The bike stunts in this iconic chase scene were pretty crazy…
Whatever you think of The Matrix Reloaded as a film, there’s no denying the Ducatti 996 Trinity rides in that explosive highway chase scene would be a lot of fun. It looks even more capable thanks to a fair bit of Hollywood magic, although there were more practical effects used in the action sequence than you might think.
That big freeway chase scene was far more complex to shoot than you probably even suspect. No city would be able to spare a stretch of highly-traveled roadway like that for weeks on end, so producers did the only reasonable thing: the built one. Using the decommissioned Naval Air Station Alameda’s runway, they built a replica stretch of a Los Angeles freeway that was configured in a loop and was 2 miles long. It cost $2.5 million to make, complete with a 19-foot sound wall on each side, although that was made of plywood and concrete to keep costs down.
When Trinity jumps the Ducatti off the carrier truck, that was done in a studio using wires, so it wasn’t CGI but it also of course wasn’t real. However, a lot of the shots where she’s weaving through traffic, in both directions, was mostly done using CGI. The production crew didn’t even want to risk having stunt doubles try something like that because the risk of serious injury or death was sky high.
Speaking of that, there was actually a serious injury involving the stunt double filling in for Trinity in the chase scene. One of the people in the cars during the wrong-way part of the chase didn’t make a lane change when they were supposed to, so the stunt double struck the car head-on while riding the Ducati 996.
In an interview with Revzilla, she said she was going about 50 mph and the car was traveling around 20 mph. Fortunately, it was a “glancing blow” with the motorcycle traveling down the side of the car. Somehow both stunt doubles on the bike didn’t break any bones and were back at work the next day.
An even scarier close call during the filming of the chase scene happened where the agent takes over a truck and tries crushing the Ducati against the retaining wall on the highway shoulder. The stunt double said during the practices where she was riding behind the truck and not alongside it, it took four seconds before she would’ve been trapped. But when they actually did the sequence, everything happened faster, and she had to get on the brakes hard. The back on the trailer passed over the front fender of the superbike, making for an incredibly close call.
Once filming for the highway scene was done, that replica stretch of road was destroyed. Also destroyed during the filming of that sequence was over 300 cars donated by General Motors. While the Cadillacs the protagonists and villains are riding in at the beginning of the chase were highly featured, other GM products were involved in the chaos and carnage on the highway. In other words, most of the vehicles being launched into the air, landing on their sides or roofs was not CGI but instead was done in real life.
Funny enough, Keanu Reeves has a 2004 Ducati 998 Matrix Reloaded Edition in his surprisingly small motorcycle collection. The limited-edition bike features Matrix Green paint and Matrix Reloaded graphics. It serves as a reminder to the actor of his time filming the series, plus he admits the superbike is quite the machine to ride.
You might be wondering why he doesn’t have a Ducati 996 like the one in the movie, and there’s a simple explanation. By the time The Matrix Reloaded was released, Ducti had retired the 996 and released the 998, which is an even more potent superbike. Instead of doing a limited run of the old model, the Italians decided to do a limited run of the current model with Matrix treatments.