It’s permanently etched into Hollywood folklore that Will Smith – star of Men In Black, Independence Day and The Legend Of Bagger Vance, turned down a significant role in movie sci-fi history – to be Neo in The Matrix.
The revolutionary role that made Keanu Reeves a bigger household name (even if Bill and Ted, Speed and Point Break didn’t). You know, this one:
The ground-breaking 1999 sci-fi film by the Wachowskis that re-invented the wheel with new camera technology, special effects like we’ve never seen before, which was a box-office smash and churned out two sequels, video games and spin-off animated series.
But why did Smith turn it down?
Short answer: a combination of the threat of typecasting, burn-out and a horrible pitch from the Wachowskis. So he did the next best thing in his interest – star in the 1999 sci-fi western Wild Wild West with Kevin Kline – as explained on his YouTube channel.
Personally, while Wild Wild West wasn’t as successful as The Matrix and ended up a box-office bomb, it has developed a cult following on home video release. Can you imagine the title film track sung by Smith for The Matrix?