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The Matrix and its sequels are relatively philosophical for Hollywood action movies. After all, an actual philosopher appeared in the The Matrix Reloaded and interacted with some of the people behind the franchise, including Lana Wachowski, Keanu Reeves, and Laurence Fishburne. Here’s a look at what the philosopher had to say.

Keanu Reeves near a marquee advertising The Matrix Reloaded
Keanu Reeves at the premiere of The Matrix Reloaded | L. Cohen/WireImage

Philosopher was ‘flabbergasted’ when he was offered a role in ‘The Matrix Reloaded’

Cornel West is an academic and philosopher primarily known for writing about issues of race in the United States in books such as Race Matters. While he’s made a number of appearances on television, he’s not much of an actor. However, he appeared in The Matrix Reloaded as Councillor West.

In the Los Angeles Times, West explained he received a phone call from Lana Wachowski to see if he would act in The Matrix Reloaded. “I said, ‘Good God almighty,” West recalled. “He said my writings had been influential in his writing the movie. He had read my first book, Prophesy Deliverance!, and Race Matters. I was flabbergasted. 

Cornel West | Ricardo Dearatanha/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

“He said he had written a role for me, Councillor West, and he wanted me to play it. I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding.’” For context, West used he/him pronouns to refer to Wachowski because she was not out of the closet as a trans woman at the time. West told The New York Times he and the Wachowskis united by ”acknowledging the full-fledged and complex humanity of Black people, which is a relatively new idea in Hollywood given pervasive racist stereotypes.”

Cornel West meets Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne

West didn’t just discuss philosophy with Wachowski. According to The Guardian, he also discussed it with two of the film’s stars: Reeves and Fishburne. “We had intellectual dialogue with Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne, reading [Arthur] Schopenhauer and William James. They are very much intellectuals, they really are.” He said his experience making the film was “something.” 


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How Cornel West reacted to ‘The Matrix Revolutions’

While the Matrix sequels are known for their astounding special effects, West told The New York Times ”You’ve got to look beneath the special effects’ when you watch the film. According to the Los Angeles Times, he felt The Matrix Reloaded was a work of art that captured the philosophical themes of his work very well. He was proud of the film even if he only spoke two sentences in it. West would appear in the film’s sequel, The Matrix Revolutions, playing the same role.

Due to the political unrest in the United States, West and his work garnered more attention in recent years. It will be interesting to see if he appears in the upcoming Matrix film. For all we know, the next film might reflect his philosophies as well.