Chances are pretty good it is hard for fans anywhere to picture anyone other than Keanu Reeves as the leading character in The Matrix. However, according to Pop Sugar, there was a strong possibility of Will Smith playing the role of Neo instead.
According to the outlet, Keanu wasn’t the first choice for Neo in the 90’s film. The role was first offered to Will Smith who ultimately decided he didn’t want it. At the time, Smith found the concept of the film to be boring and didn’t believe the production team pitched it to him in the best way possible.
In fact, Will Smith recently posted a video on his official YouTube channel telling the story of being offered the leading role in The Matrix and his version of why he decided not to take the role.
While the 50-year-old actor explains – in great detail – why he decided to turn down the role, he works in a little comedic animation to illustrate how he remembers everything going down.
“This is one of those stories I’m not proud of, but it’s the truth. I did turn down Neo in The Matrix,” Smith explained during the intro of the video.
The Fresh Prince star went on to reveal that he was offered the role during a very busy time in his Hollywood career. He was already working on several blockbuster hits and appeared to be in the height of his career.
— IndieWire (@IndieWire) February 14, 2019
He also attributed his refusal of the role to the fact that he simply could not imagine the ideas that that writer and director brother team, the Wachowskis, were throwing at him. Smith describes his experience meeting with them and explained that the plot and all its nuances were uninteresting and boring because they were so hard to explain vocally.
“As it turns out, they’re geniuses. So I made Wild Wild West! I’m not proud of it,” the actor jested.
During the same video, Will also revealed he almost didn’t play the role of Agent Jay in Spielberg’s Men in Black either because he didn’t want people to start referring to him as the “Alien Movie Guy.” He had just finished the production of Independence Day earlier in the year and he didn’t think taking on Men in Black was the right move for his career.
— The A.V. Club (@TheAVClub) February 15, 2019
Spielberg, however, wasn’t taking no for an answer and got on the phone to convince Smith to put those thoughts aside and take on the role of Agent Jay anyway.
Listening to Spielberg turned out to be one of the best decisions the actor made, as the film went on to win a slew of awards and is recognized as one of Smith’s best performances. Moreover, the film brought in nearly $600 million in box office revenue.