Neo’s Stunt Guy on How ‘The Matrix’ Changed Action Forever

matrix.
Photo: Courtesy of the studio

This series was originally shown in 2019. We are republishing it as Resurrection Matrix Hits theaters and HBO Max.

the matrix “Literally about the industry,” said Chad Stahelski, who was the Keanu Reeves duo in the movie and went on to become one of the industry’s busiest choreographers. Nowadays, he is best known for directing a group John Wick Movies starring Reeves, too. (Directed by Stahelski I John Wick with fellow veteran David Leitch, and directed subsequent sequels himself.) But he would be the first to admit that these films, not to mention most of the others he’s worked on, would never exist without the matrix. “Back in the day, fight scenes were secondary to car chases, horse chases, helicopter chases, and motorboat chases,” he recalls. And the fights there were not focused on “fighting things with one gun or Arnold Schwarzenegger hitting you to death with his hands.”

But the matrix Show that combat sequences can be graceful and amazing, as well as tell a story. Even the emerging, soon-to-be dominant superhero movie genre has taken a big page out of the Wachowskis’ playbook. Think of Spider-Man learning to use his powers, or Black Widow quickly dispatching a room full of villains while still chained to a chair, or Wolverine making his way between armies of thugs. “Now, action movies want to model their big sequences around fights,” Stahelski says. “Think of any action movie of the past decade or even that doesn’t have a silly fight scene. the matrix He said, “See what you can do with your heroes.” The director and stunt legend recently took a break from a busy schedule that’s over John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum to talk to me how the matrix The movies – and his life – changed forever.

How did you get the job for the first time the matrix?
Back in 1996, the Wachowskis and Yuen Woo-Ping, a martial arts choreographer, were conducting casting research in Australia, China, Canada, and the United States to find a double whammy in Keanu’s martial arts. At the time, martial arts weren’t big on big budget features. It was considered more of a kind of low-budget, shredder thing. Most of the fights at the time were a one-gun fight, or Arnold Schwarzenegger beat you to death with his own hands. It was a very different era of fighting. I was working on a TV show called pretender on time. And I had to hit a car in the morning. So I got hit by a car, popped my head, and was able to take a test at 11 a.m. in Burbank from Pasadena. I was still bleeding when I got there. First, they wanted to know if I was homeless – I still had blood on my shirt, and I was trying to stop the bleeding from a minor head wound. I was a big fan of Asian cinema, so I got to know Yuen Wu Bing; I got to know some of the guys on his team from all the great Jet Li and Jackie Chan movies.

I went thinking, Well, I’ll have to do a drop and split; They’ll throw a kick and that’ll be it. They spoke some Chinese, and then they pointed at this guy, Qin Hu. They said, “Just do what this guy does; copy him.” I walked out an hour and a half later, sweating, having gone through every set of martial arts, kicking, flipping, dribbling pass… Still, to this day, the longest and most difficult test ever I wasn’t quite prepared. This was the first time I met Keanu. We took two pictures together and split up.

A month goes by and nothing. About two months passed, and I got another phone call. “Hey, do you mind going back?” So I went to the same Burbank shooting depot, and the test was the exact same test, move for move, again. A week or two later they offered me the party. They said, “Hey, how would you like to go to Australia and marry Keanu?” I was like, “Wow, that’s cool. But ah sorry. No, I can’t.” I was still on a TV show.

X-Men Inception: Wolverine.
Photo: Courtesy of the studio

really? How did you end the movie?
Kian sustained a neck injury, so they continued to work until the following year. So, two months went by and I got a call from Producer Barrie Osborne, saying, “Hey, we’ve paid all the fights. Now can you do that?” And I got on a plane in January to start shooting in Australia. I showed up on my first day in Sydney to do rehearsals, and it was still, up to this point, the hardest process I’ve had up to that point in my career – just an amazing amount of repetition and trying to do it right, so it’s all right. Training with Keanu, with the Hong Kong guys, everyone had to memorize everything. They asked for a lot.

And the Wachowskis were meticulous, to say the least. The comics were hundreds and hundreds of pages long. I still have my copy of them. And I don’t get you, they are almost exactly the movie. Editing points may be slightly different, but they are well organized, well thought out and almost identical conceptually to what is displayed on the big screen. It’s creepy. I’m not going to lie to you, anyone who works for the Wachowskis and still works mentally is forever affected and positively affected by them. Their work ethic puts even the most serious of people to shame. We all get better at these movies and we all want to be better, and we all want to impress our mentors. I’m 50 now and all I can think of is, Oh man, I wish they were like this.

What is your impression of an entity before you do the matrix?
He is very in-depth, but at the same time very team-oriented. He eats, sleeps and hangs out with the crew. In Australia, you’ll be more than willing to see him dine in Sydney’s Chinatown with his Hong Kong and stunts team. even in John Wick Movies, to this day, is very austere with his stunt team, because they spend a lot of time with him. He’s the guy who’s going to bring out the camera guy. He’s very crew oriented. He loves this world. He loves to be a part of it.

When you started, did they give you a script?
I didn’t get a text until I arrived. I read it and did not understand the word silly. I was like, How the hell are we going to do this? I have a pretty good creative mind for putting things together, after seeing rehearsals and sets, but the matrix Is the only time this has happened to me, as it wasn’t until I saw the movie I got it. I remember coming in, and I saw a very early rough clip of something, and I said, “Wow, that’s so cool” — and I still didn’t get it. Because the effects have not yet been established. Then I was lucky enough to be invited to the premiere in Westwood. when I saw who – which, It was amazing.

John Wick.
Photo: Courty of the studio

It’s the only movie I can think of where both the stunts and the visual effects were really revolutionary.
There are certain things that stimulate development, or stimulate upward expectations in an industry. I love the Mission: Impossible Franchise, I love the Bond franchise, but there has never been a Bond or a Mission: Impossible That changed the design of the work. This never happened. after the matrix – Just look at the type of martial arts. He had never breached the mainstream before. You won’t see the Stallone movie, the Schwarzenegger movie, or the Bruce Willis movie where martial arts were prominent. You won’t see a $100 million movie or even a $50 million martial arts movie. Our action heroes don’t. The Americans worshiped one powerful punch.

but then the matrixYou’ve gone from an average stuntman to one of the biggest choreographers in the business. I created a company that specifically deals with choreography for martial arts, and this company has grown to all over the world John Wick movies and everything. the matrix It literally changed the industry. The influx of martial arts choreographers and fight coordinators is now making more, and is more widespread and powerful in the industry, than acrobatic stunt coordinators. the matrix revolution in it. Today, action movies want to design their big sequences around fights. Think of any action movie of the past decade or even that doesn’t contain a silly fight scene. the matrix He said, “See what you can do with your heroes.” In the past, fight scenes were secondary to car chases, horse chases, helicopter chases, and motorboat chases. Now, what does every great Marvel movie have in it? Whether they are flying, in spaceships, in boats, in planes etc., they want an action design centered around the fight scenes.

Was there a particular moment during production that you thought about, Well, this thing is going to be big?
I remember my first time in front of the camera was at the government lobby sequence, when Carrie Ann installed her wall. We’ve rehearsed it a million times. We had paradoxes that should explode. They were all practical effects, so you can’t have a cell phone within 300 feet of the stage, because at that time, the frequency of cell phones could make electronic noise. They had over a thousand noises, and they go off, and we see them and we go, “Oh my God.” I had to do something where I would run around to an M16 rifle, pick it up with one hand, and then Keanu would fire and get into a fight or something. I remember the setup was a day’s rotation, so you get one, take a day to reset, and then do the second. I hardly met anyone on set at this point. I’m in gear, getting ready to go, and I remember Producer Joel Silver walking towards me—I’ve never met a guy before in my life—looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t damn that.” ” on the principle, do not miss. And he gave me that little stare. He is a very strong person. and I was like OK. Don’t miss Venice. They said there would be a lot of debris, so I trained to do somersaults with my eyes closed. And I swear to you, as soon as they really yelled, the first sneer went off, and I I couldn’t see the shit. I just threw myself in there and magically found the gun and grabbed it. I was only 25 and I was like, Don’t miss the gun. Don’t miss the gun. Don’t miss Venice. But after that scene ended, I remember calling everyone back in the States and going, “Yeah, that would be something different. These are real things.”

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