Jonathan Groff reveals he was told not to do ‘an impression of Hugo Weaving’ to play his Agent Smith in Matrix Resurrections… but original actor was always ‘in my mind’
Jonathan Groff has discussed the balance he had to strike while stepping into Hugo Weaving’s old role for the new Matrix film.
Hugo, 61, played the villain Agent Smith in the original trilogy while Jonathan, 36, is portraying a newfangled version of the character in The Matrix Resurrections.
In a new interview Jonathan told The Hollywood Reporter that the director Lana Wachowski, one of the co-directors of the original franchise, ‘was giving and sort of desiring creative freedom when it came to the general vibe of the character.’
Now and then: Jonathan Groff (left) has discussed the balance he had to strike while stepping into Hugo Weaving’s old role (right) for the new Matrix film
He shared that Lana ‘told me that she didn’t want me doing the entire performance as an impression of Hugo Weaving. She wanted to find something new.’
The idea ‘from the beginning of the process’ was ‘that this was going to be a new programming of Agent Smith’ rather than an exact replica.
Jonathan allowed that ‘at the same time, in the script, there were those fun moments where my business partner character says: “Billions of people just living out their lives… oblivious.” I love that line. So there’s still this kind of wink to the original. And obviously, picking up the Desert Eagle and screaming: “Mr. Anderson!”‘
Because of the nods to the old movie – plus the fact that Jonathan was in the end playing the same character after all – Hugo was still an influence.
‘Something new’: He shared that Lana ‘told me that she didn’t want me doing the entire performance as an impression of Hugo Weaving’; Jonathan is pictured in the new film
Refreshed: The idea ‘from the beginning of the process’ was ‘that this was going to be a new programming of Agent Smith’ rather than an exact replica
Jonathan cited ‘a YouTube clip of Hugo Weaving every time he says: “Mr. Anderson!” in the span of The Matrix trilogy. So I watched this video clip a lot, and I played the movies in the background while I ate dinner. I always had Hugo in my mind.’
The Hamilton heartthrob, who played King George III in the smash hit musical, was asked about a scene where he yells: ‘Mr. Anderson!’ just like Hugo.
‘This scene, where I pick up the gun and become him, we never rehearsed it. And Lana said, “You pick up the gun, you scream, you shoot. Go for it. Action.” This is a perfect example of what the process was like, which was very body-first,’ he said.
He added that ‘Lana was really interested in us surprising ourselves in the moment. So when I picked up that gun with the water pouring down on me and I started screaming, it was completely an instinctual, primal experience.’
Iconic performance: Hugo is pictured in the 2003 film The Matrix Reloaded which was the second instalment in the original trilogy
Jonathan dished: ‘It was, I have to say, quite cathartic and quite thrilling. And I only screamed that line maybe two or three times. It was a pretty intense out-of-body moment. I still remember it so well.’
The Matrix Resurrections is reuniting multiple members of the original franchise including leading man Keanu Reeves and leading lady Carrie-Ann Moss.
Jonathan is joining a fleet of new faces that include Aquaman sizzler Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Bollywood bombshell Priyanka Chopra.
Yahya is playing the iconic character of Morpheus who was portrayed in the first three movies by Laurence Fishburne.
Legendary line: Jonathan cited ‘a YouTube clip of Hugo Weaving every time he says: “Mr. Anderson!” in the span of The Matrix trilogy; Hugo is pictured in the first Matrix film in 1999