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Will Smith Reveals the Wachowskis’ Pitch That Made Him Turn Down ‘The Matrix’

Smith says he's "not proud" of turning down the role of Neo, although he admitted accepting the role would've have drastically changed the film.

Will Smith

Will Smith

Aflo/Shutterstock

Movie history is full of actors turning down roles that would go on to be iconic (see Burt Reynolds and James Bond as a prime example), and one that haunts Will Smith to this day is the part of Neo in “The Matrix.” The actor tells his fans he remains “not proud” of his decision to turn down the role in a viral video posted to his YouTube page. The three-minute clip finds Smith reliving the casting process and explaining what happened behind the scenes that led him to say no to such a revolutionary film.

One of the primary reasons Smith wanted to meet with the Wachowski siblings is because he wanted to get out of the alien movie bubble that dominated his career after films such as “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” The Wachowskis had directed the cult neo-noir thriller “Bound” and had an out-of-the-box idea for a new movie that would allow Smith to break out of what he saw as a career pattern. Unfortunately, Smith’s interest in “The Matrix” did not last past the pitch meeting.

Smith reveals it was the Wachowskis’ pitch that ultimately killed his interest in the movie by leaving him utterly baffled. The Wachowskis tried to pitch “The Matrix” to Smith not by selling the plot of the film but by trying to get him to see some of the groundbreaking directorial flourishes they were planning to execute. As Smith tells it, the pitch went as follows: “We’re thinking like… imagine you’re in a fight. You, like, jump. Imagine if you could stop jumping in the middle of the jump. But then, people could see around you 360 degrees while you stop jumping. We’re going to invent these cameras and then people can see the whole jump when you stop in the middle of the jump.”

Smith couldn’t see it and turned down the role for “Wild Wild West,” which he admits was a terrible mistake. However, Smith is certain it was all for the best. Had the actor been cast as Neo, Val Kilmer would’ve been sought after to play Morpheus and moviegoers would’ve been robbed of seeing Laurence Fishburne in the role.

Watch Smith relive turning down “The Matrix” in the video below.

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