18 years after hitting theaters, The Matrix is still an indelible part of pop culture. The franchise made headlines yet again last month with news that Warner Bros. has hired writer Zak Penn to write a new Matrix movie. Rumors then surfaced that Michael B. Jordan is wanted as a young Morpheus in a prequel. What some fans may not realize is that Will Smith had originally been offered the role of Neo, but turned it down, opting instead to star in The Wild Wild West. This paved the way for Keanu Reeves to land the iconic role, which he reprised in the sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Now, an inventive fan took it upon himself to cut together a trailer that shows what it may have looked like if Will Smith had played Neo.
A YouTube and Reddit user dubbed The Unusual Suspect debuted this fan trailer on social media, which has gained a lot of traction, with the video amassing over 490,000 views since it launched. Using footage from Will Smith movies like I, Robot, Enemy Of the State, Men in Black and Focus, among others, The Unusual Suspect cut together a convincing teaser that includes shots from the original Matrix trailer with Will Smith footage spliced in. Here’s what The Unusual Suspect had to say about how he put the video together, when responding to a Reddit commenter.
“This took about 3 days. Sorry, don’t know the exact amount of time this took (should start logging this in the future). I started by taking the official trailer for The Matrix and removing all of Keanu Reeves dialogue and footage. Then I had to replace the rest of the footage with more high quality footage (I used an old 1999 trailer). Then I skimmed through Will Smith’s movies (I chose films like I Robot, Enemy of the State, Men in Black and Focus amongst some others). Once I came across a clip that fit into a scene from the traile}r, I simply popped it in the timeline. There’s about 10 instances here though where I put Will Smith INTO the shot. So there I looked for clips of Will Smith making a similar pose to Reeves. Then I rotobrushed in After Effects and color corrected. Then I removed Reeves in Photoshop, motion tracked accordingly, and voila. As for Will Smith’s dialogue, sometimes I just got lucky whilst skimming and found something that fit. Other times, I found the needed dialogue by taking the scripts to Will Smith’s films and using CTRL+F to find what Keanu Reeves said. So for example, Reeves says ‘What is happening to me?’. And I found Will Smith saying ‘What’s happening to me?’ in Enemy of the State. There’s one instance in this mash where I sentence mixed it though. When Will Smith says “What truth?”, he actually says “THE truth” in the original clip from Focus. I just found a clip of him saying “What” in I Robot and put it in replace of ‘the.'”
This isn’t the first time Will Smith has turned down a role in what would become a huge movie. The actor famously turned down the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, since he wouldn’t be the “real star” of the film, which he believed to be Christoph Waltz’s bounty hunter character Dr. King Schultz. The Django role ultimately went to Jamie Foxx, with Will Smith also turning down Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Phone Booth, K-Pax and Superman Returns. After turning down The Matrix, Will Smith went on to star in The Wild Wild West, which opened in June 1999, a few months after The Matrix debuted in March of that year. The Wild Wild West earned $113.8 million domestically and $221.1 million worldwide, from a massive $170 million budget. The first Matrix movie earned $171.4 million domestically and $463.5 million worldwide, from a $63 million budget.
As for Matrix 4, writer Zak Penn took to social media shortly after the news was announced, making it clear that he is not rebooting The Matrix, although he wouldn’t offer any specific details on whether this new movie was a prequel or sequel. There has also been talk that Warner Bros. is putting together a writer’s room to develop more ideas for future Matrix projects, but that news, along with the potential casting of Michael B. Jordan as a young Morpheus, has not been confirmed. While we wait for more on this new project, take a look at this inventive fan trailer which shows what The Matrix may have looked like if Will Smith would have played Neo.