Keanu Reeves owes a lot of his career success to Johnny Depp, in a manner of speaking. The Pirates of the Caribbean star is one of the actors who said no to the role that Reeves eventually played in the hit franchise The Matrix. That is not the only part that he turned down that would go on to greatly benefit his compatriot.
As of 2023, Reeves is most synonymous with his role as Neo / Thomas A. Anderson in The Matrix, and of course as the titular character in the John Wick series of films. Yet things would have been very different for him, as he was far from the first choice for Lana and Lily Wachowski, creators of The Matrix.
Will Smith is often mentioned as the illustrious name who turned down the opportunity to play Neo in the very first movie in the franchise, but he was not the only one. Alongside Depp, Brad Pitt is another big name who refused to play the character.
He harbors no regrets over the decision, although the same cannot be said of Smith, who instead opted to star in one of the flops of the decade thereafter. Both stars acknowledge, however, that they cannot see anyone else as Neo but Reeves.
Like any other actor, Depp has said no to multiple movie offers over the years. The Matrix is one of those, and so is the action hit Speed from 1994, which eventually saw Reeves take on the starring role.
Keanu Reeves Was Not The First Choice For His Eventual Role In Speed
In 1994, the high-octane action film titled Speed hit the silver screen, with Keanu Reeves playing the role that would ultimately catapult him to global stardom. The story of Speed revolves around the actor as an LAPD cop named Jack Traven, who finds himself caught in a deadly game when a vengeful madman plants a bomb on a city bus.
The bomb will detonate if the bus drops below a certain speed, putting the lives of its passengers at stake. The movie is a relentless race against time as Jack, along with a courageous passenger named Annie (played by Sandra Bullock), must find a way to save the day.
Before Reeves stepped into the shoes of the determined protagonist, several other actors were considered for the role. Among them were Johnny Depp, who was still in the very early years of his career.
When he was approached to play Officer Traven, Depp was still riding the high of his success as Edward Scissorhands in the similarly titled film. Before that, he had starred in A Nightmare on Elm Street and Platoon, among others.
Johnny Depp Was Not The Only Actor Considered For The Leading Role In Speed Before Keanu Reeves
The scale of the odds against Keanu Reeves for the role of Officer Jack Traven were very strongly stacked. As well as Johnny Deep, there were multiple other actors considered for it before he was eventually approached. The original casting choice for the part was Jeff Speakman, who is perhaps best known for his martial arts skills.
When that particular decision was made, though, the Speed production was headed in a very different direction. The film was eventually directed by Jan de Bont under the banner of the Mark Gordon Company.
In the beginning, however, Paramount Pictures were going to produce the picture, with Die Hard director John McTiernan attached to helm the project. When Paramount dropped the production, Speakman was also discarded in the process.
Stephen Baldwin was McTiernan’s second choice, but when the director was replaced, so was he. Tom Cruise and Woody Harrelson were also considered before de Bont eventually settled on Reeves.
What Film Did Johnny Depp Star In When He Left Speed For Keanu Reeves?
It is not easy to project what Johnny Depp’s career might have looked like had he taken on the roles that eventually went to Keanu Reeves in both Speed and The Matrix. What is not in question is that when he turned down the offer to star in the former, he nonetheless went on to feature in another significant film.
This motion picture was none other than Ed Wood, a biographical comedy-drama directed by Tim Burton. The movie delved into the life of Edward D. Wood Jr., a filmmaker who was known for his unconventional and low-budget movies, often hailed as some of the worst in the history of cinema. Depp took on that titular role.
The filming schedules for Speed and Ed Wood in fact overlapped, although it is not clear whether this was the reason why Depp said no to one for the other. The Jan de Bont film commenced shooting in September 1993 and wrapped up in December of the same year.
Ed Wood had already begun production in August 1993, and lasted for a total of 72 days.