Did You Know...
Will Smith was the preferred choice to play the role of Neo in the 1999 blockbuster surprise, The Matrix, which went on to birth two par sequels? Apparently, Mr. Smith turned the role down, which was later offered to Keanu Reeves.
I just can't picture Big Willy as Neo - it would've been a slightly different film altogether, as I think his performance would have made it such.
For all his faults as an actor, I think Keanu was actually the better choice for the role. Obviously, my perspective is tainted somewhat because I've seen Keanu thrice already as Neo, so it would indeed be a little difficult to imagine someone else in it, regardless of who that person might be. Keanu's seemingly natural vacuous, deer-caught-in-headlights look, actually turned out to be more of a compliment to the film than a detriment, as Neo's struggle towards self-awareness practically called for that kind of a performer or performance.
Interestingly, Will turned down the role to make Wild Wild West, which ended up a critical and slightly commercial flop.
So, indulge me here for a minute folks... we can only imagine what The Matrix could have been with Will Smith (a black actor) in the lead role, flanked by Laurence Fishburne (also a black actor), and one could assume that Trinity, Neo's love interest, would have been a black woman (maybe). The original Matrix, by the way, was allegedly influenced by a manuscript called The Third Eye, created by a black woman, (Google Sophia Stewart if you have heard nothing of this), although the producers and Warner Brothers, the studio responsible for distributing the film, have done their best to minimize the propagation of this knowledge, as well as the damage that this wonderful piece of news could do to their reputations). So, again, indulge me here... with all that in mind - a starring black cast notably - imagine what The Matrix could have been, or what it could have meant to cinema (specifically black cinema), given just how influential it became. Would it have been as successful? Would we have seen 2 sequels - sequels that introduced even more black characters?
To his credit, Will Smith later stated that, if given the role at that time, he "would have messed it up." I agree :o)