Did Stanley Kubrick’s Influence Impact The Matrix Sequels?

The Matrix sequels were a mix of organized chaos and excitement. But what did they have to do with Stanley Kubrick? 

When it comes to the fourth Matrix movie, It looked like the entire gang was getting back together.

But stunningly, the person not coming back is longtime Wachowski collaborator and friend, cinematographer Bill Pope. 

Pope talked with IndieWire and gave them the scoop... and in so many words, he blames Stanley Kubrick.

Wait, what?!

"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 on screen to be honest with you. It was not my most elevated moment, nor was it anyone 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."

Wow. The idea of exhausting actors with takes has been around a long time. We know about David Fincher and the insane number takes he does, but this seems a disheartening side effect of that approach. It broke Pope, who was not used to working like that. 

He elaborated, "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."

So how did they plan on replacing Pope? 

John Toll, the Oscar-winning DP of Legends of the Fall and Braveheart, is serving as cinematographer for the fourth Matrix movie. 

Pope is waiting for the quarantine to end to finish shooting Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings for Marvel. 

Where do you land on the "How many takes" conversation? 

Do you think a great actor can nail it in 3-5 (as long as it's good for camera/sound)? Or do you think it's necessary to wear them down toward naturalism? 

Let us know in the comments.      

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Your Comment


I think that certain movies, helmed by certain directors, benefit from the worn down naturalism that comes from taking 90 shots. Some scripts just don't have the depth, or lack thereof, to hold up to that kind of wear.

July 20, 2020 at 10:25AM

Leo E.

If you look at Bill Shatner’s performance in Wrath of Kahn, & know the backstory on how Nicholas Meyer wore him down with takes to beat the “Shat” acting style out of him, then—yes!—an abundance of takes does work. But as a rule, it’s a bad idea, & could backfire as cast/crew morale goes down the tubes.

July 20, 2020 at 11:51AM

Christopher New
Studio Communications Director

Would mainly love to hear from experienced directors on this. There's clearly merit to some of the more cruel stories we hear, would The Shining really be what it is without a truly devastated Shelley Duvall? Or The Exorcist, for which the actors harsh treatment Friedken says he regrets? The flip side of the coin is someone like Clint Eastwood, who is notorious for just a few takes, or Sidney Lumet who would purposely do a single take of something early in the shoot just to let the crew know they had to be on it. Then there's Michael Caine, who purportedly gives you a few takes but when he thinks he's nailed it, he insists you move on quite vocally(!). It's an interesting topic.

July 26, 2020 at 11:47PM

Jeremy Solterbeck