Bill Pope – Interview

MATRIX:What is your role in ‘The Matrix’.

BILL: I am a paid friend of the directors.

MATRIX: What does that entail, your average day as a ‘friend’?

BILL: I hang out with them from around 7am till 10 at night. I was toying with what my credits would be on this film, I was thinking it should be Photographic Administrator (rather than Director of Photography that I usually am), because there has been so much going on, all I do is paper work and talk about events that will happen 2 days from now, or 6 weeks from now: I do a lot of planning. I am used to movies where I have a much more hands on role.

MATRIX: What other films have you worked on?

BILL: I worked with Sam Raimi on ‘Dark Man’ and ‘Army of Darkness’, I did ‘Bound’ with the brothers, and I did ‘Clueless’.

MATRIX: Were the Sam Raimi productions smaller?

BILL: ‘Dark Man’ was about $12 million and ‘Army of Darkness’ was $8 million, even though we filmed both of those productions for the same number of days, 119 days each. ‘The Matrix’ will finish at 118 days. So money went a lot further 10 years ago. We worked for nothing, and they weren’t big effects movies like this.

MATRIX: Apparently because of that there is a lot of lighting involved. Someone said that this is the largest lighting film in Australia’s history.

BILL: I think so, it is the largest lighting job that I have ever attempted. Just because we have so many scenes that are filmed at high speed, scenes that wouldn’t be that hard to light are lit up enormously.

MATRIX: This is the second film you have done with Larry and Andy. How did you get involved with ‘Bound’?

BILL: I got involved with ‘Bound’ because the Director of Photography that they had hired quit because he couldn’t make the film for the amount of money they had. They had $3 million and hired a big DP, but he admitted that he didn’t know anybody who would work so cheaply… he bowed out gracefully. So they hired me and I know a bunch of cheap guys that I have worked with.

MATRIX: As far as getting a crew together?

BILL: Yeah. I knew how to work like that because I had done nothing but low budget movies.

MATRIX: Did you like the script? BILL: The script was brilliant. I do a lot of commercials so I don’t have to do any movies, I only take the movies that I really want to do, at least now anyway. I have done some really bad movies in the past.

MATRIX: So you choose the movies that you have a passion for?

BILL: Yes, it takes your whole life away, and I don’t really make any money on these things. I lose money, so I only do the ones I really want to do.

MATRIX: Larry and Andy have been talking about ‘The Matrix’ since before ‘Bound’. When were you introduced to it?

BILL: They talked about it during ‘Bound’. They asked me if I wanted to make a big $100 million movie and I said ‘No way!’. But it is hard to turn these guys down, they are so enthusiastic. I knew it was going to be a nightmare, although it has also been wonderful. Logistically, it has been very difficult and extremely frustrating. Your problems are multiplied 1000 fold. ‘Bound’ we could hold in our hands and just move through it, even though, for them, it was very anxiety producing because it was their first movie. It makes you feel proud of getting through this one.

MATRIX: How do you feel they have held up?

BILL: Very well. It helps to have two directors, they are stronger, there is a reality check right next to you at all times. Most directing teams wouldn’t work on that level, there is not enough trust. But they certainly work, being siblings. I don’t think husband and wife would work, friends could never work. You can’t get to a point where you are worrying about who said what or whose idea it is, you have to make a movie. Everybody has really bad days where you think you haven’t achieved anything, but if you think about what is being made and that you are contributing to it, it gets you up and into work again.

MATRIX: Was there a scene in the film that was particularly challenging from conception to actual execution?

BILL: This is the most difficult movie I have ever heard about. There are no simple scenes. I wish there was just one scene where you could sit down and photograph people, but there isn’t. No shot is straight forward. The brothers always make their work interesting, even if it is just a normal shot they layer it with effects and the different realities, themes and colors.

MATRIX: Can you tell me about the two colors that are used to distinguish the inside from the outside of the Matrix?

BILL: To distinguish the Matrix from ‘reality’, from the Nebuchadnezzar and the pods, ‘reality’ was given a cooler look, a bluer, more normal, less sickly look. The future in the film is cold, the sun is blotted out, there is no real warmth unless it is artificial heat, so that is whey they went for the cool side. Whereas the Matrix, created by the computers, is a decadent, decaying world, so it has a green hue. These are the two different colors – green and blue. The Matrix should make you feel sick, and in ‘reality’ you should feel a little more at home, but never comfortable. If you make it gold and warm you know that it is home, a safe haven. The other day I started using warm lights, I did this unconsciously for the first time in Neo’s bedroom. It just felt right that it should be slightly warm. As harsh as that bunk is, it is the only home he has got.

MATRIX: Are a lot of decisions like that made instinctually?

BILL: You plan and plan and plan, but you still do some things instinctually, which is the part that I like, planning drives me crazy. That is why I call myself the Photographic Administrator, because so much of it has been planned out.

MATRIX: Thanks Bill.

Interview by Spencer Lamm