He’s going straight to the Wild Wild West — instead of The Matrix.
In a new video posted on his YouTube channel, Will Smith is explaining his notorious decision to pass on starring as Neo in The Matrix, a role that ultimately went to Keanu Reeves.
Smith first revealed that riding high off the success of Independence Day, he thought he couldn’t do any wrong and even initially declined Men in Back. So with that mindset, he went to a meeting with The Wachowskis, the filmmakers behind The Matrix, who at that time had only one film under their belt. “It turns out they are geniuses,” says Smith, before doing a stoner-type impersonation of their apparently less-than-impressive pitch, which centered on the shot of Neo jumping and stopping in mid-air as the cameras rotated completely around him.
“….So I made Wild Wild West,” cracks Smith. “I’m not proud of it.” Despite the critical and commercial success of the 1999 western, Smith doesn’t seem to regret the move because he doesn’t think The Matrix would have been the same movie with him. “Keanu was perfect, Laurence Fishburne was perfect” he said, sharing that Val Kilmer would have been Morpheus if Smith was cast as Neo. “So I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would have ruined it, so I did y’all a favor.”
Watch Smith’s full animated explanation above.