MARTIAL ARTISTS: Kicking Keanu; Who Would Have Thought a Pair of Kung-Fu Fighting Twins from Kent Would Be Keanu Reeves' Arch Enemies in the Matrix Reloaded? Here They Talk Exclusively about Being Pally with the Stars and Kicking Keanu's Backside

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Byline: Winston Wolf

Today, 34-year-old twins Neil and Adrian Rayment can walk down the street without anyone batting an eyelid. But that's all about to change. Later this month, they'll be somersaulted to sci-fi super stardom - they're playing evil assassins in the eagerly awaited The Matrix Reloaded, which hits the big screen full of action stunts, special effects and Keanu Reeves.

But when the original Matrix was released four years ago, you'd have seen the dungaree-clad siblings as Carol Vorderman's sidekicks in DIY show Better Homes. Now the two lads from Thanet in Kent - who've never had an acting lesson - have swapped Carol for Keanu and trowels for Tinseltown.

`We set our sights on something that was seemingly unobtainable but was where we wanted to go,' shrugs Adrian. `As big as The Matrix is, when we first started doing Better Homes, or our first extra job, it was just as nerve-racking, and just as much a step in the right direction.'

Hanging out with big screen legends is a far cry from the lads' first taste of showbiz - they signed to a modelling agency aged 19 and began appearing in ads for pounds 50 a time, while simultaneously running their own crafts business. Their first job was playing ram-raiders in The Bill, and they also appeared in music videos for the likes of Sinitta, Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, Placebo, and even Ant and Dec. `We had shaved heads, wore black suits and chased Ant and Dec around a bus,' recalls Neil.

The brothers landed Better Homes in 1998 and first met Carol Vorderman during a photo shoot, where they had to wear thongs. After three series, their agent told them that hotshot Hollywood producer Joel Silver - who has produced blockbusters like Die Hard, Predator and Lethal Weapon - was on the lookout for twins skilled in martial arts. Two London auditions and an overnight trip to LA to meet the Matrix directors, brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski, followed. Within a fortnight they were hired - the day before they were due to sign on for another Better Homes series. `The agent rang and said, "Guys, you are not going to believe this. They're giving you parts in The Matrix,"' says Adrian. `I just remember slumping against the kitchen cabinet.' Although they started doing Judo when they were eight, and are experts at martial arts including Shotokan Karate, the Rayments had to jet to Hollywood immediately to prepare, and to start taking lessons in stunt driving and weapons. Time was tight, as filming was due to start in San Francisco eight weeks after their casting with the Wachowskis.

`We trained in this dark hangar in LA. On our first day we were in our combat gear in the corner doing some stretching when this guy came up to us, squatted down and said, "Hi. My name's Keanu." We'd just turned up, so he told us a bit about the film and welcomed us. It broke the ice,' says Neil. Adrian adds, `We couldn't believe it, but he was really cool and turned around and said, "I hear you guys kick ass."'

During the 13-month shoot in America and Australia - which also included filming for the third movie in the series The Matrix Revolutions, out in November - the twins had to endure two hours of make-up every day as their dreadlock wigs were fitted and their faces painted white for the 16-hour work days. During their free time they weren't allowed to sunbathe or swim - but that didn't stop them getting matey with co-stars Keanu, Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Anne Moss.

`Every two weeks we'd all go out to eat together,' says Adrian. `We formed a good conversational, friendly relationship with Keanu. Neil and I take people at face value and we don't kowtow to status. …