Sandra Bullock Was Offered The Role Of Neo In The Matrix

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in Speed

In the realm of sci-fi action movies, Keanu Reeves' Neo is considered a modern icon. Sure, the second and third Matrix movies didn't live up to expectations, however, the first remains a certified classic. Because of this, it's always strange to hear about actors who could have played the lead role in the film, as the end result might have been totally different. In the past we've heard stories about Will Smith and Brad Pitt, but apparently another name on the shortlist for the part was would-be Oscar winner and Reeves' Speed co-star, Sandra Bullock.

It's been previously reported that Bullock was one of the actresses up for the role of Trinity in The Matrix - a part that eventually went to Carrie-Anne Moss - but in a recent interview with The Wrap producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura revealed that the female lead wasn't always the role that the project had in mind for the star. According to him, there was a point where it was considered that the hero be gender swapped so that it could be played by the star of Hope Floats. Said Di Bonaventura,

We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate. We went to Sandy Bullock and said ‘We’ll change Neo to a girl.’ [Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on Demolition Man and she was and continues to be a very good friend of mine. It was pretty simple. We sent her the script to see if she was interested in it. And if she was interested in it we would try to make the change. It just wasn’t something for her at the time. So really it didn’t go anywhere.

Instead of making The Matrix, Sandra Bullock instead took on Forces Of Nature as her big film for 1999 - and while that may have been the right choice for her at the time, the box office suggests it might not have been the right call. The comedy co-starring Ben Affleck went on to get a tepid critical response, and a box office haul of $93 million; while the sci-fi blockbuster wound up being a cultural phenomenon and made nearly $500 million by the time it was done with its global theatrical run.

To go back to what was said at the start, however, it's hard to even know if The Matrix would have been the same film without Keanu Reeves as its lead. While there were some at the time who didn't think much of his acting skills at the time, he proved to have the absolutely perfect stoic charisma that was needed for the Wachowski film. Just like Ted from Bill & Ted and John Wick from the John Wick movies, the star made the role his own, and the fantastic results speak for themselves.

And obviously Sandra Bullock clearly didn't see her career end after turning The Matrix down. About one year after the release of The Matrix she starred in what was at the time her biggest hit as a front-and-center lead (2000's Miss Congeniality), and since then she has been a part of many $100 million-plus hits, including The Proposal, Gravity, and The Blind Side (a performance that also won her an Academy Award).

This is a fun year for The Matrix stories, as we are soon going to be celebrating the blockbuster's 20th anniversary (which, specifically, will be on March 31, 2019). You'll probably be seeing a lot more floating around, so stay tuned here on CinemaBlend, as we'll be collecting the best stuff we can find.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.