Sandra Bullock Was Offered Neo Role in ‘The Matrix’ Before Keanu Reeves

It’s hard to picture Neo in The Matrix as anyone other than Keanu Reeves, but at one point it was a very real possibility. Believe it or not, Sandra Bullock was in the conversation for playing the iconic role.

Bullock became a target for the role after numerous actors turned it down, and producers were ready to change the character to a woman. However, as history will tell it, she passed on the role and it went to Keanu Reeves instead. 

Many actors turned down the Neo role in ‘The Matrix’

Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank)

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Even though The Matrix is known as a blockbuster sci-fi classic today, it was almost never made. Producers were having a hard time locking in talent for the movie, as actors were skeptical about its dense subject matter and relatively unknown directors. Because of this, a ton of A-list actors turned down the role of Neo, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura told The Wrap.

“The first movie star who says yes is Brad Pitt, he’s doing ‘Seven Years in Tibet’ and then he’s coming out of it and he’s like ‘I’m way too exhausted to take this on,’ so he’s gone,” di Bonaventura said. “Then we go to Leonardo [DiCaprio]. He says yes, we have meetings with him and then he goes, ‘You know, I can’t go do another visual effects movie having just finished ‘Titanic,” and he drops out. Then Will Smith joins it and he drops out.”

Sandra Bullock was offered the role of Neo 

As things got down to the wire, the producers became desperate. Knowing they needed a big name for the film, they offered the role to several actors whose names might seem surprising. 

“We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate,” di Bonaventura said. “We went to Sandy Bullock and said ‘We’ll change Neo to a girl.’ [Producer] Joel Silver and I worked with Sandy on ‘Demolition Man’ and she was and continues to be a very good friend of mine. It was pretty simple. 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.”

Even though things seemed promising for the crew, Bullock ultimately passed on the role. 

“It just wasn’t something for her at the time. So really it didn’t go anywhere,” di Bonaventura said. 

Sandra Bullock regrets passing on ‘The Matrix’

Although Bullock has had an extremely successful career sans The Matrix, she still regrets passing on the film. She actually wishes she could’ve played the role of Trinity, and loved the dynamic between Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss.

There haven’t been any roles that I wanted that I didn’t get, but there was a movie I wish I had done: The Matrix,” Bullock told TODAY. “At the time [I was approached about it], it wasn’t cast with Keanu [Reeves], and I didn’t see myself with the person they wanted [in it]. Later I saw the movie and loved it. It was sexy and great because of Carrie-Anne [Moss] and Keanu.

Regardless of how everyone feels, all parties involved ended up fine. Bullock’s films have grossed over $4 billion worldwide according to The Numbers, and The Matrix became a billion-dollar franchise producing three films, video games, and more.