A producer for The Matrix has revealed that Sandra Bullock was offered the role of Neo in the 1999 sci-fi epic.
The part, played by Keanu Reeves, was presented to Bullock after the team failed to cast an A-list actor for it. In a desperate bid to secure a leading star, the producers changed Neo to a woman and hoped that Bullock would take the job.
In a new interview with The Wrap, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura explained how the team approached Bullock for the film.
“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 said. “It just wasn’t something for her at the time. So really it didn’t go anywhere.”
He continued: “[Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on Demolition Man and she was and continues to be a very good friend of mine.”
The producer added that Warner Bros. wasn’t entirely onboard with their eventual choice of Reeves. It followed an extensive search for a leading male actor, which included Brad Pitt, Will Smith, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
“The first movie star who says yes is Brad Pitt,” di Bonaventurahe said, recalling the search for a big name star. But Pitt was working on the film Seven Years in Tibet at the time and was “way too exhausted” to take on The Matrix.
DiCaprio was next on the list. He dropped out after initially saying “yes” because he didn’t want to be involved in”another visual effects movie” off the back of Titanic, di Bonaventurahe added.
In 2009 Bullock told Today that she turned down an offer to star in The Matrix, though she didn’t make it clear that it was for the role of Neo.
She said: “There haven’t been any roles that I wanted that I didn’t get, but there was a movie I wish I had done: The Matrix. At the time [I was approached about it], it wasn’t cast with Keanu [Reeves], and I didn’t see myself with the person they wanted [in it]. Later I saw the movie and loved it. It was sexy and great because of Carrie-Anne [Moss] and Keanu.”
Elsewhere in The Wrap interview, di Bonaventura said that Warner Bros. felt better about placing Reeves in the role after receiving additional financing that helped them land Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, and Hugo Weaving as Agent Smith.
“I don’t think I would change anything. The bigger the star, the more likely the studio was to say yes,” di Bonaventura said. “We started with the very biggest and got to Keanu and he gave us the momentum.
“The truth is, that movie rises or falls on those four.”