Even in the high-tech, CGI world of the ”Matrix Reloaded,” good acting may still be the best special effect. Witness the overwhelming audience response to the Keymaker, played by veteran theater actor Randall Duk Kim. [WARNING: Spoiler ahead] The character — whom Neo spends much of the movie trying to free from a key-lined prison cell — gets the movie’s biggest laugh by simply producing the right key at the right time. Later, the gentle Keymaker’s violent death prompts audible gasps of surprise, which is more than can be said for most of the film’s splashy action sequences. EW.com tracked down the 59-year-old Kim — whose last big role was in Broadway’s ”Flower Drum Song” revival last year — to discuss riding on a motorcycle with Carrie-Anne Moss, working with directors Larry and Andy Wachowski, and more.
How would you describe the Keymaker?
It’s like a character that belongs in ”Wind in the Willows” but then somehow ended up in ”Alice in Wonderland,” and then got lost in ”The Matrix.” He’s some kind of little critter. He’s an old program from another Matrix, hiding out in the current Matrix because he didn’t want to be deleted [laughs]. He shouldn’t have any freedom of choice, but he did make a choice by hiding along with the other exiles. And something fascinates him about real human beings, because he’s not real — he’s a program, he’s manufactured. He wants to help them.
And what did the Wachowski brothers tell you about him?
Their suggestions came on the spot as we were doing various takes. For example, the little running style he has, the scurry? That came from the brothers. I was running with my normal stride, and Larry came up to me and said, ”You know, why don’t you cut the stride in half?” And that’s how the little scurry thing was born.
Carrie-Anne Moss has spoken a lot about being frightened when she was driving the motorcycle in the big chase scene — but at least she had control. Was it equally terrifying for you as her passenger?
No, no, no. We had just met when that was shot, so of course she was nervous. She didn’t know me. I didn’t know her. But I had great confidence in the stunt coordinator. I felt very assured by him, and I had great confidence in Carrie-Anne to handle it — and she did. We would go 50 miles an hour against traffic. I must commend her for her great courage.
Well, you were on that bike, too!
[laughs] I know, I know. But for me, it was like a thrill ride. After every take I just couldn’t help but howl with delight and laughter.
Later in that sequence, are you really standing on top of a moving truck?
No. Blue screen. But the toss-up from the motorcycle — where I grab Morpheus’ hand and he tosses me up to the top of the truck — I did that. That was my wire work. That was fun to do.
Some people find the movie hard to understand. Were there things that confused you?
I think people who want to render judgment now are doing it prematurely. We’ve only seen half of the whole, and I would suggest that people who want to render opinion and judgment wait until we see Part Three. I think a lot of stuff was planted in this one is gonna bear fruit in the next.
Any good Wachowski brothers anecdotes?
I did delight in watching them watch the takes on the monitors. They would add in the sound effects [with their mouths]. They would! They’d be like two little kids doing it. It was delightful to see. They’d be going over how a take would be and how it would sound with explosions or whatever the sound would be. It’s wonderful — it’s the creativity of a child.
What did you want to bring to your death scene?
I wanted not a trace of self-pity. His whole purpose for being was to help Neo. He shouldn’t weep for his own death. That’s not his purpose.
It’s such a cool moment when they’re trying to hotwire that motorcycle and you produce the right key. Was there something in particular you brought to that?
Well, he’s being helpful! And he’s kind of ahead of the game: ”You need a key? I got it.” I had no idea how any of the scenes would play. But it does delight [audiences]. He has a key for any circumstance that they run into.
So, ever been locked out of your apartment?
I have. Maybe a month ago was the last time.
Really? Did the irony strike you?