20 Things You Never Knew About 'The Matrix,' 20 Years Later

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20 Things You Never Knew About 'The Matrix'
Warner Bros.

Cyberpunk legend The Matrix is 20 years old this month. Hard to believe, but the Wachowskis' hugely influenced and hugely influential action thriller has reached official classic status. At the same time, some things just don't get old — like Keanu Reeves. Despite some ancient tech, The Matrix feels just as alive and vital as it did in March 1999 when it was unleashed. 

The Matrix has been discussed and dissected endlessly over the past two decades. It's influenced movies far and wide and even entered the lexicon permanently ("a glitch in the matrix"). And other Matrix concepts — the red and blue pills, the sunglasses and leather costumes — are permanent pieces of pop culture. So what new things are we going to unearth in 2019? Maybe nothing. But we've dug deep. Here are 20 things you never knew about The Matrix on its 20th anniversary:

1. The term "matrix" is generally attributed to William Gibson, who said the writer/directors, the Wachowskis, "stole" the term from his clasic sci-fi novel, Neuromancer. Gibson has also said he's a fan of The Matrix.

2. Will Smith was the Wachowskis' choice to play Neo, but the actor didn't understand the script and turned it down to appear in Wild Wild West. Smith has also stated Val Kilmer was originally considered to play Morpheus.

3. Composer Don Davis has said Johnny Depp was the Wachowskis' first choice to play Neo. The studio reportedly wanted Brad Pitt or Kilmer. And Ewan McGregor and David Duchovny were also offered the part.

4. Kilmer may have been in on the Morpheus role, as Smith states, but he wasn't alone. Before deciding on Laurence Fishburne, the directors reportedly wanted Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, or Russell Crowe.

5. Sandra Bullock turned down the role of Trinity before her Speed co-star, Reeves, was attached. She later regretted the decision. Gillian Anderson also turned it down.

6. Jean Reno was offered the role of Agent Smith before Hugo Weaving was cast.

20 Things You Never Knew About 'The Matrix'
Warner Bros.

7. INXS singer Michael Hutchence was cast in a major role, but he committed suicide days later.

8. Reeves suffered a two-level fusion of his cervical spine before filming started and was still recovering during the entire production. It explains his sometimes stiff upper-body movements in the film, especially when he turns his head.

9. The Matrix code was designed by Simon Whiteley, who's not credited in the film. The code is custom and includes mirror images of half-width Japanese kana characters and Western Latin letters and numerals. The glowing green font is an homage to classic monochrome monitors. 

10. The look of the code onscreen and the opening credits are also an homage to Ghost in the Shell, which heavily influenced The Matrix. The Wachowskis wanted to materialize certain animated sequences in live-action.

11. Reeves actually climbed out of a 34th story window in the office scene when he's on the phone with Morpehus. 

12. In Greek mythology, Morpheus is the god of dreams.

13. During the first two acts, Neo asks over 40 questions. Over half of his lines are queries.

14. Neo's nose rub during his sparring session with Morpheus is a Bruce Lee tribute and common fight tic. Lee would often touch his thumb to his nose before and during a fight.

15. Neo's hollowed-out book is a treatise by Jean Baudrillard called Simulacra and Simulation about the postmodern concept of simulation and hyperreality. The Wachowskis made the principal cast read it before shooting. The phrase "Welcome to the desert of the real" is from the book.

20 Things You Never Knew About 'The Matrix'
Warner Bros.

16. Rooftops, buildings, and other exterior sets from Dark City were used in The Matrix. The entire opening sequence, featuring Trinity running from agents, uses the borrowed sets.

17. Hugo Weaving's inspiration for Agent Smith's speech was 1950s news broadcasters. Laurence Fishburne compared him to Walter Cronkite.

18. The Matrix isn't set in any real place, of course, but all the streets are from Chicago, the Wachowskis' hometown.

19. In computer language, a "cookie" is a piece of data. So the Oracle isn't just giving Neo a cookie. She's giving him information.

20. "Neo" is an anagram of (the) "One."

20 Things You Never Knew About 'The Matrix'
Warner Bros.

H/T to Wikipedia, IMDb, and DVD special features.

Managing Editor, Zimbio — entertainment writer, critic, and reporter since 2011. Bay Area. Origin: Shark City.