Will Smith has portrayed some of the most fan-favorite characters in his career spanning more than three decades. While he has made a lot of movies, he has also turned down a few in favor of starring in some other movie. One such instance is when he turned down the role of Neo in the 1996 sci-fi action film The Matrix which went on to become one of the most influential movies of the 1990s.
It is not uncommon for actors to turn down roles that they don’t deem fit for themselves or ones whose concepts they have trouble grasping. However, the issue with Will Smith did not seem to be turning down the role he was offered. Instead, the problem lay in the fact that he starred in a movie that didn’t do too well.
Will Smith Turned Down The Matrix
The Matrix was the fourth highest grossing of the year but that was obviously not something that Will Smith could have foreseen. Consequently, when the Wachowskis offered him the role of Neo in 1998, Smith turned down the offer. In 2019, he uploaded a video on his eponymous official YouTube channel in which he revealed why he refused to portray Neo.
The four-time Grammy winner admitted that the Wachowskis are “geniuses”. He also pointed out that there is a “fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced in the meeting.” He described his experience in the meeting in an animated manner on his YouTube channel. This is how the directors described an iconic scene to him:
“So, dude, we’re thinking like, imagine you’re in a fight and then you, like, jump. Imagine if you could stop jumping in the middle of the jump. But then, people could see around you…”
The whole explanation of the scene made Will Smith wary of the movie and so he decided to drop it in favor of starring in Wild Wild West which didn’t go all that well for him. He had also initially turned down his role in Men in Black because he didn’t want to be the guy who deals with aliens.
Will Smith Isn’t Proud of Wild Wild West
Usually, when people realize that they missed out on something great because they turned it down, they regret their decision. In this case, Smith regrets his decision to choose Wild Wild West over The Matrix. On his YouTube channel, he admitted that he made a wrong choice, saying: “….So I made Wild Wild West, I’m not proud of it.”
The Suicide Squad actor is right because while The Matrix earned more than $463 million dollars and spawned two sequels, Wild Wild West earned $221 million and got generally negative reviews. That being said, Will Smith also insisted that he did everyone a favor by not taking up Neo’s role which eventually went to Keanu Reeves who became a megastar due to The Matrix‘s success.