Before actor Keanu Reeves was cast as the lead in the cult sci-fi-action trilogy The Matrix, Sandra Bullock was approached by the producers. In an exclusive revelation, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura told The Wrap that Warner Bros. studio wanted a big name for the lead role of computer hacker Neo and that they initially thought of Bullock for the part.
Lorenzo said, “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.”
He added, “Joel Silver (Producer) 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.”
Had Bullock said yes to the film, it would have been a gender-flipped action film. Lorenzo also revealed that they had approached actors like Leonardo DiCaprio, Bard Pitt and Will Smith for the lead role. All of the male actors cited different reasons for not doing the project.
Lorenzo says that Brad was “way too exhausted to take this on” after coming out of Seven Years in Tibet, DiCaprio said he “can’t do another visual effects movie having just finished Titanic,” and Smith was “unimpressed by the pitch and he did Wild Wild West, instead.”
The Matrix, written and directed by Lana and Lilly Wachowski, was praised tremendously upon its release. In the years to come, it acquired the status of a cult film and is also credited with launching Reeves into mainstream cinema. The film will complete 20 years on Sunday.