Before there was a Neo, there was almost a Neoette. According to The Matrix producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, they were having such a hard time finding Neo (sorry!) that even though the role had been written as a man, they reached out to A-List actresses as well as actors. Since both di Bonaventura and Joel Silver had worked with Sandra Bullock, they offered her the script and, if it interested her, they were prepared to rewrite the role as a woman. As we all know, the part finally landed on Keanu Reeves and the rest, as they say, is history.
Before Keanu Reeves landed the lead in “The Matrix,” the producers had such a hard time finding the right man for the role that they briefly considered a woman — and that woman was Sandra Bullock.
Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who fought to get “The Matrix” made at Warner Bros., said the studio insisted on a big name for the Wachowskis’ epic, especially since they had only one prior directing credit prior to their dense, philosophical masterpiece.
He said Bullock, who starred alongside Reeves just a few years earlier in 1994’s “Speed,” was one of several A-listers considered for the part, including Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith.
“We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate,” di Bonaventura said. “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.”
Just for context, The Matrix came out in 1999. I’m trying hard to avoid saying this so please be kind as you register your shock and dismay but, I didn’t really get The Matrix. That’s on me and not a dig at the movie. But I do know that flipping the roles from male to female would have been very interesting. It would have worked because nothing about the movie needed gender specifics (which you wouldn’t know from the amount of men they cast). I am curious how the movie would have fared if it had a female lead instead of a male, would it have the same following it does now? Or been crucified because – ew, women. I’m pretty impressed di Bonaventura was so forward thinking, especially given how much Warner Brothers was pushing back on the film to begin with. As for Sandra, she said she doesn’t even remember being offered the role but that obviously Keanu was the right choice. This is also interesting considering Sandra remembered turning down the role of Trinity and regrets it.
The article goes in more detail about the casting difficulties and the studio’s reticence to back the film. Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith were actually signed on to the project but dropped out for various reasons. Smith explained that if he was Neo, Morpheus would have been white, and that the studio wanted Val Kilmer. Before Kilmer, they’d hoped for either Arnold Scwarzeneger or Michael Douglas to play Morpheus. Part of the casting issue was, as both Smith and di Bonventura said, that the script/story was really hard for people to understand (so I feel a little better about not getting it). But virtually everyone agrees the main roles with Keanu as Neo, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie Ann Moss as Trinity and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith, were perfect. As di Boneventura said, “the truth is, that movie rises or falls on those four.” Okay, I didn’t get the movie, but even I know that’s true.
Photo credit: WENN Photos and Getty Images
Gawd they are all beautiful people.
I loved The Matrix when it first came out. It’s still my favourite movie to date. Maybe I was also having an existential crisis because I was about to leave my teenhood, and entering the 2000s no less. I guess you could say it was my Star Wars.
I didn’t get the hype of The Matrix back then.
In fact, I preferred the last movie that according to fans, it is the worst one. So, go figure 🤷🏻♀️
But I will watch any movie with Keanu.
I might even watch the matrix again and see if I understand the hype now.
I was just thinking the same thing…in fact, I saw the DVD the other day (I really should alphabetize)…and thought exactly that! I did not get it at all (65) my son (35 now) loved it! I wonder if my older brain will get it now?
I remember I was in college back then and now I am 39. OMG, it’s been 20 years… 😮
Maybe I will get it now. Let me know what you think if you ever watch it again.
don’t worry that you didn’t “get” the matrix. there is nothing to get. it is a freshman year, new to weed quasi- philosophical thought experiment that wishes it was profound. was it beautiful? yes. was the action excellent? yes. is it 90’s iconic – sure. but intellectually – it is as deep as a puddle.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it a puddle, but because of the in-your-face philosophies, it gets a bit pedantic lol. I love the trilogy and it is quintessential late 90s. One of my favorite conversations was, of course, Merovingian in the restaurant. I enjoyed all the characters and think they were appropriately cast. Monica’s limited role was superb lol. Love her.
Hmmm, I’ve heard several different versions of how Keanu became Neo but this is new to me. I wonder why Sandy didn’t take it? I think she was overwhelmed during this period and wanted a break.
There is a Will Smith video on youtube where he explains why he turned it down. It is hilarious!
The first Matrix was amazing and existential and awesome. The second two…not so much. But still great popcorn movies. I would explain the Matrix to you Hecate, but…yeah I dont have enough time lol. It’s at once complicated and simple.
I saw the first two, and only really remember the first one. It was ok, but it really has stuck around in pop culture.
I can’t picture ANY of the other people they mentioned in the role.
That sound you here? That’s thousands of MRA man babies wailing & gnashing their teeth over the fact that their beloved “red pill” was almost taken by a woman. The irony is delicious, especially when washed down with the tears of douchebros.
Especially because the creators have now come out as trans women. Muahahaaaa
I am betting that a Matrix reboot is coming with an all.New cast trying to find out what happened to Luke Skywalker/Jesus/Neo.
There is only one The One!
Holy fuck. We could have had Carrie Anne Moss and Sandra Bullock as Trinity and Neo. We really are living in the darkest timeline. 🙁
Lol, I can picture Sandra bullock as Neo, but not as Trinity.
My dream job would a Casting Director…and I have NO problem with any of the choices listed above!!!!
Still one of the best movies ever made. Not a fan of the unnecessary sequels, but the first one is a downright masterpiece. They don’t make such intelligent and well-thought-out scripts anymore.
No surprise there since the original script was written by a black woman and she later had to sue for plagiarism.
Carrie Ann Moss has aged like a fine wine, she is gorgeous, that is all I have
Met and worked with Carrie in person a couple times due to a contract job. I had such high hopes and she turned out to be quite pretentious and arrogant. Refusing to engage with those she considered below her in rank and having this holier than thou snobbish attitude. Never meet your idols they say!