hear what you thought about that, if they’re using your movie to promote stuff I’m fairly certain you don’t agree with…

Yeah, but it’s also part, I mean, I’m not going to speak to whether I agree or not agree or anything. I want people to be able to say, and do, and be. I don’t want to…

Well, to clarify, not the idea of “everyone agreeing.” I was talking about more the white nationalist stuff that they’re using. I’m fairly confident you are not a fan of that. You’ve been kind of outspoken about that.

Yeah. Yes. I mean, the films kind of promote the idea of cooperation, compassion. So I’m all on board for that.

There are a lot of meta-references to sequels and franchises in this movie. Did you have to help talk Lana into doing this movie? Because that line, “Our parent company Warner Bros. is going to make this with or without us, so we might as well be involved.” It’s hard not to hear that and go, “Wait a second.” Did you have to like, “Come on, let’s do this”?

[Laughs] No, no. When I saw that line in the script, I was like, “Really? You would do that?”

Right.

She’s like, “Yes.” And I thought it was cool. She’s brave. And it’s interesting that that’s even… It’s nuts! It’s strange. But I thought it was very funny, and true.

It got a big laugh.

Yeah. It’s funny and true, so…

Right, if you two say no they’re going to do something anyway.

Yeah. And you know, if a system can’t take being played for humor, or be laughed at, then that system is generally not very healthy or tyrannical. Just to say that. But anyway.

So last time I spoke to you was for John Wick 3. And at the end, I don’t even remember what happened, we got off on Parenthood, and you couldn’t remember your character’s name, Tod Higgins. And you made me look it up.

Oh, Tod.

I bring this up because over the pandemic a lot of people have re-watched Parenthood and I’ve heard from a lot of people happy that you’ve recently discussed Tod. People love Tod Higgins.

He’s a good spirit.

He is a good spirit. “Did I win?” Still, one of the funniest lines in movie history.

[Laughs] “Did I win?” He’s a thoughtful, good spirit.

‘The Matrix Resurrections’ opens in theaters and streams via HBO Max on Christmas Day. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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