What If Will Smith Played Neo In The Matrix | #computerhacking | #hacking


After Will Smith rejected the chance to play Neo in The Matrix, the part went to Keanu Reeves, setting both stars on different paths to future success. While Keanu Reeves’ performance was iconic in every sense and perfectly matched the film’s neo-gothic aesthetic, it’s hard not to wonder how Will Smith’s take would have changed the entire Matrix series. With Will Smith’s involvement as Neo, The Matrix would definitely not be the same. However, considering how he has given some highly memorable performances in other sci-fi action flicks like I Am Legend and Men in Black, The Matrix would still possibly be as spectacular as it is today.

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Set in a dystopian future, The Matrix focuses on a computer hacker Neo who discovers that life, as he knows it, is a mere simulation created by evil cyber-intelligence. Determined to unravel his true identity, he joins forces with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) and Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) to battle a cadre of ruthlessly intelligent secret agents. With breathtaking action scenes and distinctive performances, The Matrix offers a twist on the traditional “chosen one” trope whilst subtly tackling themes surrounding human identity, reality, and memory.

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Undoubtedly, regardless of the film’s cast, the Wachowskis’ grandiose creative vision would have still left its mark in cinema. But, oddly enough, it’s the same ambitious vision that eventually led to their unique casting choices. As revealed by Will Smith (via Youtube), he couldn’t see eye-to-eye with the Wachowskis’ ideas for the film and had a hard time wrapping his head around its script. At the same time though, he went on to call them geniuses and dismally acknowledged that he would have “messed The Matrix up.” Whether he’s right about it will never be known, but it’s interesting to speculate how Will Smith as Neo in The Matrix would have forked the path of many actors and movies in a completely different direction.


Laurence Fishburne Wouldn’t Be Morpheus

Keanu Reeves as Neo Carrie Anne Moss as Trinity and Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus in Matrix Resurrections

In his YouTube video, Will Smith explained that if he agreed to play Neo, the role of Morpheus would not go to a black actor. He further added that Val Kilmer was being considered to play Morpheus alongside his version of Neo. Reportedly, Russell Crowe was once approached for the role of Morpheus, but he turned it down (via Twitter). What is interesting about these early casting decisions—and their eventual failure—is that not only would they have completely changed Neo and Morpheus’ scintillating dynamic but would have also altered The Matrix‘s perceived representation of race.

Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus serves as a stoic guiding force for Neo and leads him in the right direction to help humanity demolish an oppressive dystopian world. Along with Morpheus, other foundational characters in the film’s overarching premise, like the Oracle and the natives of Zion, are also black. Owing to these casting choices, The Matrix is often lauded for its Afro-futurism symbolism (via Twitter). If Morpheus’ role had gone to any of the other alternate actors, the common perception surrounding his heroic representation of race wouldn’t be the same.


The John Wick Series Wouldn’t Exist

It’s impressive how despite being connected with some of the most renowned action franchises like Speed and The Matrix, Keanu Reeves has captivated the combined consciousness of filmgoers with a whole new action character—John Wick. Putting the actor’s physical prowess and acting chops on full display, the John Wick series is still going strong after three installments and is not expected to slow down with John Wick 4. However, as the butterfly effect would have it, the John Wick series might not have existed if Will Smith had played Neo instead of Keanu Reeves.

RELATED: Will Smith’s Oscars Moment Will Hurt I Am Legend 2


A fascinating trivia surrounding John Wick is that the film’s director, Chad Stahelski, and Keanu Reeves first met on the sets of The Matrix where Stahelski was Reeves’ stuntman. It’s this fateful encounter between the two that later promoted their creative partnership from stunts to creating the blockbuster John Wick franchise. Considering that John Wick‘s history goes way back to the late 90s, it is quite likely that the franchise would not be where it is today and may not have even seen the light of the day if The Matrix had not introduced Stahelski to Keanu Reeves.

Will Smith’s Career Trajectory Would Be Very Different

Richard walking with his daughters in King Richard.

If one film can make or break an actor’s career, a single film can also move an actor’s career in a whole new direction. Something similar happened to Will Smith’s acting career in the late 90s. After the success of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will Smith was on a roll with blockbusters like Bad Boys and Independence Day. As Will Smith himself recalled in his YouTube video, “however I threw the ball, it was going in.” But after a spell of success with explosive action flicks, Smith decided to turn down playing Jay in Men in Black because he did not want to be the stereotypical “alien guy” in every movie. Only when Steven Speilberg convinced him to take up the part did Will Smith change his mind.


Men in Black was yet another blockbuster that soared Will Smith’s career trajectory to new heights. Unfortunately, soon after, his streak went up in flames with Wild Wild West, which he took up after rejecting the role in The Matrix. This major roadblock in his acting timeline was seemingly a blessing in disguise as it gave him a better perspective on the kind of projects he should choose in the future. Better explained by Will Smith himself, he regrettably remembered Wild Wild West at a Cannes Lions session and said (via THC): “I had so much success that I started to taste global blood, and my focus shifted from my artistry to winning.” Not to mention, playing Neo also would have further stemmed Will Smith’s identity as an action hero (or the typical sci-fi “alien guy“), which, in turn, may not have landed him versatile roles in relatively serious biopics like Ali, The Pursuit of Happyness, Concussion, and King Richard.

Would Will Smith Still Win An Oscar?

will smith will not lose oscar after chris rock incident

Before winning an Oscar for Best Actor for his lead performance in King Richard, Will Smith was nominated twice for the same for Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. Unsurprisingly, all three of his Oscar-nominated films are biopics, which goes to show that he would probably never get an Oscar nomination—let alone a win—if he had confined his acting career to the action genre. The consequential decisions of picking roles and the ebbs and flows of his career have made him the well-rounded actor that he is today. While Will Smith’s Oscar win may be up for debate after his recent controversies, it cannot be denied that his one decision to not play Neo has played out just fine for him and others involved in The Matrix.


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