Bullet time, "dodge this," the freeway motorcycle chase, and more.

Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss, who first appeared together as icons of sci-fi Neo and Trinity in 1999's The Matrix, try to put into words just how the films from the Wachowskis have changed their lives.

"Is it as big as puberty?" Reeves asks Moss.

"Maybe life-changing," she says.

"Yeah. Life-changing puberty in The Matrix."

The first movie, which sparked three sequels, including this year's The Matrix Resurrections (out Dec. 22 in theaters and on HBO Max), single-handedly brought phrases like "glitch in the Matrix" and "red-pilling" to the cultural lexicon of the late-'90s, while also influencing a number of Hollywood films that came after. Sequences like bullet time, the famous slow-motion moment in which Reeves' Neo dodges bullets, inspired other filmmakers to try their hand at it.

Now, sitting for an interview on the set of EW's The Matrix Resurrections cover shoot, Reeves and Moss unpack some of those moments that have come to define The Matrix's two-decade legacy — and entertainment at large.

Finding Neo and Trinity

The Matrix, 1999Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss
Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity in 1999's 'The Matrix.'
| Credit: Jasin Boland/Warner Bros.

Many actors were considered for the role of Neo, a computer hacker who comes to realize that what we thinks is reality is actually a program used by machines in the distant future to keep humans docile enough to harvest for energy. The same goes for Trinity, a woman from the real world who, aboard the Nebuchadnezzar ship, can hack into the virtual world of the Matrix.

Two of those actors in contention were Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband, Will.

"I remember getting the storyboards when they wanted Will to play Neo," Smith tells EW over the phone. "I was going, 'Man, this is really revolutionary. This is like Japanese anime [but in] live-action.' It had never been done before."

Will ultimately didn't take the role of Neo, which went to Reeves, but Smith was a fan of the concept from day one. "I'm a huge Japanese animation fan, so from then on, they had me," she continues. "When they called me to play Niobe [for the 2003 sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions], I didn't have to read anything. I was in."

Reeves and Moss were also floored by the high concept of the original film, but Reeves was slightly apprehensive going into such an action-heavy production after suffering a neck injury that required surgery. "I was curious how that was gonna go," Reeves says, while Moss remembers seeing his "beautiful x-ray" before shooting.

"Just a reminder," Reeves joked.

Bullet time

Matrix (1999)Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves' Neo in the famous bullet time sequence from 'The Matrix'
| Credit: Warner Bros.

The effect that we understand to be "bullet time" was made popular by The Matrix, but the effect already existed. On the original film, the Wachowskis' production team recorded the actors in real time during long single takes with the help of wires, while more than 100 cameras surrounding them, each programmed to go off at a specific time in a sequence, recorded the action.

There were multiple instances of bullet time in the movie, but the one that gave the phrase its name was Neo bending backwards as he dodges bullets fired at him from an Agent, a sentient program who's main function was to eliminate anyone and anything that could reveal the true nature of the Matrix.

"They showed me a proof of concept for that shot and it was a lot of fun, the idea of space and time and perspective in a way that I'd never seen before. Maybe in animation," Reeves recalls. "And then to do the move and be involved… we got to do some pretty cutting-edge stuff in terms of image capture, computer-generated images."

"Dodge this"

The Matrix
Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity during her famous "Dodge this" moment in 'The Matrix'
| Credit: Everett Collection

One of Moss' most famous lines as Trinity remains "Dodge this!" She shouts this directly after Reeves' bullet time sequence as she holds a gun to the back of an Agent's head.

"I did have someone just recently ask for a picture and they asked if I could do 'Dodge this,'" Moss says. "I thought about it for a second and was like, 'No.'"

Surviving the freeway

Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity and Randall Duk Kim as The Keymaker in 'The Matrix Reloaded'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Moss considers the highway motorcycle chase sequence from The Matrix Reloaded to be the most dangerous sequence she's ever done in her career.

After rescuing a man (really he's a program) called The Keymaker (Randall Duk Kim) from the clutches of the Merovingian (Lambert Wilson), a powerful gangster-like program inside the Matrix, Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity try to escape their pursuers. Their only option appears to be the freeway, a place Morpheus always told Trinity was suicide to traverse. What ensues is a motorcycle chase with Trinity, while Morpheus battles an Agent with a samurai sword on the top of a truck.

There was a lot of pressure. "I'm not a very experienced motorcycle rider. I did train on a little bike and then a bigger bike and then a bigger bike," Moss says. But she also had a passenger and no helmet.

"A passenger who's life depended on me being impeccable and perfect because I knew that if I allowed my mind one moment of doubt that I could hurt another human being," she adds. "And I held that for all of those days... It was exhausting holding that mental absolute knowing that I was going to keep him alive."

Still, it felt rewarding to have accomplished such a feat. It's the same way she feels now after pulling off The Matrix Resurrections. "I wanted to do everything that was being asked of me," Moss says.

Watch more of Reeves and Moss' conversation in the video above.

For more on The Matrix Resurrections, order the January issue of Entertainment Weekly or find it on newsstands beginning Dec. 17. Don't forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.

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