We almost had a female Neo, which would have been a real game changer


While Keanu Reeves is the face of The Matrix, a producer admits that a few actors were considered for the part of Neo, including actress Sandra Bullock.

20 years after The Matrix was released, the title easily conjures an image of Keanu Reeves clad in a leather trench coat and shades. It’s hard to imagine anyone else being the lead of the trilogy, and Reeves has become synonymous with the titular character Neo. But as of recently, reports have divulged that the creators of the sci-fi movies had other options that they deliberated over before deciding to make Reeves the official Neo.

Just recently, Will Smith admitted that he had been offered the role of Neo and although his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith encouraged him (she herself had a part in the films), Smith decided to decline the offer. Smith recorded a video to further elaborate on the subject and explained that the Wachowskis’ pitch was the ultimate deal breaker in making his decision.

The Wachowskis’ went into a spiel describing Neo’s gravity-defying ability to jump in mid-air and pause for what seems like forever. They also described the 360° camera effect that The Matrix is famously known for, which was an alien concept. Smith seemed to think that it was going to be a weird movie created by some amateurs an instead took the lead in The Wild Wild West. It’s a decision he now regrets considering the success of The Matrix.

To add to the list of actors that could have been Neo, Matrix producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura recently admitted to The Wrap that Brad Pitt, Leonardo Di Caprio, and even Sandra Bullock were considered for the role. The Wachowskis were considered newbies in the film industry at the time, with only one film under their belt, and therefore there was a lot of pressure for an entertainment star to be featured in the film to boost its credibility.

In light of the demand that the film have a star, The Wachowskis were willing to rewrite Neo’s character as a female for the right person. Di Bonaventura had a previous relationship with Bullock due to their work on Demolition Man so pitching the script to the celebrated actress was as easy as reaching out to a friend. Unfortunately, Bullock’s busy schedule didn’t allow her to take on the role. The producers of the film moved on and eventually decided to go with Reeves.

But the “what if” of this new information makes me wonder what The Matrix could have been. What if Bullock had been Neo? How would The Matrix have changed the film industry with a woman in the starring role of the sci-fi blockbuster that would pave the road for so many other movies? What would have stayed and what would have changed in the films? And most importantly, what would women everywhere have thought after seeing a movie where a woman becomes the savior of humanity during the robotic apocalypse?

Interestingly enough, there are about three characters that Bullock has played in movies that could easily define what the female Neo could have been.

Bullock is no stranger to playing headstrong women in movies, and a lot of the qualities evident in characters she has played would have been ideal for developing the character. I imagine Bullock’s Neo would have been a combination of Lenina Huxley (Demolition Man), Annie (Speed), and Cassie Mayweather (Murder by Numbers). Something along the lines of a confident woman that is determined that just happens to be able to dodge bullets and suspend herself indefinitely during a mid-air jump.

Had Bullock played Neo in The Matrix, Halloween could have been riddled with little girls wearing shades and leather from head to toe knowing that they were portraying the “chosen one” and not a supporting girlfriend.

The best part is that in the best case scenario of a rewrite, Trinity would have been a male and the Oracle would have been telling a man that his purpose was to support a female savior. That in itself would have been worth all the money in my pockets as well as all the accolades in the world.

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Bullock may have missed the boat on becoming Neo, but it’s never too late for a woman to become the savior of humanity. In consideration of the recent popularity of reboots, there can always be a new Neo that happens to be a woman, or even better; someone can create a story written for a woman about a new savior riding out their own sci-fi adventure.