As computer operator Tank, Marcus Chong helped save Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss from the treacherous Cypher in ''The Matrix,'' and what thanks did he get? He was dropped from the two sequels -- unfairly, he says. On Friday, the 35-year-old actor filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Eon Productions (the company of writers/directors Larry and Andy Wachowski), distributor Warner Bros., and Warner's parent company AOL Time Warner (also EW.com's parent company), claiming breach of contract, slander, and fraud. He seeks the six-figure salary he would have earned plus interest and other damages.
Warner Bros. and Eon haven't commented on the suit, or on why Chong was written out of the sequel. (''The Matrix Reloaded'' has a new operator, Tank's brother-in-law Link, played by Harold Perrineau Jr.) The dispute appears to have been over salary, according to studio documents obtained by a fan group (the Marcus Chong as Tank Coalition) and posted on the group's website. The documents also include a bail receipt stemming from Chong's arrest in October 2000 for allegedly making phone threats after salary negotiations had broken down. In his suit, Chong accuses the filmmakers of ''intentionally publishing numerous false statements... that he was a terrorist'' in order to defame him, Reuters reports.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly a few years ago, Chong said that after he was fired, he had crashed a press junket, harassed the directors by phone, and sneaked into the ''Matrix'' offices on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Calif., and pilfered food. In any case, ''Matrix Reloaded,'' which earned $134.3 million at the U.S. box office in its first four days of release, doesn't seem to have been hurt by Chong's absence.