It’s long since gone down in Hollywood folklore that Will Smith turned down the role of Neo in The Matrix in favor of Wild Wild West, a mistake that still haunts him to this day after he recently admitted the movie’s failure remains a thorn in his side.
Instead, Keanu Reeves ended up headlining the groundbreaking sci-fi actioner, which made a killing at the box office on top of winning widespread critical acclaim and having a massive influence on the next decade of cinema. In less than a month, the beloved star will be back in The Matrix Resurrections, eighteen years since we last saw him in the signature shades and leather trench coat combo.
In a recent profile by Esquire, Reeves was asked about his feelings on not being the first choice for the part, and in typical good guy Keanu fashion, he was quick to thank Smith for the opportunity eventually landing in his lap.
“It was such a wonderful creative experience and so to play Neo in the trilogy and now in the fourth – it impacted my life personally and creatively. Thank you very much.”
The Matrix would have been a very different movie had Will Smith played Neo, and Reeves was definitely the better and more suitable candidate. His muted, reserved style and martial arts expertise certainly came in handy, and with the fourth installment just weeks away, it’s been the gift that keeps on giving for both fans and the star himself.