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Actresses Almost Cast In The Matrix

Unless you've been living under a rock, or, perhaps more appropriately, stuck inside a computer-generated simulation of reality, you've probably heard that Keanu Reeves was not the Wachowski sisters' first choice to headline their 1999 genre-redefining action blockbuster, "The Matrix." Although it's now difficult to imagine anyone but the "Point Break" stud donning Neo's iconic black trench coat and dark sunglasses, the Wachowski's initial vision of the character was actually centered around another action movie star altogether: Will Smith.

In 2019, Smith took to his YouTube "Storytime" series to explain exactly why he turned down the opportunity to dodge bullets in the Wachowski's masterpiece, noting that their pitch was a tad unorthodox. "As it turns out, they're [the Wachowskis] geniuses. But there's a fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced in the meeting." Ultimately, Smith passed, Keanu said yes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As it turns out, Neo wasn't the only role that the Wachowskis had a bit of difficulty casting. The part of Trinity was ultimately landed by the then-relatively unknown actress Carrie-Anne Moss, and although she wound up being a perfect fit for the femme fatale, it seems she was far from the directors' first choice. Hop aboard as we time-travel back to the late nineties and find out which actresses were nearly cast in "The Matrix."

Jada Pinkett Smith

As it turns out, Will wasn't the only Smith who was nearly cast in "The Matrix." His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, was also at one point a hot name in the film's casting conversation. When speaking to The Howard Stern Show in 2015, the "Menace II Society" actress revealed that she auditioned for the role of Trinity, but after the screen test, she knew she wouldn't get the part for one glaringly obvious reason. "Keanu and I didn't, uh, really click ... We just didn't have any chemistry, he and I."

Although she may not have gotten to play Trinity, Pinkett Smith had apparently made such a positive impression on the Wachowski's that when it was time to create the second film in the franchise, "The Matrix Reloaded," they simply had to have her on-board. In a Vanity Fair video, the Baltimore-raised actress confirmed that the Wachowski's had indeed created a role in the sequel specifically for her. "I didn't get Trinity, but they kept me in mind. And they wrote a part for me called Niobe." Not a bad consolation prize at all!

Salma Hayek

You'd be hard-pressed to find a more well-rounded actress than Mexican mega-star Salma Hayek. Since her breakout role as Carolina in 1995's "Desperado," the Oscar-nominated starlet has seemingly dabbled in every genre one could think of, including comedies like Adam Sandler's "Grown Ups" movies, gritty thrillers like Oliver Stone's "Savages," and even poignant biopics like the Academy Award-winning "Frida." 

While she's proven that she can do it all, perhaps one of the most recurring genres on Hayek's resume is actually action. Recently, the Ventanarosa CEO has been spotted on the big screen fighting off Deviants as Ajak in Marvel's "Eternals," but before that, she starred in an onslaught of explosive action flicks, such as "Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard," 2003's "Once Upon a Time in Mexico," and 1999's "Wild Wild West." Believe it or not, Hayek apparently very nearly added another big-name blockbuster to her filmography back in the late nineties: "The Matrix."

In June of 2021, Hayek appeared on Jada Pinkett Smith's Red Table Talk series on Facebook Watch to discuss a slew of topics, including marriage, motherhood, and, yep, "The Matrix." The "Dogma" actress revealed that although she was one of the four finalists for the film, the role's physical demands were a tad more than she had bargained for. "I'm flexible, I'm agile, but I'm lazy ... I didn't get the part." Hey, at least the experience gifted her a lifelong friendship with fellow-finalist Jada, who she met during the audition process.


Sure she's a legend in the music business, but did you know that Madonna actually holds 16 Guinness World Records in addition to her ridiculously extensive list of accomplishments? The pop icon hasn't exactly had the easiest life, but she's certainly left her mark on pop culture -– not just with her whopping 50 Billboard Number 1 hit songs, but also in the film industry, as well. The "Like a Virgin" singer has played memorable roles in a number of movies, including 1992's "A League of Their Own," 1996's "Evita," and 2002's "Die Another Day." As it turns out, there are a few other popular flicks she nearly starred in throughout the years, too.

When appearing on "The Tonight Show" in 2021, Jimmy Fallon peppered Madonna with several popular myths and rumors about her life, asking her to differentiate which ones, if any, were true. After confirming that she had, in fact, passed on the opportunity to play Catwoman in 1992's "Batman Returns," Madonna went on to mention that there was another huge movie she'd turned down. "I also turned down the role in 'The Matrix.' Can you believe that? I wanted to kill myself. That's like one of the best movies ever made." Although she never specified which part she was offered, her penchant for wearing black leather outfits seems to make her a perfect fit for Trinity.

Sandra Bullock

While celebrating the film's twentieth anniversary in 2019, "Matrix" producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, who also has producing credits on several other notable action flicks like "Four Brothers," "Transformers," and "The Meg," dropped a few behind-the-scenes truth bombs about the making of the film. When speaking to The Wrap, the well-respected producer recalled that casting certain roles in "The Matrix," even the lead ones, was a more difficult process than one might've expected. "We went out to so many people I don't remember. We were getting desperate."

Continuing, di Bonaventura revealed that at one point, they had even reached out to Sandra Bullock, but not for the role of Trinity. "We went to Sandy Bullock and said 'We'll change Neo to a girl.' ... 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." Ultimately, she decided it wasn't for her.

However, the Wachowski's weren't just interested in Bullock as Neo. In 2009, the Oscar-winning actress told Today that she had been approached to play another role in "The Matrix," possibly Trinity, but had turned it down because it was before they had locked in Keanu as Neo, and she couldn't picture herself with the person they had wanted for Neo at the time. Although she wishes she would've starred in the movie, Bullock had nothing but kind words for Carrie-Anne Moss' performance. "Later I saw the movie and loved it. It was sexy and great because of Carrie-Anne and Keanu."

Gabrielle Union

For Gabrielle Union, the nineties mostly consisted of small roles in various TV shows, including "Smart Guy," "Sister, Sister," and "7th Heaven." Still, that didn't mean that she wasn't working for larger parts in big-name films and TV series. In her new memoir, "You Got Anything Stronger?", the Nebraska-raised actress reveals that she had actually even auditioned for arguably the best Sci-Fi movie ever made: "The Matrix."

While promoting the book on "The Late Late Show with James Corden," the "Bring It On" star delved into how she built up confidence going into such a critical audition. "I needed to feel like the most powerful woman in the world ... so, of course, I wanted to channel Janet Jackson." She "fully committed" to mimicking the pop star's appearance, even sporting "Janet Hair" that she got from Extensions Plus.

Union recalled that the look and attitude had her feeling very confident while waiting for the audition until an unexpected visitor walked in: Janet Jackson herself! Laughing it off, Union explained that neither she nor the singer she was "cosplaying as" landed the role, joking that they probably "canceled each other out." But hey, isn't imitation the sincerest form of flattery?

Janet Jackson

Although she may have been the inspiration for Gabrielle Union's "The Matrix" audition, Janet Jackson didn't just happen to stumble into the Wachowskis' office during the film's casting calls. Apparently, the multi-platinum selling artist was actually one of the top contenders for one of the film's female roles. In a 2008 interview with The Daily Voice, Jackson disclosed that when she was preparing for one of her tours, the Wachowskis approached her, hoping she would star in their movie. "I was so torn ... We were already set for it [the tour]. So, I couldn't turn back and say no I have to make [the tour] wait and do this film."

Jackson, who in 1993 had shone as Justice alongside Tupac Shakur and Regina King in "Poetic Justice," would've been an undeniably big jolt of fame into the film's cast, and it was apparently an opportunity she would've loved to have been given. Speaking to Wonderland (via Digital Spy), the "Miss You Much" songstress expressed uncontained excitement about what she could've done in the film had there not been scheduling conflicts. "I want to kick somebody's a**. Anybody's ... Kick a new hole in their butt ... I'd love to do that." With "The Matrix Resurrections" bringing the franchise back after nearly two decades, who knows — maybe Jackson will get that chance someday after all!