The Matrix franchise will continue with a fourth movie that will reunite Keanu Reeves with his iconic character and bring other familiar faces back to the table. Although this film will be highly anticipated, acclaimed cinematographer Bill Pope will not be on board. Taking his place is John Toll, who won Oscars for both Legends of the Fall and Braveheart and worked with Matrix writers and directors Lana and Lilly Wachowski on Cloud Atlas, Sense8, and Jupiter Ascending.
This week Bill Pope sat down with Roger Deakins on the Team Deakins podcast. During their conversation, Pope explained how miserable he felt shooting the second and third Matrix films.
"Everything that was good about the first experience was not good about the last two," Pope said. "We weren’t free anymore. People were looking at you. There was a lot of pressure. In my heart, I didn’t like them. I felt we should be going in another direction. There was a lot of friction and a lot of personal problems, and it showed up onscreen, to be honest with you. It was not my most elevated moment, nor was it anyone else’s."
Pope—whose credits include Clueless, Army of Darkness, the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe entry Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Drake’s cinematic “Hold On, We’re Going Home” video—went on to explain that the series' writers and directors, Lana and Lilly Wachowski, read a book by iconic filmmaker Stanley Kubrick that changed the way they approached directing. This led to intense overworking and an uncomfortable environment.
"The Wachowskis had read this damn book by Stanley Kubrick that said, ‘Actors don’t do natural performances until you wear them out.’ So let’s go to take 90! I want to dig Stanley Kubrick up and kill him," Pope continued.
The Wachowskis went on to adopt a "shoot more takes" mentality that Pope likened to a "sort of torture" as he had to sit through 90 takes of the same thing. Pope explains how this takes a toll on the crew and the viewer.
"There is something about making a shoot that long, 276 shoot days, that is mind numbing and soul numbing and it numbs the movie," Pope said. "You think about The Hobbit, where they [shot] one, two, and three, and the movies are just numbing. In the books you don’t feel that because you pick it up and put it down. In a movie shoot it’s too long. There’s a limit from what you can take in."
Still, Pope believes that The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions are great pieces of art and that everyone involved should be proud of their contributions. "I just transferred them all to 4K for archive purposes at Warners and I wrote the Wachowkis and Keanu and Carrie Ann that we did a good job [on the sequels], we should be proud of them."