X Factor: Lost's Fox is Racer X
Matthew Fox might not be an expert in 1960s cartoons. But when The Wachowski Brothers contacted him about their big-screen take on Speed Racer, he knew he wanted in. “The Wachowskis asked to meet with me. I guess they’re fans of Lost, and they had an idea that I might be Racer X,” he says, referring to the mysterious masked character who frequently helps Speed Racer to win. “But I went into the meeting never knowing anything about Speed Racer: I just wanted to work with the Wachowskis. That meeting went great, so I took the script home and got the source material and watched a lot of it. Then I went back to L.A. and really went after that role.”
What was it like working with the notoriously press-shy writer/directors behind The Matrix? “They’re very private, so you don’t really know much about them until you get to meet them and fall into their world,” he says. “They really are artists. They create a world You’re trying to crawl into that and find that image of Racer X within the backdrop of what they’re doing. Working with the Wachowskis on this particular film—it’s a game-changer.”
Originally adapted from Japanese manga pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida’s Mach GoGoGo, the TV show Speed Racer was one of America’s first glimpses into classic anime style. It made a comeback in the ’90s, thanks to Cartoon Network reruns. The Wachowskis’ live-action film, starring Emile Hirsch in the title role, is the fruit of 17 years of development by producer Joel Silver, utilizing groundbreaking high-definition video techniques to create a 3D anime feel.
“Racer X’s character is essentially a superhero. He’s got the look and feel of a larger-than-life character, and Matthew is the personification of this kind of guy,” Silver says. “He’s mysterious and has an incredible personality, and in the movie that’s just multiplied.”
It’s been a long road for the 41-year-old Fox, who was raised on a cattle ranch in Crowheart, Wyo., where his family grew barley for Coors. It took 18 years and two successful TV shows, Party of Five and Lost, for Fox’s film career to begin in earnest. After Lost wraps, he plans to leave television behind. “I think some of the best writing is going on in television,” he says, “and Lost is an example of that, but I want to do films from here on out because it gives me more control over my year. I love the idea that I can pour myself into something 110 percent for three months, and then it’s done. Then I’m unemployed again, and I use that period to hang out with people I love and do things that I love to do and reenergize myself.”