Brad Pitt Confirms He Passed on Neo Role in The Matrix

Keanu Reeves in The Matrix (Warner Bros.) and Brad Pit in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (photo by Andrew Cooper via Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Even if you’re one of the most acclaimed actors in the world, there’s always that one role got away. For Brad Pitt, it turns out it was the character of Neo in The Matrix.

Pitt was recently at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival to receive the Maltin Modern Master Award when he revealed the tidbit to People. When pressed about big roles he’d passed on, he gave in and shared, “I’ll give you one, only one, because I really believe it was never mine.”

“It’s not mine. It’s someone else’s and they go and make it,” Pitt said. “I really do believe in that. I really do. But I did pass on The Matrix. I took the red pill.”

(Read: The Matrix Was Prescient About the Online World, But Also the Real World)

News of Pitt’s passed up the role initially surfaced last year in a feature by The Wrap. According to The Matrix producers, Pitt had declined the gig because he was far too exhausted after working on Seven Years in Tibet. Today’s People story, however, marks the first time Pitt has confirmed the Neo news himself.

The Oscar nominee wasn’t the only one to turn Neo down. It’s well known the part was offered to Will Smith, who infamously passed to star in Wild Wild West. Additional actors considered were Leonardo DiCaprio, Val Kilmer, Nicolas Cage, and Johnny Depp. The role was also presented to Sandra Bullock with the intention to rework Neo’s character, but ultimately it didn’t happen. The iconic role, of course, went to Keanu Reeves, and the movie itself became a science fiction classic.

The film just celebrated its 20th anniversary last summer by returning to theaters for a single week. It’s not just a thing of the nostalgic past, though, as The Matrix 4 is due out in theaters in 2021.

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