Will Smith Reveals Why He Turned Down Neo Role In 'The Matrix' Franchise
"There's a fine line in a pitch meeting between a genius and what I experienced in the meeting."
From sharing vignettes about he got punched in the face on the first day of school to how he landed on The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air, Will Smith has used his popular YouTube channel to detail some of his most interesting behind the scenes stories in and out of Hollywood. Just recently, he revealed on the channel why he passed on the role of Neo in the classic film, The Matrix.
The stellar role went to Keanu Reeves, but Smith revealed he declined because, well, the way the film’s producers pitched him the movie was a bit weird. He describes the pitch being after he made Men in Black.
“After we made Men in Black, the Wachowskis, they came in, and they had only done one movie, I think it was called Bound, and they made a pitch for The Matrix,” he said. “As it turns out, they're geniuses, but there's a fine line in a pitch meeting between a genius and what I experienced in the meeting. This is the actual pitch that they made for The Matrix. 'Dude, we're thinking like, imagine you're in a fight, then you jump, imagine if you could stop jumping in the middle of the jump.'”
While he probably regrets turning the role in retrospect, he admits that the cast of the legendary film was perfect and that he doesn’t know how good the movie would have been if he was in it. He also appreciated that Laurence Fishburne was in it.
“Keanu was perfect. Laurence Fishburne was perfect. If I had done it, because I'm black, then Morpheus wouldn't have been black,” he said. “They were looking at Val Kilmer. I was gonna be Neo and Val Kilmer was gonna be Morpheus, so I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would have ruined it. So I did y'all a favor.”
Instead, Smith chose to do Wild Wild West, which didn’t get the best reviews at the time.
“This is another big, lavish movie with no there-there. Ruled by increasingly ghoulish special effects,” writes Janet Maslin for The New York Times. “It leaves reality so far behind that its storytelling would be arbitrary even by comic-book standards, and its characters share no common ground or emotional connection. It cares far more about herding audiences into theaters than about what they hear or see.”
Yikes. Watch Will's full explanation above.