6:13pm PT by Borys Kit, Kim Masters, Rebecca Ford
'The Matrix' Reboot in the Works at Warner Bros. (Exclusive)
More Matrix? Bet on it.
It's still not clear what shape the project will take, but sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that Warner Bros. is in the early stages of developing a relaunch of The Matrix, the iconic 1999 sci-fi movie that is considered one of the most original films in cinematic history, with Zak Penn in talks to write a treatment.
Sources say there is potential interest in Michael B. Jordan to star, but much must be done before the project is ready to go.
At this point, the Wachowski siblings, who wrote and directed the original and its two sequels, are not involved and the nature of their potential engagement with a new version has not been determined. Certainly, Warners would want the two filmmakers to give at minimum a blessing to the nascent project. The studio had no comment.
Joel Silver, who produced the original trilogy, is said to have approached Warners about the idea of mining The Matrix for a potential new film. However, Silver sold his interest in all his movies to the studio in 2012 for about $30 million, according to sources. Warners is said to be leery of including him in any meaningful role, as he not only has a reputation for budget-control issues, but apparently has a strained relationship with the Wachowskis. The siblings hold much more meaning for fans than the producer. Silver's reps did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Written and directed by the Wachowskis, the original movie sees humanity living in a simulated reality, unaware that humans are in pods in which their bodies are being harvested for energy. A computer programmer named Neo (Keanu Reeves) slowly becomes aware of this suppressed existence, eventually becoming humanity's one true hope (Neo = One) to overthrow the oppressors. The pic also starred Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss and Hugo Weaving.
The Matrix was released in a quiet period of the 1999 release calendar — March 31 — and Warner Bros. didn't have outsized expectations for an action movie with obvious manga and comic-book influences. But the story and groundbreaking special effects (including the slow-motion "bullet time" effect, which launched dozens of imitators in the years that followed) became the highest-grossing R-rated film of 1999 in North America, and the fourth-highest-grossing film of the year worldwide. It also won four Academy Awards.
Two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, were not as well received, but Reeves' deal for those films made him one of the richest actors in Hollywood.
While promoting John Wick: Chapter 2, Reeves said he would be open to returning for another installment of the franchise if the Wachowskis were involved. "They would have to write it and direct it. And then we'd see what the story is, but yeah, I dunno, that'd be weird, but why not?" he told Yahoo Movies. However, it is likely that Warners will look elsewhere to attract an A-list director and star.
While some at Warners consider the title among the studio's sacrosanct properties, like Casablanca, others see a need to redevelop it in an environment where studios are desperately looking for ways to monetize their libraries and branded IP is hard to come by.
The idea of adapting The Matrix as a television series was nixed in recent months. But Warner Bros. sees a model in what Disney and Lucasfilm have done with Star Wars, exploring the hidden corners of the universe with movies such as Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or the in-production young Han Solo film. Perhaps a young Morpheus movie could come out of the exploration, as an example.
Penn is a writer with deep roots in the geeky genres in which Matrix travels. He created the Syfy network's superpowered show Alphas and has been involved in comic-book movies ranging from the X-Men franchise to The Avengers.
Penn is repped by UTA.