Will Smith: Star of Independence DayMen in Black, and ... The Matrix?

It almost happened.

Before Keanu Reeves became “The One,” the Wachowskis had a different hero in mind. They originally wanted Will Smith for the part. He famously turned the role down, and instead made Wild Wild West. This sounds like a big joke, but it actually happened. In a new video on his YouTube channel, Smith himself explains his rationale behind the whole scenario.

Essentially, Smith did not want to be pigeonholed as a guy who just made sci-fi movies. He’d already done Independence Day and then Men in Black after that. He almost didn’t make Men in Black at all for this same reason, but Steven Spielberg talked him into it. After that, he really wanted to branch out. And as Smith describes it in the video, the Wachowskis’ description of The Matrix wasn’t exactly a Don Draper-level sales pitch. So he said no.

It’s nice to see Smith has a good sense of humor about the whole thing. And he makes a solid point: The Matrix was perfect with Keanu and Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus. Smith says if he had played Neo, Morpheus would not have been cast as a black actor — and he’s probably right. He claims the Wachowskis wanted Val Kilmer to play his Morpheus. Who might have done a great job! But it wouldn’t have been the same Matrix.

This video is great. I want more of them. Next time, I want to see Will Smith explain why he made Collateral Beauty.

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