Symposium 'inside THE MATRIX. zur Kritik der zynischen Virtualität' am 28. Oktober 1999, veranstaltet vom Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie, Karlsruhe, vom Europäischen Institut des Kinofilms Karlsruhe und von bluebox, Freundeskreis Schauburg e.V.
Interview mit Bill Pope und Geofrey Darrow
Von Hans-Ulrich Obrist
Pope: When Larry and Andy first came to you there were no drawings at all? So they contacted you and they had a script but they had no drawings?
Darrow: I tried t o show them how to draw. If you can can understand perspectives you can draw almost everything.
P: They don´t understand perspectives.
O: So you did a comic?
D: Yeah, I did a comic, it was called "Hardboiled".
They flew me out to LA 1st class. When I went to work they flew me economy class.
P: Larry and Andy were on comics, they had written comics, they knw comics.
The first meeting I ever had with Larry and Andy they had "Sin City" on the table written and drawn by Frank Miller. They were just reading this comic.
I met them in 1995 I guess, when I made "Bound". They were very young filmmakers but they knew what they wanted all the time.
Obrist: How did they communicate with Geoff because they can´t draw.
D: No, they´re starting to. If I could sit with them for a month then I could teach them how to draw.
D: I think they draw well enough to communicate what they want. Maybe we have the same visual language.
P: As the people in Australia would say: "Go ask Pope because he speaks Wachowsky". Because they had no idea what they were talking about.
D: I was surprised I didn´t know who they were. I´d seen "Assasins" which was okay, a sort of goofy popcorn movie. They showed me "Bound" when they flew me out, they had a screening. I didn´t know how they hated it. That was my only point of reference because "Bound" hadn´t come out yet.
P: So then you drew for months?
D: No, they had enough money to pay me for one month.
P: And that was in that building there?
D: No, I was still in France.
O: When you see the film now, are there any moments when you recognize your drawings?
D: Yeah, I storyboarded the subway fight scene.
Sharon Orneck: I think what´s clear is that he was more responsible for the architecture.
P: Sometimes there are frames that Geoff drew that we actually photographed, but what they wanted from him was a concept of what it overall looked like. They loved Geoffreys energy and his viewpoint of the world. If you saw "Hardboiled" you´d understand what I´m talking about. A level of detail, a level of energy, violence and insanity inside his drawings. He has his own world. And they love this world.
They acquired it basically for the purpose of the movie.
Wht they were really speaking was Darrow.
They signed the poster: Thanks for working on the movie, so we didn´t have to rip you off.
D: Remember that movie whit all the bullet cases coming out of the helicopter. My friends saw it: "Oh, we saw what you did in that movie, what you did with the helicopter." You don´t have to draw that. It was a parody of all that Rambo stuff.
O: Is it a monolithic way of working?
P: I think they´re eytraordinary in this manner. From the very beginning they were confident enough in themselves. Maybe it´s because there are two of them. They have their world already made. There´s never a moment where they have to think: is this me speaking or is this my acquiring the ideas of someone else.
They knew what they liked and they like Kung Fu movies, they like John Woo movies, they like Samurai movies, Geoff´s comics, Film Noir, Billy Wilder´s movies, Baudrillard´s books, German myths, Joanne of Arc, they like Tolkien. Every influence, they bring it all together.
O: The general perception has been emphasizing the philosophical aspects.
P: I don´t know what their interpretations are, but I would hesitate to say you could go too far, because they really do think about these things and really are concerned about them. I don´t wanna speak for them. I don´t think you can go too far, because they´ve already been there, they´ve thought about it.
Every time I´ve ever tried to rip them up, to say that internally, this is illogical or if you´re after this myth , the myth says this and they would say: No, the myth says this. And they would always convince me.
And they were always ready for me. They´d always thought about it.
I think it is because, a lot of filmmaking is, because you have to involve other people, there´s a bouncing of ideas back and forth. They already done this because there is two of them, there´s already been this back and forth. So it comes to you in a more developed stage already. There´s less talking and more implementing.
It´s actually a lot of more fun because the sketches are more complete. Our job is to put flesh on sketches or at least give them ideas that they can reject or accept. Because their sketches are better, we can do our job better.
D: The power plants, that was the first drawing I did. I was in France and they eplained it to me over the phone. I did a real quick drawing of something.
He said: No, there are petals around it. And I said: Okay.
And I went back and I did this thing which you see in the movie, but just you know, like hundreds and hundreds of petals around it. And two days go by and I haven´t heard from them. Maybe they´re havin´ second thoughts about it.
And then they called and Larry said: We got your drawing and it wasn´t what we kind of had in mind but the more we look at it the scarier it gets
Because it was supposed to be a lot smaller and they turned it in these like skyscrapers of humanity.
Sharon Orneck: I don´t think I´ve seen Larry more excited as when he was waiting for that shot to come out of the didgital printer. That shot of the power plant took 2 weeks to be created. It was so complex.
D: When they first send this to Warner they didn´t show them the power plant with the babies the first tie. If they gonna see this they going to shut this thing down right away.
D: That´s one amazing things in America, is that they didn´t get more flag for the shot with the babies, the harvesting. Because I thought that the bible belt would come down on that.
P: I think that there was so much other stuff that offended people that they didn´t know where to start.
O: It´s the complexity of offences...
D: There´s too much. Where do I start?
P: It´s offensively complex...
Sharon Orneck: One of the arguments in Australia was: Why would you take a pill? Why would you take the red pill? Why the blue pill? What´s so great about getting out? Why would yo wanna leave?
P: That´s sort of the heart of the story. Why would you take the blue pill? Why wouldn´t you take the blue pill? Why not be happy, blissful and ignorant?
The complexity of the movie is intentional. We wanted it to be as dense as possible so you´d be worn out when you come out of the movie.
I don´t know if Larry would want to talk about this questions.
P: The main reason that we shot it out of the US, was so that we wouldn´t be interfered in any way.
The intention was to get as far away as from the people who have the money. Especially in a movie like "The Matrix" who nobody understood.
One of the reasons why Geoff was brought on so early was that when they wrote the script, was that nobody understood it so they brought Geoff in so that he would draw pictures of it so that an average person would understand what it was about.
D: What they really wanted to show was the storyboard. When they showed it to Warners they loved it because it was all there. You could just go flipping through it.
P: Warner Brothers had had a long reason history of not having many hits. So the door was open for something new. So these people took a chance.
P: They had very specific ideas. I was one of the first cameraperson who wasn´t afraid of them.
They used to be carpenters. They live in the real world. If you approach them very pragmatically they are always responding. So they didn´t like camerapeople who came in and talked them ideas, and they didn´t like camerapeople who said No.
We respond on a very real level.
P: They have agreed to shoot Matrix 2 and Matrix 3.
P: You have to hold people´s interest. They admire commercial filmmakers who are able to combine commerce and art and not be ashamed of it. "Blade Runner" for example , something like that. It does okay at the box office and yet you´re not ashamed.
O: The website of "The Matrix", what was the concept?
P: That was Larry and Andy.
D: They want the website to be part of the movie. When the movie came out they had so many hits it crashed the WB website.
It´s the first movie you could download off the web.
Their only occupation since the movie came out is the videogame. They design a game which is the Matrix for Sony Playstation 2.
If you play the game you see Matrix 2 and 3 at another layer, level.
The comicbooks on the website are backstories to the Matrix.
It makes total sense.
There´s no reason you should restrict your self to one media.
P: The only movie reference that we ever made, to my knowledge, is John Woo. There´s one or two quotations in "Bound". I don´t think that "Blue Velvet" ever entered our discussion.
While we were making "The Matrix" the American Film Institute came out with a list of 100 greatest American movies of all times. They put this list out on the internet. We were discussing this on the set making our own list. The No. 1 movie was always "Conan the Barbarian". John Milius movie done in the 80ties.
They like Kitsch, they like huge movies.
The real thought behind that is that the list was very sterile. And I felt, what was missing were bad movies, was kitsch and dirt. Cinema is made up of bad elements. There was no common popular culture.
The comics is one theme but there s always something by Hitchcock. The pre-knowledgeable of cinema in general.
P: The monochromatic use of colour. In that sense they are B+W movies.