The Matrix was one of the most influential blockbusters of the '90s, forever redefining the look and feel of Hollywood action and sci-fi films, and solidifying Keanu Reeves as a legitimate action star following the blockbuster Speed and the cult classic Point Break. But as much as fans see Reeves as the only possible face of the franchise, the minds behind the movies, the Wachowskis had initially approached Will Smith for the titular role of Neo in the film. And Smith still regrets turning down their offer.
During the premiere of the actor's latest sci-fi action film, Gemini Man, which deals with him battling his younger self, Smith was asked what advice he would give his younger self if he ever got the opportunity to travel back in time. And Will Smith had a simple response:
"Yeah, probably Wild Wild West. I'd go back to the Wild Wild West and I would say, 'Asshole, why didn't you do The Matrix?'"
In the '90s, Smith, along with Tom Cruise, was considered the most dependable star to head a summer blockbuster. He had already been a part of several iconic science fiction films like Independence Day and Men in black. When the Wachowskis came to Smith with the pitch for the Matrix Trilogy, a strange and unheard-of tale by Hollywood standards, of a man trapped in a computer simulation run by giant machines who uses kung fu and lots of black trenchcoats to fight an army of Agent Smiths that are actually computer viruses in disguise.
It was a bizarre tale to hear, and Smith confessed to being frankly baffled by the world the Wachowskis intended to create. As a result, he passed on the role, which then went to Keanu Reeves. And Reeves fit the world of the Matrix like a glove, becoming the perfect protagonist to act as a stand-in for the audience as the world of The Matrix unfolds around him.
Smith, meanwhile, went on to do Wild, Wild West instead, a steampunk reimagining of an old Western TV show which Smith choose to do in order to get to play a cowboy hero like the oldest action stars of Hollywood. The ambitious movie was critically and commercially panned for being all over the place and remains one of the few dark spots on Smith's impressive resume of successful blockbusters.
But all hope is not lost. With the Matrix franchise being once again kickstarted by the Wachowskis and most of the original cast returning, there is still a chance that Will Smith can appear in the movies in a supporting role, provided he would be willing to take it.
Meanwhile, fans are excited to once again explore the world of The Matrix in the upcoming film, whose script has been described by Reeves as 'Ambitious'. The original trilogy was known for its groundbreaking special effects. One can only imagine what exciting visuals the Wachowskis will be able to cook up for their new movie with all of the latest 3d special effects tech at their disposal. This news comes from EpicStream.