Will Smith Explains He Was Scouted For Neo In The Matrix And Why He Turned It Down

It’s hard to imagine The Matrix without Keanu Reeves. While it certainly wasn’t his breakout role, having done Speed and Point Break before, it was certainly one that catapulted him into the stratosphere.

But what if I were to tell you that Keanu was not the first pick for the role and movie bosses actually wanted, wait for it, Will Smith.

I know, I know, but the Fresh Prince actor recently revealed that he had to turn it down because the plot and pitch went way above his head.

In a video on his YouTube channel, he said: “If I had done it because I’m black, then Morpheus wouldn’t have been black cause they were looking at Val Kilmer.

“So, I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would’ve ruined it. I did y’all a favour.”

Smith explains that when Matrix writers and directors The Wachowskis came to him in the late 90s, he was a star on the rise. He had already done Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black and wanted to be more diverse.

How do you reckon Will Smith would have done as Neo? Credit: Will Smith/YouTube
How do you reckon Will Smith would have done as Neo? Credit: Will Smith/YouTube

He added that he actually nearly declined MIB as well because he didn’t want to be just the ‘alien movie guy’, but Steven Spielberg convinced him.

Fast forward to the meeting with The Wachowskis and Smith was understandably boggled about what they wanted to do.

He recalled them describing one of the scenes where Neo jumps through the air and cameras capture a 360-degree shot of his movements. Back in the late 90s, that type of thing was way ahead of its time.

The actor simply had to hit pass on the movie, which turned into a trilogy that brought in $1.6 billion at the global box office.

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He told the Sun during an interview in 2005 that the plot was also hard to wrap his head around. To be fair, if you were just reading the script alone it would be tough to picture it on the big screen.

Smith said: “I didn’t get it when I read it. It’s a hard movie to pitch. You know: ‘Everybody lives inside a computer.’ It was only when I saw it that I really got it.”

We’re the same Will. Maybe some of us needed a few screenings to get it.

He admits that instead of doing The Matrix he ended up doing Wild Wild West, which he regrets.

One person on Reddit made a very interesting point, if Keanu hadn’t taken on the role, there’s a massive chance that he wouldn’t have got the role for John Wick, which we all know is badass.

Featured Image Credit: Warner Bros.