Will Smith Nearly Played Keanu Reeves’ Neo In The Matrix

by : Lucy Connolly on : 15 Aug 2020 17:03
Will Smith Nearly Played Keanu Reeves' Neo In The MatrixPA Images/Warner Bros.

If I say The Matrix, what comes to mind? Red pill/blue pill, the Wachowski sisters and, of course, who could forget the iconic Keanu Reeves?

Let’s press pause for a moment though, because what we now know as reality – Reeves playing the lead role of Neo – could have been torn apart in an instant if someone else was handed the role instead of the Bill & Ted actor.


Which is exactly what almost happened, with Will Smith being offered the legendary role before Reeves – and the only reason he isn’t the face of Neo today is because he turned it down.

You can check out why he rejected the role below:


That’s right folks, Smith turned down the opportunity of a lifetime to land a starring role in what is now one of the most revered franchise in Hollywood. In his defence though, he had no idea just how successful it was going to be when he rejected it.


So what happened? Rumours had swirled for years, but last year Smith finally decided to give his fans what they wanted. In a video shared on his official YouTube channel in a ‘Story Time’ segment, the actor admitted he just didn’t get it.

‘After we made Men in Black, the Wachowskis came in… and they made a pitch for The Matrix,’ he explained. ‘And as it turns out, they’re geniuses. But there’s a fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced.’

Will SmithPA Images

He went on to say that he just couldn’t get his head around the Wachowskis’ pitch, in particular their description of how their 360-degree camera concept would work – which of course resulted in the now-legendary scene where Neo dodged bullets captured in slow motion.


So much so, in fact, that he rejected their offer there and then, instead accepting a starring role in Wild Wild West, which became one of the biggest flops of his career. Of course, he quickly realised his mistake, telling fans: ‘I’m not proud of it.’

Luckily, Smith doesn’t have any lingering feelings of regret, describing Reeves as ‘perfect’ for the role and saying it wouldn’t have been the same without him in it. ‘I probably would have messed The Matrix up, I would’ve ruined it,’ he said. ‘So I did y’all a favour.’

The MatrixWarner Bros.

Even so, I can’t imagine it’s an easy pill to swallow knowing you passed up the opportunity to star in a multi-million dollar franchise.


Better luck next time, Will.

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Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).

Topics: Film and TV, Film, Keanu Reeves, Neo, Now, The Matrix, Will Smith


Will Smith/YouTube
  1. Will Smith/YouTube

    Why I Turned Down The Matrix | STORYTIME