Shortly after freeing Neo from the Matrix, Morpheus tells him:

We never free a mind once it's reached a certain age. It's dangerous, the mind has trouble letting go. I've seen it before and I'm sorry.

Later on, in conversation with Agent Smith, Cypher remarks:

You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realize? [Takes a bite of steak] Ignorance is bliss.

Cypher has clearly been an adult for much longer than nine years. The actor playing him, Joe Pantoliano, was 47 years old at the time of filming, whereas Keanu Reeves was 35. So it would seem Neo and Cypher were both in their 30s when they were freed from the Matrix.

It is possible that when Morpheus says "I've seen it before", he is in fact referring to Cypher. It might help explain why Cypher is so bitter about leaving the Matrix and wants to go back.

So the question is: Why was Cypher freed at such a late age?

The above question may not have a canonical answer. So, as a secondary question: Is there any in-universe information about what happened when Cypher was freed from the Matrix, other than what is mentioned in the film?

  • Wait: is the question on Cypher's age at that point, or is it about the how and why of the situation? The age seems to be extrapolatable from the info in the question itself, doesn't it?
    – Shisa
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:09
  • I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you trying to work out an upper age for being "freed" or are you asking what inspired Morpheus to free Cypher?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:24
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    @Shisa: As I say, it seems pretty clear that (a) Cypher was freed sometime in his 30s, and (b) this is much older than usual. So, I'm interested in how and why Cypher was freed in this way. I have edited the question and title for (I hope) greater clarity. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 20:12
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    I thought there was aline somewhere in the (first) movie indicating that Morpheus may have thought that Cypher was the one. But I may be misremembering. Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 21:41
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    That is my recollection also, @prototypetolyfe Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 21:44

1 Answer 1


I can no longer find the interview online, so this is all from memory, but..

At one point Joe Pantoliano gave an interview about Cypher's motivation for betraying Morpheus and his crew. According to him, Cypher was freed because Morpheus believed he might be The One, but was later shown not to be. He has also seen Morpheus free several other candidates, most of whom Cypher watched die. This is why he has become so fully disillusioned with reality: he was pulled out of The Matrix after he had time to become accustomed to the illusion, and what he's seen in the real world has no interest to him anymore.

I don't know if any of this was ever specifically mentioned in the movies; some of the commenters seem to think it was but I don't remember. I'll try to watch the movie again soon and see if I can pick something out.

I do know that Cypher ends up with a band of followers in the online game called Cypherites, so there may be more backstory in the game that I don't know about.

But, as far as I can tell, the reason Cypher was freed so late is the same reason Neo was: Morpheus thought he might be The One and was willing to take the risk.

  • I have read the same interview. There's also the theory that Cypher was originally meant to be a far more important character, on par with Agent Smith, but that much of that was lost in subsequent drafts. His name is one indicator of that. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 5:28
  • Thanks, that's what I was curious about. Too bad the interview is not available online, anyone who finds it is welcome to post a link. Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 22:23
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    That darn Morpheus... "You ARE the One." "No, wait.. on second thought, HE is the One." "I've changed my mind. THIS guy... he's definitely the One."
    – Omegacron
    Commented Oct 20, 2014 at 18:06
  • This interview deals with a lot of the same material; readbuzz.com/2008/05/21/an-interview-with-joe-pantoliano
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 2, 2017 at 10:51

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