Why Sean Connery Turned Down 'The Matrix', But Not The Role You Think He Did

Sean Connery turning down The Matrix has become the stuff of legend. The former James Bond was offered a chance to appear in the franchise and ended up passing because he didn't understand the script. Of course, The Matrix went on to become a huge hit and a highly influential movie, and Connery missed out on being a part of it — not that his legacy wasn't already secure by then. But there's more to this story than meets the eye, folks.

Did Sean Connery Actually Turn Down the Role of Morpheus? 

Here's where things get interesting. Over the years it's become common knowledge that the role Connery turned down was Morpheus, the wise expert on all things Matrix who helps recruit Neo to become the savior of the enslaved human race. The role was famously played by Laurence Fishburne, and it's hard to imagine anyone else playing Morpheus at this point. While Sean Connery was a great performer, can you picture him at age 69 running around in a leather jacket and dangling from a helicopter?

Ah-ha, but there's a twist! If you dig further into this story you'll learn that Morpheus actually wasn't the role Connery passed on. Instead, Connery said no to the role of the Architect from The Matrix sequels. In retrospect, this makes more sense. The part was played by Helmut Bakaitis, who, with his white hair and beard, looked a little like Connery. It's a lot easier to swallow Connery as the exposition-laden Architect than Morpheus.

Sean Connery Isn't The Only Actor To Miss Out on the Matrix Franchise

Connery reportedly turned down the Architect role because he "didn't get it," and I can certainly understand why – the part would've required him to sit in a chair and deliver a seemingly endless monologue full of technobabble. But Connery wasn't the only actor to turn down a Matrix movie due to confusion. Before Keanu Reeves was cast as Neo, the filmmakers were hoping to hire Will Smith for the role. Smith, however, turned the project down because — you guessed it — he didn't really understand what the Wachowski's were going for. Smith talks about the experience here, adding that passing on The Matrix allowed him to make Wild Wild West, which...probably wasn't the best career move.

As for Morpheus, the role Connery didn't turn down, there were other actors considered before Laurence Fishburne signed on, including Gary Oldman, Samuel L. Jackson, and Val Kilmer (Kilmer was the name being floated to appear opposite Smith had Smith taken the Neo role).

Passing On Yet Another Blockbuster Led Sean Connery to Sign Onto a Movie That Effectively Ended His Career

The Matrix wasn't the only big blockbuster franchise Sean Connery turned down. In the book Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-earth by Ian Nathan, it's revealed that, when Peter Jackson was preparing to make his Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Line Cinema told him he wouldn't get a greenlight unless he cast Sean Connery as the wizard, Gandalf.

Jackson was open to the idea but also didn't think Connery would take the role. However, the scripts were sent to the actor, along with a very sweet deal that offered him "$30 million along with 15% of the worldwide box office receipts, which would have earned him $450 million."

But Connery passed, and I bet you'll never guess why! He didn't get it. By now, Connery was starting to rethink his decisions regarding these huge blockbusters, so when another potential blockbuster — The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — came his way, he said yes. Once again Connery didn't quite get the script, but he was so determined to not pass up another potential big opportunity that he sucked it up and took the role of Allan Quatermain.

Of course, as we all know now, this was one time where Connery probably should've listened to his gut instinct. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, while not a huge box office flop, was not exactly a major achievement along the lines of The Matrix and The Lord of the Rings. On top of that, Connery had such a bad time making the movie that he decided to give up acting entirely, at least in person. He only performed two voice-over roles before his death in 2020.