Makers of 'The Matrix' offered Sandra Bullock the role of Neo before Keanu Reeves

Ben Arnold
Contributor
Sandra Bullock (Credit: AP)

Famously, Will Smith turned down playing the role of Neo in The Matrix for sci-fi/cowboy disaster Wild Wild West.

But before Keanu Reeves tried on the leather trench coat for size, moviemakers had a different direction in mind.

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Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who would go on to make the Transformers movies with Michael Bay, had long fought to bring the Wachowski’s mind-blowing vision to the screen.

But he said that the producers struggled to get an A-lister on board, having sent the role to the likes of Smith, Leonardo Di Caprio and Brad Pitt.

Keanu Reeves as Neo in The Matrix (Credit: Warner Bros)

“We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate,” the producer told The Wrap.

“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.

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“It just wasn’t something for her at the time. So really it didn’t go anywhere.

“The first movie star who says yes is Brad Pitt, he’s doing Seven Years in Tibet and then he’s coming out of it and he’s like ‘I’m way too exhausted to take this on,’ so he’s gone,” he continues.

“Then we go to Leonardo [DiCaprio]. He says yes, we have meetings with him and then he goes, ‘You know, I can’t go do another visual effects movie having just finished Titanic, and he drops out. Then Will Smith joins it and he drops out.”

Will Smith (Credit: Getty)

He also adds that the role of Neo’s mentor Morpheus, eventually played by Lawrence Fishburne, was also shown to everyone in Hollywood.

“We went to Arnold Schwarzenegger hoping he’d say yes for Morpheus. We to Michael Douglas for Morpheus,” he said.

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“Along the way we realised how hard it was what we were doing. Here were these young guys who had done one movie, and they were going to direct this very hard-to-understand script. The good news was, Keanu said yes and he was awesome.”

And the rest is billion dollar history.