There is one popular character from the original The Matrix films that literally just disappeared. Although he made a strong impression on many fans, Tank was killed off somewhere in between the first film and The Matrix Reloaded. But what happened?
Just as it happens with every sci-fi franchise worth its salt, the technologically nightmarish world of The Matrix expanded with each new movie. While the first film presents a rather small central cast, by the time Revolutions came around, we had a whole ensemble of leather-clad supersoldiers fighting against the machines.
Imagine for a second that in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back everyone acted as if Chewbacca had just died, refusing to elaborate on the details of the departure of a main character. That’s more or less what happened with one pivotal character in the original The Matrix, although the story behind his disappearance is much more fascinating than it might seem at first glance.
Whatever Happened to Marcus Chong?
By the end of The Matrix’s plot, very few survivors remain aboard the Nebuchadnezzar. After Cypher’s (John Pantoliano) betrayal, almost every agent, save for the three main characters, is killed off by the treacherous operative. It’s thanks to the ship’s operator, Tank (Marcus Chong) that the leads live to tell the tale.
Even more surprising is that Tank is the only other character left alive other than Neo (Keanu Reeves), Trinity (Carrie Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) by the end of the movie. This only makes his disappearance in the second film all the more confusing, especially for fans.
The Matrix Reloaded, the second film in the franchise, makes it clear that Tank indeed died of unspecified causes after the events of the first movie. That they chose to eliminate a central character in such an unceremonious way is just a bit baffling, to say the least. However, the truth is that some behind-the-scenes happenings led to Warner Bros. wanting nothing to do with Tank’s actor, Marcus Chong. In fact, if you take a look at Chong’s IMDB page, you’ll notice that the actor more or less disappeared entirely from the silver screen after The Matrix.
So, what happened with Marcus Chong that was so severe, they had to completely remove his character from the sequels?
As is usually the case, it all started with a clash over royalties. Marcus Chong claimed that he received a much lower salary than his co-stars: a whopping $28k salary compared to Pantoliano’s $1m, not to mention Reeves’ $15m.
To make matters worse for Chong, he also claims that he wasn’t offered residuals for playing Tank, which meant that he got no additional income from the sales of the Tank action figure or any ticket sales. After he feuded with WB, Chong says he was blackballed in Hollywood, leading to a sudden end for his rising career.
A few years after the release of The Matrix, in 2003, Chong filed a formal lawsuit against Warner Bros, mentioning that them, the Wachowskis, and even Keanu Reeves, had robbed him of his royalties and his salary – not to mention his place in the future Matrix sequels.
It seems like a clear-cut case of the studio being greedy against an emerging actor, right? The truth, however, is a bit more complicated.
Some sources mention Chong as being extremely volatile, even going so far as sneaking into The Matrix offices in the Warner Bros lot to steal food. Chong, for his part, claims some even more outrageous actions were taken by WB, like sending an assassin after his life.
Chong posted an interesting documentary about his experience with The Matrix to YouTube in 2018. It’s safe to say that, even if he produced the documentary himself, the piece fails to paint him in a positive light.
It seems like Tank will never return to The Matrix franchise, so don’t keep your hopes up for an unexpected cameo in Resurrections.