Do you guys love science fiction?
Stahelski: I’m always big on sci-fi. Like, John Wick is hyperreal. But it’s also got this analog sense. Old computers, old suits, old stuff.
Reeves: I’m interested in the storytelling of humans and their interactions with technologies.
Keanu, years ago you put a clause in your contracts saying that your performances couldn’t be manipulated without your say-so. Isn’t that right?
Reeves: Yeah, digitally. I don’t mind if someone takes a blink out during an edit. But early on, in the early 2000s, or it might have been the ’90s, I had a performance changed. [He won’t say which.] They added a tear to my face, and I was just like, “Huh?!” It was like, I don’t even have to be here.
And now someone like Bruce Willis has found himself getting deepfaked into Russian telecom commercials. As an actor, what do you think of deepfakes?
Reeves: What’s frustrating about that is you lose your agency. When you give a performance in a film, you know you’re going to be edited, but you’re participating in that. If you go into deepfake land, it has none of your points of view. That’s scary. It’s going to be interesting to see how humans deal with these technologies. They’re having such cultural, sociological impacts, and the species is being studied. There’s so much “data” on behaviors now. Technologies are finding places in our education, in our medicine, in our entertainment, in our politics, and how we war and how we work.
The Matrix just looks more and more wildly prophetic by the day. AI doesn’t control our lives yet, but …
Reeves: [in his best Agent Smith voice] They started making decisions for you. It became our world.
I was trying to explain the plot of The Matrix to this 15-year-old once, and that the character I played was really fighting for what was real. And this young person was just like, “Who cares if it’s real?” People are growing up with these tools: We’re listening to music already that’s made by AI in the style of Nirvana, there’s NFT digital art. It’s cool, like, Look what the cute machines can make! But there’s a corporatocracy behind it that’s looking to control those things. Culturally, socially, we’re gonna be confronted by the value of real, or the nonvalue. And then what’s going to be pushed on us? What’s going to be presented to us?
Reeves: It’s this sensorium. It’s spectacle. And it’s a system of control and manipulation. We’re on our knees looking at cave walls and seeing the projections, and we’re not having the chance to look behind us. Or to the side. I’m sorry to go on here, Chad.
Stahelski: No, it’s great.
Reeves: It’s also a fascination—it seems for us, the animals on the planet, like, How do we defeat death? How do we change the weather? How do we replace nature?