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Film

The iconic role that Will Smith regrets turning down

Will Smith has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately, following the debacle at this year’s edition of the Oscars where he climbed onto the stage to assault Chris Rock over a joke. Although he is probably one of the most hated celebrities in Hollywood right now, there was a time when he was among the most beloved acting icons.

Especially during the 1990s, Smith was probably one of the biggest stars in Hollywood due to his work in extremely popular projects such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Bad Boys, Men in Black and Independence Day among many others. He had the opportunity to add to his fame and success with yet another iconic role but he made the wrong decision.

According to the actor, he had been offered the opportunity to play the lead role of Neo in the enormously influential sci-fi gem The Matrix which would go on to dominate popular culture for years. However, Smith wasn’t convinced by the prospect and turned it down to act in another film called Wild Wild West.

One of the most expensive films made at the time of its release, the 1998 steampunk western became a commercial failure and was widely panned by critics. It turned out to be a crucial error on the part of Smith who thought that a big production like Wild Wild West would be more rewarding than The Matrix.

Looking back on his career, Smith claimed that he thought that the pitch for The Matrix was too confusing and he could not see how it would translate to the big screen which is why he opted for Wild Wild West. He said that he would like to go back in time and tell his younger self: “‘Hey man, don’t do Wild Wild West.’ I would say, ‘Dude, do Neo.'”

Thankfully, the person who stepped up to fill in for Smith was none other than Keanu Reeves whose career experienced a massive boost due to his unforgettable performance in The Matrix. Last year, Reeves reprised the role of Neo in The Matrix Resurrections which garnered praise from fans as well as critics.

In an interview, Reeves explained: “In terms of the text, I always felt like I was in a Matrix film. It struck me how much more humour there was, in the text and seeing the film. It was really, I thought, delightful – a nice added ingredient to the feast, you know, just some more humour. Lana Wachowski was also making fun of The Matrix as well, you know, which I thought was great.”

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