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How a real-life tragedy convinced Lana Wachowski to return and make 'The Matrix Resurrections'

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Sep 13, 2021, 3:19 PM EDT

The Matrix Resurrections wasn't simply given that title to denote the fact that the beloved franchise has been away from the big screen for close to 20 years. Nor is it a cheesy moniker for what many might consider to be a cynical Hollywood cash grab that only wants to exploit nostalgia for box office returns. 

The term "Resurrections" is actually an intentional word choice closely tied to a string of real-world tragedies that convinced director and co-writer Lana Wachowski to make the sequel after all these years. Recently appearing on a German screenwriting panel alongside her co-screenwriters, Aleksandar Hemon and David Mitchell, Wachowski explained how she and her sister, Lilly, flat-out refused to make another Matrix movie when Revolutions first opened in 2003 and capped the trilogy.

“Every year, Warner Bros. would ask us to make another one and every year, they would drive truckloads of money up to our house and say, ‘You could have this!’ And we said, ‘No, no, no — not interested, not interested not interested.’ It never was interesting to me as an idea of trying to continue it," she said.

That's because the siblings always envisioned the groundbreaking trilogy much in the same way that George Lucas saw his six-movie Star Wars saga. As a sort of epic poem rooted in a foundation of specific themes and motifs that continued to build off one another until the whole was more than the sum of its parts.

"We wrote it as a very elegant structure, which was dialectical in nature," Lana explained. "It was resonant with ideas of birth, life, death, and thesis, antithesis, synthesis. These things which we wanted the story to be in a triptych for a reason. Many stories are just long and they split them up, but Matrix was designed, from the beginning, like a piece of music or a philosophical argument and it had a really beautiful elegance to it. We loved it and we thought that was it. That it was done.”

Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lana's refusal to revisit The Matrix was eventually overtuned by the terrible loss of her parents and her wife's close friend. The difficult yearning of wanting to be reunited with loved ones who have passed on is what got the filmmaker thinking about two people she could see again: Keanu Reeves' Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss' Trinity.

"I didn’t really know how to process that kind of grief. I hadn’t experienced it … I knew my dad was getting sick and you know that their lives are going to end and yet, it was still really hard," she admitted. "My brain has always reached into my imagination and one night, I was just crying and couldn’t sleep. Suddenly, my brain exploded this whole story and I couldn’t have my mom and dad. I couldn’t talk to my mom and yet, suddenly, I had Neo and Trinity — arguably the two most important characters in my life — and it was immediately comforting to have these two characters alive again."

In a way, The Matrix Resurrections represented a catharsis for Lana's grief. "This is what art does and this is what stories do," she continued. "They comfort us and they’re important." Of course, Lana asked Lilly if there was any interest to be a part of the project, but the other Wachowski sibling respectfully declined.

"I asked Lilly if she wanted to do this and she wanted to process her grief differently. She was in art school and she was on a different path. She didn’t want to go this way to process her grief. But you know, the story evolved and I told my wife the story and she said, ‘Oh my god, you have to make it!’ I was like, ‘I can’t go back there.’ And then I asked my friends and my friends were really [involved in the] decision making process that helped me say, ‘Ok yeah, let’s do this.’ And these people are really the reason we went back and did it again."

The Matrix Resurrections arrives in theaters and on HBO Max Wednesday, Dec. 22.