Danny Boyle said he dismissed the “rabbit holes” conspiracy theorists like Andrew Tate have fallen down when adapting the 1999 film The Matrix for the stage.
The 67-year-old director said his latest project, titled Free Your Mind, focused on the “adventurous” issues the film raised – including climate change and artificial intelligence.
“It was as courageous as a mainstream Hollywood film could ever be on many different points – the gender issue, the digital issues, the AI issue – and that word really didn’t have the currency it has now,” he said.
“It had a multicultural cast, which was almost unheard of in mainstream Hollywood films, and [the film addressed] climate change.
“All these issues are in this film with a huge and sometimes baffling philosophical network behind it that you’re challenged to find out [about].”
“It’s that that inspired us to see how we could reflect on that, given how everything has moved on since then. And we remain in its searchlight,” he added.
“We concentrated on that rather than actually some of the distortions that [the film] has been used for, some of those rabbit holes that people have gone down.”
The film’s terminology has been adopted by controversial figures such as Elon Musk and Tate with the term “the matrix” often used to describe a malicious layer of society including media, politicians and corporations who allegedly want to silence people.
But choreographer Kenrick Sandy said these types of influencers can engage in “misinformation”.
“In coming into the show, it was more about the light and the awareness as opposed to the conspiracy because sometimes you go down that hole, you’re not coming back,” Sandy said.
“For me, it wasn’t that. It was not about the conspiracy, it’s about an awareness, it’s about enlightenment. We don’t want to feel like we are trying to [say], ‘you must think like this’ – that’s not the way, especially in the world today.
“There’s too many people trying to say ‘this is the way it is’. Sometimes it’s misinformation, it’s an opinion, it’s not a fact.”
Boyle created the live dance adaption with Sandy, composer Michael Asante, set designer Es Devlin and writer Sabrina Mahfouz. It opened in Manchester‘s Aviva Studios last week – marking the official launch of the £240m project.
The director was born and raised in nearby Radcliffe, around seven miles north of Manchester, and said he hopes the new venue will “nurture younger, challenging artists who will come forth and use the profile of the building to present their ideas”.
Choreographer Sandy first worked with Boyle in the 2012 Olympics, when Boyle directed the opening ceremony.
But this is the first project both have worked on from the beginning, with Boyle saying that working within the art form of dance was “extraordinary”.
“You don’t expect this late in life to get a complete education in language values – dance obviously brings a completely different perspective to something.
“There’s so much about The Matrix, not just the manifestations of it in film, there’s The Animatrix and the conspiracy theories and all that kind of stuff, so to bring the language of dance to it feels like a wonderfully refreshing way of renewing our interest in some of its brilliant, dazzling ideas,” Boyle said.
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The film, directed by the Wachowski sisters, sees hacker Thomas Anderson, played by Keanu Reeves, being told that AI has conquered humanity and our lives are part of a computer simulation.
He switches identities to become hero Neo – something co-director Lilly Wachowski said was a metaphor for the experience of the transgender community.
Boyle is best known for directing films including Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire and 28 Days Later.