In Hollywood, actors often face one another for pivotal parts in films that can make or break their careers. Such was the case with The Matrix, the first film in a blockbuster series originally offered to Johnny Depp, with Will Smith also in consideration. But in the end, Keanu Reeves was cast in the part and went on to achieve stardom in Hollywood.
Keanu Reeves Sets the Bar
The Matrix is a series of science fiction action films developed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. The franchise takes place in a dystopian future where people are kept in virtual captivity by intelligent machines who use their bodies as a source of energy. Neo, the main protagonist, is a programmer who learns the truth about the universe and joins a rebellion to liberate mankind from the machines.
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The Matrix, the first film in the series, was released in 1999 and quickly became a smashing financial success, earning $467.2 million around the globe. Its innovative visual effects, thrilling combat scenes, and thought-provoking themes won the film widespread acclaim.
In 2003 and 2021, fans got The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, respectively, which continued Neo’s tale and the uprising against the machines. The franchise has earned acclaim for its ground-breaking visual effects, action scenes, and thought-provoking themes.
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Keanu Reeves, who had been having trouble breaking into Hollywood following the Bill and Ted films, saw a resurgence of his career thanks to the popularity of The Matrix.
Matrix: How It Was Cast
Numerous A-list actors were considered for the part of Neo in The Matrix. Sources claim that Johnny Depp was the Wachowskis’ first choice for the lead part, but Depp ultimately declined the offer. Warner Bros. considered casting Brad Pitt and Val Kilmer, but the two actors rejected the offer as well. Will Smith was also thought for the part, but he declined to appear in Wild Wild West instead.
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On a Reddit MMA, Reeves reveals he “was very lucky” to get the part. He claimed that “the Wachowkis wanted to meet” after receiving word from his agent.
“I was very lucky. Heh. Um, I got a call from my agent, saying that these directors, the Wachowskis, wanted to meet, and they sent me the script…”
Keanu Reeves was sent the screenplay, which he thought was “absolutely amazing.” They showed him “some artwork of their vision and an early version of “bullet time,” which piqued his interest and motivated him to work toward their goal.
“…and the script was absolutely amazing, and I went in to meet with them, and they showed me some artwork, of their vision, and an early version of “bullet time,” and it was very exciting and inspiring, and we looked at each other, we ended up hanging out in a parking lot outside the offices just talking and riffing, and we basically just kinda shook hands – they told me they wanted me to train for 4 months prior to filming, and I got a big grin on my face and said: ‘Yes.’”
Keanu Reeves gave his all to his portrayal of Neo once he landed the character. He did many of his maneuvers in the film after four months of training. This entailed much wire work and hand-to-hand fighting, both of which Reeves performed. His commitment to playing Neo was rewarded, as his portrayal was hailed by reviewers and viewers alike.