For film fans that weren't around for the explosion of the original The Matrix, it was like a lightning rod for movies in the best possible way. Reinventing action and science fiction on a scale that continues to be ripped off and redone, it was a true game changer. After its release in 1999 it was followed by two sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions in 2003, and despite some fans the follow-ups were not met with the same level of enthusiasm or critical acclaim as the original. According to cinematographer Bill Pope though there were on-set problems that may have contributed to a product that wasn't as well received.
"I have a complicated relationship with the last two....Everything that was good about the first experience was not good about the last two,” Pope said on Roger Deakins' Team Deakins podcast (H/T Indiewire). “We weren’t free anymore. People were looking at you. There was a lot of pressure. In my heart, I just didn’t like them. I felt we should be going in another direction. There was a lot of friction, there was a lot of personal problems which showed up on screen to be honest with you. It was not my most elevated moment, nor anybody else’s. 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.”
He continued, “There is something about making a shoot that long, 276 shoot days, that is mind numbing and soul numbing and it numbs the movie."
Despite his feelings about the second and third film in the series, Pope still has fond feelings for his work with The Wachowski sisters, adding: "Their imagination required me to be cleverer than I had been. I loved that combination, I loved working with them."
Pope will not return as the cinematographer for The Matrix 4 with John Toll (Iron Man 3, Jupiter Ascending) stepping in as DP for the new sequel. The next film that the fan-favorite director of photographer has on his calendar is Marvel Studios upcoming Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Production on that film was paused earlier this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but cameras are expected to roll again on the project very soon. The film marks a return to Marvel for Pope having previously shot Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2 and Spider-Man 3.
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