the matrix sandra bullock

Will Smith wasn’t the only big name to turn down Neo in The Matrix. It turns out there was a whole line of A-list celebrities that Warner Bros. went through before finally settling on Keanu Reeves, who went on to become the face of the multimillion dollar franchise. But that face almost looked completely different — though certainly familiar to Reeves fans.

Reeves’ Speed co-star Sandra Bullock was actually considered for the role of Neo, according to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who spoke about his struggles to get The Matrix greenlit to The Wrap. Warner Bros. was hesitant to greenlight the Wachowskis’ ambitious sci-fi epic without a big name leading the cast and reached out to several A-listers including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and of course, Smith. But one name stood out from the others: Sandra Bullock. Di Bonaventura said that The Matrix team approached Bullock with the script with the offer to change Neo’s gender if she were to star in the film.

“We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate. We went to Sandy Bullock and said ‘We’ll change Neo to a girl.’ [Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on ‘Demolition Man’ and she was and continues to be a very good friend of mine. It was pretty simple. We sent her the script to see if she was interested in it. And if she was interested in it we would try to make the change.”

He added, “It just wasn’t something for her at the time. So really it didn’t go anywhere.”

Now this is an interesting twist in a story that Bullock has told before. In 2009, The Bird Box actress told NBC’s Today that she was considered for the role of Trinity, and regretted not taking it. The role instead went to Carrie-Anne Moss, who Bullock said was one of the reasons that The Matrix became such a phenomenon. “It was sexy and great because of Carrie-Anne and Keanu,” she said.

But Warner Bros. and di Bonaventura didn’t have to look far for their star — Reeves and Bullock had co-starred in the 1994 action-thriller hit Speed just a few years earlier. Reeves got the part, but even then, di Bonaventura told The Wrap that his bosses at Warner Bros. were uncomfortable greenlighting the film. The casting department went on to reach out to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Douglas for Morpheus. But that role ultimately went to Laurence Fishburne, with Hugo Weaving and Carrie-Anne Moss rounding out the cast.

“I don’t think I would change anything. The bigger the star, the more likely the studio was to say yes. So we started with the very biggest and got to Keanu and he gave us the momentum,” di Bonaventura said. “The truth is, that movie rises or falls on those four.”

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