Christina Ricci hadn't seen an episode of the Speed Racer anime TV series when she signed up to play Trixie, Speed's girlfriend/sidekick in this film version from the Wachowski brothers, creators of the Matrix trilogy. ''I was really only familiar with it because of the hipster chic of it all,'' she says. ''And the Geico commercial, embarrassingly enough. But for years people have been saying [to me], 'Ooh, you look like anime.'''
Getting the rest of the movie to look like live-action anime wasn't quite as easy. The Wachowskis sent photo crews across Europe and North Africa to shoot as many exotic locations as possible. Then they cherry-picked the best trees, mountains, lakes, and buildings and tossed them together in a digital blender to make a perfect location. ''They hyped up all the colors,'' says Emile Hirsch, who plays the titular racing hero. ''It makes the movie pop like a comic.'' Effects supervisor Kim Libreri calls the look ''two-and-a-half-dimensional'' film. ''Do you remember the 1980s videogame OutRun, with the palm trees flying past?'' Libreri asks. ''A lot of the movie looks like that. The photographic elements are flying past the road.''
Of course, all that computerized trickery meant toiling inside a cocoon of neon greenscreen soundstages most of the time. ''The brothers were just like, 'Okay! Yes. You can't see it, but, um, you'll be in the snow,''' Ricci recalls. Not that she's complaining, mind you. ''The greatest moment, pretty much of my career, was when one of the stunt coordinators who did all of Keanu's stuff on The Matrix taught me how to pick up a gun mid-cartwheel,'' she says. ''I got it on the second try.''
Although the Wachowskis wrote and produced V for Vendetta, this is their first post-Matrix directing work. And reinventing the family film may be even harder than that gun-cartwheel trick. But certainly no one can doubt their singular vision. ''I don't think I ever saw them disagree,'' Ricci says. ''They direct simultaneously, without seeming to confer. It's pretty amazing.'' (May 9)