Will Smith explains his reasoning for turning down The Matrix. The Matrix was a landmark action movie when it arrived, combining heady sci-fi concepts and philosophy with action scenes inspired by Asian cinema and anime. The movie’s mysterious marketing campaign also whipped up hype for the project before audiences even knew what the actual premise was. The story featured a computer hacker named Neo (Keanu Reeves) discovering the world is actually an elaborate computer simulation and the human race has been enslaved by a race of machines.
Neo teams up with a group of freedom fighters, led by Laurence Fishburne's Morpheus, intent on freeing humanity from The Matrix, Fans eagerly awaited the arrival of sequel The Matrix Reloaded, with 2003 seeing an advertising blitz from the franchise, including a video game and an anime. Unfortunately, despite featuring some impressive action sequences, Reloaded was greeted with mixed reviews. The sequel proved so disappointing to fans that the next chapter The Matrix Revolutions – which was released six months later and brought Neo’s story to a close – only grossed about half the box office take of Reloaded.
The Matrix recently celebrated its 20th anniversary and the film’s impact on the action genre is still widely recognized. Fans will also know Will Smith was originally offered Neo before Keanu Reeves accepted, but he turned it down. In a new video from Smith’s YouTube channel, the star himself reflects on The Matrix pitch meeting and why he passed on it.
Basically, the way the Wachowskis pitched the concept to Smith left the actor somewhat confused, and since they had only made one, low-budget movie at that time, he couldn’t understand their vision. Their explanation of how bullet time works left him especially baffled. He then went on to make box office dud Wild Wild West instead and in hindsight realizes he made a big mistake. That said, he also thinks Keanu Reeves was perfectly cast and doesn’t feel the movie would have turned out as well if he’d taken the role.
While the reception to The Matrix sequels took some of the sheen off the franchise, there’s still a lot of love for the property. Screenwriter Zak Penn (Ready Player One) revealed he’s working on a continuation of the series at Warner Bros, but details are scarce. There were also reports in 2017 of a prequel following Morpheus with Michael B. Jordan being eyed for the title role. Nothing has been heard about a revival recently, so the status of the project is currently unknown.
Source: Will Smith