Groundbreaking Martial Arts & Wire Work
"The Matrix" is a movie with a lot of ideas, but it is unmistakably a rousing action-thriller at the same time
"The Matrix" is a movie with a lot
of ideas, but it is unmistakably a rousing action-thriller at
the same time. Many of the fight scenes in the story dramatically
demonstrate the evolution of Neo's character and the power of
his adversaries. The style of these physical confrontations grows
directly from the nature of The Matrix.
Explain the Wachowskis, "Once you start dealing with a digital
reality you can really push the boundaries of what might be humanly
possible. So if characters in 'The Matrix' can have information
instantaneously downloaded into their heads, they should, for
example, be able to be as good a Kung Fu master as Jackie Chan."
This premise offered the Wachowski brothers a chance to work in
another area of their particular interest - the fight choreography
seen in Hong Kong action films. "We've always wanted to bring
Hong Kong wire stunt and fight sensibilities into our Western
story ideas. This was the perfect opportunity."
Executive producer Barrie Osborne describes the difference between
Eastern and Western-style fight choreography: "Most American
stunt work uses rams or pneumatics to project a person through
the air at a certain speed. With wire-stunt work, the stunts are
far more controlled and very stylized. It's almost like puppeteering,
but using a real person. It takes tremendous skill and finesse."
The brothers had long admired the work of YUEN WO PING - one of
the top Hong Kong stunt specialists in both Kung Fu and wire-stunt
work. When they mentioned his work to Joel Silver, they learned
that he was also a fan of Wo Ping's rapid-fire, stylized fight
choreography, and that he supported their desire to incorporate
Wo Ping's work into "The Matrix."
Barrie Osborne located Wo Ping in China and the filmmakers contacted
him to ask if he'd join their team. Wo Ping agreed to work with
the Wachowskis under only one condition: they would have to guarantee
that their cast would train long hours to learn Kung Fu and how
to work with the wires. Says Wo Ping, "The training is very
intensive and not something you can go into without a serious
"First we had to train the cast to work with the wires, to
balance with the wires, and we then began to hoist them up into
the air. The most difficult part of the process is to land without
losing balance, so it looks very natural, as if the actors have
made that leap without any assistance. They then had to learn
how to fight Kung Fu style."
Say Larry and Andy Wachowski, "It was a big request for us
to make. How do you tell an actor that they're going to have to
spend four months training and learning Kung Fu when they could
make another movie in that same time? That's what impressed us
about Keanu. He understood why it was necessary and the dedication
it required. In fact, the whole cast amazed us with their dedication
to the training regime - it was incredibly rigorous and we were
extremely proud of them all."
The cast trained with Wo Ping and his team for three months in
Los Angeles before moving to the movie's Sydney, Australia location
for another month of training before filming began. Asserts Keanu
Reeves, "It was an honor to work with Wo Ping; I've always
been a fan of his work and it was a wonderful opportunity to learn
his techniques and style of fighting.
"In the beginning he worked very closely with us to see what
we were good at and what we weren't very good at. He then trained
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