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Will Smith’s Neo is just one of Hollywood’s great casting ‘What ifs' alongside Russell Crowe’s Aragorn and Tom Selleck’s Indiana Jones. Will Smith famously turned down the role of Neo in 1999’s seminal science fiction film The Matrix, but if he had just listened to his wife, he might have made that instead of Wild Wild West. Jada Pinkett Smith tried to convince Will not to turn down The Matrix, as she explained:
Jada Pinkett Smith did her best to convince her husband that he shouldn’t turn down The Matrix. She believed in the Wachowskis and The Matrix from the start and as she told Entertainment Weekly, she knew that it would be a revolutionary film, which of course it was. The actress got it and tried to explain to Will what a big deal it was and why he should do it, but it was to no avail.
Will Smith simply didn’t get it in the same way that she did and he turned down the role, which resulted in the sci-fi classic that we have today, but is definitely one you’ve got to think he’d like to have back. This proves that he should have listened to his wife all along because her intuition was right on the money. I wonder what she had to say about After Earth.
In Will Smith’s defense, the actor recently recalled the pitch meeting for the film he had with the Wachowskis and given his recollection of it, it’s understandable that he turned it down. According to him, they were just talking about how cool it would be for him to freeze in the middle of jumping during a fight.
You can only make the decision that feels right to you at the time with the information available and that weird pitch may not have seemed like a revolution Will Smith wanted to be a part of, but his wife certainly did.
Jada Pinkett Smith originally went out for the part of Trinity in The Matrix but lost the part to Carrie-Anne Moss. On that front, she has no regrets about the way things turned out, as she explained:
Carrie-Anne Moss was the perfect Trinity just as Keanu Reeves was the perfect Neo-- and it’s hard to imagine The Matrix any other way now. Therefore, Jada Pinkett is content with having lost out on that role in a film that she believed in so fully. Will Smith has echoed this sentiment in the past, fearing that he would have ruined The Matrix had he been cast as Neo.
Lucky for Jada though, she still got to be a part of the Wachowski’s world when the siblings wrote the role of Niobe for her in the sequel films The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions.
When in doubt, as Cypher said in the original film, “If I have to choose between that and the Matrix, I choose the Matrix.” Whatever ‘that’ happens to be, always choose the Matrix. Speaking of The Matrix, news just broke that The Matrix 4 is happening with Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss attached to return and Lana Wachowski writing and directing. Will there be a part for Jada Pinkett Smith’s Niobe? We’ll have to wait and see.
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