Ewan McGregor Missed ‘The Matrix,’ and the Sequel Destroyed 1 of His Movies

Ewan McGregor has made a wild assortment of movies over his career. The actor is perhaps best known for playing Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. But he’s also starred in hits like Trainspotting, Moulin Rouge, and Big Fish. But McGregor was also reportedly up for a variety of high-profile roles he didn’t get, including The Matrix. Ironically, one of the film’s sequels massively overshadowed one of McGregor’s own movies.

Ewan McGregor frowns dressed in black
Ewan McGregor | Mike Smith/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Ewan McGregor was rumored to be up for ‘The Matrix’

McGregor debuted as Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The movie was, of course, a huge commercial hit. But it received a less than stellar critical reception. And during awards season, it was wildly outperformed by another sci-fi adventure, The Matrix. Thanks to its high-concept story and “bullet time” visual effects, The Matrix sparked a phenomenon. Reports since have claimed McGregor was up for the role of Neo.

If that’s indeed the case, the actor was likely under contract to play Obi-Wan Kenobi and couldn’t take the part anyway. But it’s wild to consider a world in which McGregor could have played both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Neo. Certainly, the role would have been very different in his hands. And few can argue against Keanu Reeves’ iconic portrayal of Neo in The Matrix franchise, a role he reprised for 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections.

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‘The Matrix Reloaded’ defeated his ‘Down with Love’

Naturally, The Matrix sparked a film series of its own. In 2003, the film got twin sequels. The Matrix Reloaded hit theaters in May, with The Matrix Revolutions out that November. With anticipation high, the first of these two sequels earned $282 million domestically according to Box Office Mojo. That total handily outperformed the first film. But another movie hits theaters on May 15, 2003 as well, a film starring McGregor and Renee Zellweger.

Down with Love is a cheeky romantic comedy that pokes fun at the 1960s sex comedies starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Clearly, the film’s release opposite The Matrix Reloaded was intended as counter-programming. Moviegoers uninterested in the sci-fi sequel had a lighter alternative when they arrived at the theater. But it’s safe to say it didn’t pan out, as Down with Love earned a paltry $20 million domestically during its theatrical run.

Ewan McGregor joins Disney+ on ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’

Despite its disappointing box office take, Down with Love has slowly developed a cult fan base. The movie — directed by Ant-Man’s Peyton Reed — features perhaps the most underrated performances by its two leads. And unencumbered by box office expectations or the charisma of Reeves’ Neo, the movie’s legacy continues to grow.

Speaking of legacy, McGregor returns to Star Wars for the upcoming Disney+ limited series Obi-Wan Kenobi. He las played the role on screen in 2005’s Revenge of the Sith. And after years of rumor and speculation, fans are eager to see how the show fills in the time between the Jedi Purge and the attack on the Death Star in the original film.

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