Was its 'Matrix'-like virtual-reality tale already old hat? The actors respond

Gretchen Mol
Credit: Claudette Barius

The sci-fi thriller ”The Thirteenth Floor” is so close…yet so far…from being a blockbuster. Like the smash hit ”The Matrix,” its characters can’t distinguish the real world from virtual reality, AND it has a bombshell lead, the lithesome Gretchen Mol, who was branded the Next Big Thing last year by Vanity Fair. But reality hasn’t been kind to the flick: Critics called it too convoluted and said it lacked the energy of the Keanu Reeves kick-a-thon. And the grosses, well, they’re even worse. In its second weekend ”Thirteenth Floor” pulled in only $1.9 million, a 43 percent drop from its debut weekend, giving it a less-than-grand total of $7.3 million. (Its thematic doppelganger, ”The Matrix,” has raked in $158 million in 10 weeks.)

In fact, ”The Thirteenth Floor” is actually the THIRD virtual-reality thriller in three months, after David Cronenberg’s ”eXistenZ.” ”Thirteenth” costar Craig Bierko tried not to think about whether his movie would suffer from the comparison. ”As an actor, you have so little control over how things are marketed, and the wave of the zeitgeist in storytelling, that I have to detach myself completely or it would probably drive me nuts,” he told EW Online before the film opened. ”I was a little afraid (this trend) would be like the father-switching-bodies-with-their-sons movies of the latter ’80s, and I’m just hoping I’m not in the Judge Reinhold one.”

But you won’t find ”Thirteenth” lead Vincent D’Onofrio worrying about what went wrong. For him, the movie was just work. ”I could care less if it ever opens,” he told EW Online prior to the premiere. ”It’s not my business. I did my job. There are certain movies you’re hired to do, and it’s your job to make the film good. Other films,” he says, referring to ”Steal This Movie,” the biopic of 1960s activist Abbie Hoffman that he recently finished acting in and producing, ”you do because they need to be recognized.” Now THERE’S a quote you won’t hear out of the average blockbuster actor.

The Matrix

  • Movie
  • R
  • 136 minutes
  • The Wachowskis