With the third film in The Matrix trilogy
preparing to hit the shops, DVDnet's Marty sat
down with Aussie actor Ian Bliss (Bane) to find out
what it's like doing the massive Hollywood
How did The Matrix films rock up on
Well the Wachowski Brothers came to Sydney
looking for Australian actors and I met up with
them here and did a test for them, but this was
after they had gone back to the States, so they
took the tape with them. I didnít hear from them
for ages so I thought that Iíd let that job go. But
then I was over in Canada touring a play and I got
the message that I got the job. I didnít quite
realise how big the casting was going to be for the
Had you actually auditioned for the role of
Yeah, I auditioned for Bane. Bane was one of the
characters that they held off until right at the very
end. They were doing a lot of general auditions,
but Bane was a character I hadnít heard much
about, but as soon as I read the screen test
scene, which is all I got, it was two sections put
together Ė Bane pre-Smith and Bane after-Smith,
so I had the chance to figure out what was going
on with this character, his transformation from one
character to another.
When you did the transformation from Bane to
Agent Smith Bane, was the replication of his
characteristics part of the screenplay, or
something that you developed?
Itís something that I came up with for my screen
test which then just got developed through the
screenplay. I think they saw that I could take on
the mannerisms pretty much just like Hugo
(Weaving) did, and it then just went further and
further into the screenplay. Because when we
were shooting it we were doing different takes,
sometimes a little less Smith and at other times a
little more Smith to keep up with Hugoís change in
Did you find these mannerisms easy to portray,
or something more challenging replicating another
Iím a pretty good mimic so I kind of feel that I
nailed it early on. The hard part was then finding
the subtlety because Hugo changed the character
ever so subtly from the first film for the sequels.
So I watched the first film to see how Hugo had
developed the character and I then got to see the
footage that they had shot for the sequels and
how Hugo had developed it so I could take on
some of the new characteristics, so there was a
bit of hard work in it, a bit of a challenge to
convey his refined character.
What was your initial reaction to the
knowledge of your involvement in The
When I saw the first film I was absolutely blown
away. I always said that if they were going to
make sequels Iíd love to be a part of it. I had no
idea of the actual complexity of the character I
was going to play or what my involvement was
going to be, so I was really chuffed when I found
How did working on The Matrix compare
to the smaller Australian films?
Well I have sort of done various size Australian
films from really independent small films where
producers and directors are mortgaging their
houses to actually get the film made, to slightly
bigger ones which would have a four or five million
dollar budget, which, you know, that kind of
budget covers a couple of months catering on films
like The Matrix. The Matrix shoot
was huge, it was absolutely massive in the
form of the amount of luxuries afforded to a budget
of their size, the amount of time that you get to
work on things, the scale of the things that they
built for the shoot, and it was certainly an eye-
opener in that respect. So I would go from having
one hour to shoot a scene on an Australian film to
having one whole week to shoot a scene on
The Matrix films.
Did that change in scale alter your performance
at all with regards to an extended schedule?
Well I had to adapt to how I paced myself. Youíre
sort of on the go a lot of the time with the smaller
films and you get a quicker rhythm. But when
youíve got the luxury of time afforded to you, you
really have to learn to work more with the down
time when youíre not shooting and then have it
ready to go when you do get to film scenes. So I
got educated in how to pace myself, itís just very
different to smaller Australian films.
What were the Wachowski Brothers like to
What you see in that documentary on The
Matrix DVD (the first film) is what you get with
the Wachowski Brothers. Theyíre a couple of urban
Chicago boys who came up with these amazing
ideas and got handed all these millions of dollars to
make their adolescent fantasies come into reality
and everyone can see them on the big screen.
Yeah, theyíre really laid back Ė very un-Hollywood.
They just like to Ďhangí, shoot a few hoops
between takes, and yeah, theyíre really cool laid
back guys, but at the same time theyíve created
this massive world that everyoneís become
How about working with Hollywood stars Keanu
Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, Laurence Fishburn and
Australiaís Hugo Weaving?
They were all great to work with. They had,
obviously, been working together for quite some
time with the first Matrix and in the pre-
shoot stuff for the sequels, and youíd walk in and
meet everyone and it was like being welcomed into
a big family. Everyone was really devoted to these
films and so excited at working with the Wachowski
brothers so everyone was really putting in 100%
every time. So, yeah, it was really great, really
friendly and welcoming and everyone worked really
hard, so there was a real vibe on the set, to work
with those guys.
Being a film that relies so heavily on stunts and
special effects, what were your experiences with
the training for elements such as these?
In the past ten years in both film and TV I
generally get to play cool characters such as the
bad guys, where they have a few fights or
gruesome death scenes. Iím thinking of putting
together a Ďdeath reelí because I think Iíve done
about 20 to 30 death scenes which involves doing
some of my own stunts, you know Iíll have the
stunt doubles and stuff like that, but I tend to get
a bit messed up which is good getting into, you
know, especially with The Matrix
Revolutions, getting down and dirty towards
the end of my involvement in the film (laughs). But
Iíve had a bit of experience doing stunt work over
the years and I think Iím getting the hang of it now
Recently I was up on the Gold Coast and
visited the official Matrix exhibit at Warner
Bros. Movie World which showed how the actors
were digitally tracked for the making of Enter
the Matrix. What was it like to work with the
latest in digital technologies for the video game?
Most of my stuff for the game was done in one day
and I think it was the most intense work I have
ever done. I was in there with a whole array of
video cameras hidden in scaffolding pointed in my
direction and I had the little dots and markers on
my face and body that captured every little bit of
movement and I read all these different lines of
dialogue for the various action that happens in the
game. It was so intense doing that because you
really had no contact with what you were doing;
purely what buttons the player will press and will
then come out with some sort of response. We had
to be really precise in what we were doing so that
the cameras could capture it and put it in the
software. And it was then taken away to some
mainframe and they manipulate it the way they
want, so itís very interesting to see the virtual
character they created from me. I havenít had the
chance to play the game yet (laughs) I hope to
Do you find it more enjoyable as an actor to
play the bad guy?
I find it really interesting to play the villain. They
are really interesting characters and you can have
fun with it and I have played a few in my time and
Iíve always tried to do something different to each
one because it does give you the chance to
broaden your scope.
So who would be your favourite villain that
Ah... Baneís certainly one of them because I got to
do my Hugo Weaving (laughs). And Hugo has
established such a defined Ďbadí guy character that
it is kind of nice to step into his shoes. I did like
playing the character of Martin in Siam
Sunset. I feel like I have created one of the
most memorable death scenes in Australian cinema.
It just went on, and on, and on... and got the best
response from audiences.
Can you tell me about your role in
I play a lieutenant in an elite fighter squadron that
has cutting-edge technology and I play the
lieutenant who controls the mainframe computer
that controls the jets on a covert mission.
It is directed by Rob Cohen, the director of
The Fast and The Furious and xXx,
what can audiences expect from Stealth?
Well heís certainly making an action film. But I think
heís trying to make an action film where people can
watch it and go on the ride and get right into the
action. Previously with The Fast and the
Furious he had cars racing around the ground
and then in xXx had cars going up bridges,
and now jets flying around in the stratosphere so I
mean I asked him what the next step is, is it outer
space or something? Heís just upping the ante
So do you enjoy working in action films?
Yeah, theyíre great because you do the bit that
you do in these films and you get a real buzz when
you see the finished product because there are so
many layers involved in action films. I mean youíre
involved in some aspects of it and so much more is
done after your bit is completed before the final
film is made.
How involved do you get with the stunt work in
Not a lot in Stealth is me personally, but if
there is some work to do I will do as much as I can
possibly do, but Iíll always defer to the stunt man,
the professional, someone who knows exactly what
theyíre doing and making me look good (laughs).
Can you tell me a bit about Man Thing
which comes out in the US later in the year?
Well Man Thing is based upon a rather
obscure Marvel comic about a swamp creature.
Marvel comic readers are aware of Man Thing, and
itís only really a small audience. But Iím not sure
how itís going to work in a film. Itís probably going
to be a pretty cool cult film that will go off big
time. Brett Leonard that directed it has a really
nice wave of comedy in it. It was a hell of a lot of
fun to work on though, and the vibe is that it will
be a funny horror film, as a rough cut leads
Do you prefer working with a smaller local cast
and crew or the larger-scale of Hollywood? Why?
Ooh I like both. I mean, certainly itís nice to be on
a big studio production but I really like ground
roots too because theyíve got a rough and real
independent feel to them purely because they may
not always have the cash that bigger studios have
but you can really make a good film working with
everyone just pitching in.
Even though The Matrix films and
Stealth are big-budget Hollywood
productions shot in Australia, was the crew
Australian or Ďimportedí from overseas?
Well with The Matrix films it was maybe the
head of the department that was American, and
the rest of the crew Australian, and it is quite
similar on Stealth. Itís probably 95 to 98%
Australian crew for these films, with a lot of the
supporting cast being Australians too.
Taking Rose Byrne as an example, do you see
Hollywood films that are made in Australia as a way
for Australian actors to be made visible on the big
Yeah, absolutely. I think weíve been really
fortunate that a lot of Hollywood films have
actually come to Australia and also that these films
realise that there is talent here. The fact that they
have come here and used Aussie actors and
welcomed them in the Hollywood film industry. It
seems that more and more Australian actors are
making it into Hollywood films. Even when I was in
the States there is a real Australian presence.
What got you into acting in the first place?
Well both of my parents were involved in the arts
for years and they started to back off when they
started to have a family but it was always present,
and I think it has been a natural progression Ė
thereís always people around involved in the arts
so I kind of got the feel for it. And my folks were
always really supportive too.
Any advice for young Aussie actors out there?
Keep with it. Just keep with it. Thereís a bit of a
vibe sometimes that not much is going on and the
industry can be a bit dire but I donít think thatís
the case. I mean there is always something going
on, but youíve gotta be out there and create
What can we expect to see from you in the
Well I plan to go back to the States sometime this
year and I think the idea is that if it is happening
for me thatíll be great, but Iíd like to keep based in
Australia if that is possible. Iím really fortunate for
the way that things have panned out for me and if
it keeps going this way, Iíll be really happy with
Ian Bliss can be seen in the Roadshow DVD
releases The Matrix Reloaded (available
now) and The Matrix Revolutions (available
April 2, 2004), as well as the upcoming features
Man Thing in late 2004 and Stealth
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