For those of us who geek out over pop culture trivia, it’s pretty common knowledge that Will Smith passed on playing Neo in the legendary Wachowski siblings’ film The Matrix so he could star in the box office bomb Wild Wild West. And 20 years later, the Hollywood superstar is still questioning his younger self for making the decision, which seems horrible in hindsight.
Smith is currently promoting his new film Gemini Man, where he plays Henry Brogan, an assassin who is targeted by someone who is much younger and can seemingly predict his every move. When Fox Chicago’s Jake Hamilton asked the 51-year-old what movie set from his past he would like to revisit, and what he would tell his younger self, Smith made it clear that he still regrets his infamous choice.
“I’d go back to the Wild Wild West [set] and I would say, ‘A**hole, why didn’t you do The Matrix?” joked Smith.
On his YouTube channel, Smith explained in a video earlier this year that he passed on the Sci-Fi film because he wasn’t impressed after meeting with the Wachowski’s. However, he does admit that Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburn absolutely crushed it, so him passing on the script did fans a favor because he probably would have “ruined it.”
Smith has also been one of the highest-paid actors in Hollywood for more than two decades, even without The Matrix, so his career has been just fine without the role. While Smith outright passed on it, numerous reports claim that the Wachowski’s had other actors in mind before they settled on Reeves, including Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and Val Kilmer.
The film was a career game-changer for Reeves by proving that he was a bankable star after mostly starring in comedies and independent dramas, with the exception of Speed and Point Break in the early 90s. The Matrix not only launched a multi-million dollar franchise, but it also officially transformed the Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure star into an action hero that now carries the John Wick franchise.
Reeves has also been dubbed “the internet’s boyfriend” because of viral videos on social media that show how down-to-earth and kind the actor is.
As for Will Smith, he hit the red carpet with his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith and their sons Trey and Jaden for the Gemini Man premiere in Hollywood this past weekend. The film hits theaters nationwide on October 11th.