Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Actors Almost Took The Role Of Neo In The Matrix?

Russell Crowe
Edward Norton
Will Smith
Johnny Depp
The logo for the movie The Matrix.
Warner Bros./AT&T Inc.

Answer: Will Smith

It’s rare that a movie role is crafted specifically for one actor or actress. Directors and casting agents carefully shop around to find a suitable (and available) actor or actress for a given role. With that in mind, it’s not surprising to learn that Hollywood is filled with almosts and missed moments where actors consider a role, but ultimately don’t end up playing it.

In the case of the iconic sci-fi movie The Matrix, we all know Neo as portrayed by actor Keanu Reeves. Before Reeves was selected for (and accepted) the role, however, it was put in front of none other than Will Smith. Although Smith had starred in several sci-fi films by that time (and has continued to do so), he turned down the role. While we rarely hear why actors reject certain roles, during an interview with Wired magazine about the film I, Robot, Smith opened up about his decision:

“You know, The Matrix is a difficult concept to pitch. In the pitch, I just didn’t see it. I watched Keanu’s performance — and very rarely do I say this — but I would have messed it up. I would have absolutely messed up The Matrix. At that point I wasn’t smart enough as an actor to let the movie be. Whereas Keanu was smart enough to just let it be. Let the movie and the director tell the story, and don’t try and perform every moment.”

While we’ll never know if Smith would have, in fact, messed up The Matrix, Reeves role as Neo was critically and popularly well received to such a degree that it’s nearly impossible to imagine someone else in the role.

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