Will Smith has opened up on his decision to turn down the lead role of Neo in The Matrix. In the 1999 film, which became one of the most influential science fiction movies of all time, Neo was finally played by Keanu Reeves, though he was not the first choice of the film’s writers and directors, Wachowskis.
In the tongue-in-cheek video, Smith explains that back then he was riding high on the success of his movies like Independence Day and Men in Black. Smith remembers that when the Wachowskis pitched the idea to him, he was unconvinced.
In hindsight, though, he believes they were geniuses for what they did, but back then, without this benefit of hindsight, he must have thought them to be crazy. Describing The Matrix could only be crazy in the late 1990s. It was something that had simply not been done before.
It was not just the idea of our world being a simulation, though that was revolutionary enough for moviegoers, it was also the groundbreaking visual effects of the movie (especially the fight scenes) that have proved more influential than those highfalutin ideas.
Smith recalls in a tongue-in-cheek manner how the Wachowskis explained the signature scene of the Matrix. “So dude, we thinking, like, imagine you’re in a fight, and then you, like, jump. Imagine you could stop in the middle of the jump. And then people could see around you in 360 degrees while you are jumping. We are going to invent these cameras and people are going to see the whole jump, while you stop in the middle of the jump.” No wonder Smith was not impressed.
“So I made Wild Wild West,” Smith quips, and adds self-depreciatingly, “I’m not proud of it.” He also says Keanu Reeves was ultimately perfect in the movie and he would have ruined it since then Morpheus (the role Laurence Fishburne played) would have been played by Val Kilmer. “So I did y’all a favour,” Smith reflects.