The Matrix, one of the most important sci-fi movies ever made, will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in a number of days. In an alternate universe, on an alternate version of Earth, one almost completely identical to this one, but ever so slightly different, it was Sandra Bullock who portrayed the iconic Neo. Sounds crazy, right? As it turns out, that reality is far closer to this one than it seems, as the movie's producers actually reached out to Bullock for the role before it went to Keanu Reeves.
This comes from Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who is a mega-producer in Hollywood and was one of the key figures that helped get The Matrix made in the first place. At the time, virtually nobody saw the potential in what the Wachowskis were trying to do. It simply wasn't jumping off the page in the way it needed to for most people who read it. But di Bonaventura believed in it and pushed for it. Warner Bros. went along with it, under the condition that they get a major star in the lead role.
Obviously, especially at that time, star power is always a good thing. As we know, Will Smith rather famously turned down the role of Neo as well and instead made Wild Wild West. According to the producer, they got so desperate that they were willing to gender-swap the role in order to accommodate Keanu Reeves' Speed co-star Sandra Bullock as Neo. Here's what he had to say about it.
"We went out to so many people I don't remember. We were getting desperate. We went to Sandy Bullock and said 'We'll change Neo to a girl.' [Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on 'Demolition Man' and she was and continues to be a very good friend of mine. It was pretty simple. We sent her the script to see if she was interested in it. And if she was interested in it we would try to make the change. It just wasn't something for her at the time. So really it didn't go anywhere."
This is fascinating to consider, as The Matrix was totally groundbreaking. It's not to say that women hadn't fronted big action movies before, but having Sandra Bullock at the forefront of this movie instead of Keanu Reeves would have put it in a totally different light. It's also worth pointing out that Bullock previously revealed she was considered for the role of Trinity, which went to Carrie-Anne Moss.
Needless to say at this point, things worked out just fine. Keanu Reeves helped make the movie what it was and it helped put him on a new level. The Matrix was a tremendous hit at the box office, grossing $463 million worldwide and spawning two (unfortunately not nearly as good) sequels. Sandra Bullock, meanwhile, went on to star in Miss Congeniality, which was a huge hit. And she's still churning out hits like Ocean's 8 and Bird Box to this day. This news was previously reported by The Wrap.