No one knows if a movie will be a hit. Those who get on board very early stage productions basically have to trust the script, the artistic aspirations of the production and the director, and that the final product will properly appeal to audiences and call them to see it in theaters. Doing all that work can be especially difficult on productions that sound as bizarre as the early sales pitches for “The Matrix” must have been.
Under this premise, it is not strange that a series of actors have rejected the now iconic role of Neo. They did so Val Kilmer, Nicolas Cage, Brad Pitt and Will Smith. All of them devoted their schedules to other products they felt were more likely to be successful. Everyone was wrong, but no one like Will Smith.
The movie ‘Wild Wild West’ was released in the same year as ‘The Matrix’ and although it was not a movie that went unnoticed, it can definitely be considered as a flop. Its budget was 170 million dollars, so it can be considered one of the most expensive productions if inflation is considered. The film did not go unnoticed because it achieved a relatively higher collection, with 222.1 million dollars. By Hollywood standards, that’s a box office flop..
As if that were not enough, ‘Wild Wild West’ received eight Razzie Award nominations at the time and is now remembered for the very bad reviews it accumulated. In Metacritic his score is 38 and under Rotten Tomatoes his rating is 16%. It is obvious that ‘The Matrix’ has better ratings (88% in Rotten and 73 in Metacritic), but his true success lies in the influence he achieved and the elements he brought to science fiction cinema.
When it comes to box office, ‘The Matrix’ cost 63 million dollars (less than half of Wild Wild West) and raised seven times more: 463 million dollars.
“I would have ruined it”
It’s not just that Reeves can be grateful, but he publicly thanked Smith. “This movie changed my life, it impacted my life personally and creatively.said in one interview with Esquire in 2021. Reeves was on his way to a solid career in Hollywood, but it definitely wouldn’t have turned out the same if he didn’t get to play Neo.
Smith has also been open about turning down the role of Neo. According to him, he does not deny at all not having played Neo, although he also admits that he is not proud of ‘Wild Wild West’. Ultimately it’s not about the movie. western Rather, Smith says that Reeves was clearly the right call given the phenomenon that ‘The Matrix’ became. “I would have ruined it” said in a 2019 YouTube video.
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Will Smith turned down Neo in ‘The Matrix’ to star in this international box office flop: Keanu Reeves can be grateful