August 10 -- Fans of The Matrix will have to wait even longer than expected for the film's first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded. The sci-fi sequel is now unofficially set for May 2003, more than four years after the original debuted.
Despite expectations that the next installment of the franchise would hit theaters in late 2002, Warner Bros. distribution president Dan Fellman tells Variety, "We never have had it scheduled [before]."
Warner Bros. won't officially confirm the tentative 2003 plans, with Fellman noting that shooting has yet to start, although early effects work is going well. "We are right on schedule with the film," he said.
The Sci-Fi Channel's Web site quotes producer Joel Silver about the delay: "It's a staggering project. There's so much dealing with it, it's unbelievable." He says the next two installments in the series are being filmed together, further delaying the process. "It's not back to back. It's one movie, so they'll finish shooting it, and then they'll take the time to finish the movies," said Silver.
Some sequences of the top-secret sequel were filmed in Oakland, Calif., before the crew had to go on hiatus to wait out the writers' and actors' guild contract negotiations. With both potential strikes averted, production resumed in Australia, where the first film was shot.
In the highly anticipated sequels, Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Laurence Fishburne reprise their respective roles of Neo, Trinity, and Morpheus, while Hugo Weaving, whose Agent Smith character was destroyed by Neo in the first film, reportedly returns as Agent Smith 2.0. Newcomers to the futuristic franchise include Jada Pinkett Smith, Romeo Must Die's Aaliyah, Malèna's Monica Bellucci, and Titus' Harry J. Lennix.
ABCNEWS.com contributed to this story.