Will Smith snub: How star rejected The Matrix role for lead in Wild Wild West flop

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Smith has remained among the headlines in recent weeks after his infamous row with Oscars host Chris Rock marred his Academy Award win. The 53-year-old apologised after slapping Rock at the ceremony earlier this year, before collecting the Best Actor award for his moving portrayal in King Richard. While the outburst may be one he regrets, Smith once made another decision that could have changed the course of his career, and other megastars too.

A throwback report shows how Smith turned down playing Neo in The Matrix franchise, to pursue a role in Wild Wild West.

Last year, Reeves, who took on the role in place of Smith, thanked the Fresh Prince of Bel Air star for snubbing the part, and allowing him to take centre stage in the franchise.

In an interview Esquire, Reeves said: “Well, it changed my life. And, it was such a wonderful creative experience, and so to play Neo in The Matrix trilogy and now in the fourth.

“It impacted my life, personally and creatively. Thank you very much.”

Will Smith snub: How star rejected The Matrix role for lead in Wild Wild West flop

Will Smith snub: How star rejected The Matrix role for lead in Wild Wild West flop (Image: GETTY)

Will Smith won the Best Actor Oscar this year

Will Smith won the Best Actor Oscar this year (Image: GETTY)

Smith reportedly turned down the role to play US Army Captain James “Jim” T. West, opposite Kevin Kline in the action-adventure flick.

But the film was met with mostly negative reviews, and received 11 nominations at the Golden Raspberry Awards in 2000.

Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 16 percent approval rating, with legendary film critic Roger Ebert, of The Chicago Sun-Times, giving it a one star out of four review.

He said at the time: “Wild Wild West is a comedy dead zone. You stare in disbelief as scenes flop and die.

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Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars (Image: GETTY)

“The movie is all concept and no content; the elaborate special effects are like watching money burn on the screen.”

Janet Maslin, of The New York Times, was also critical, claiming the film “leaves reality so far behind that its storytelling would be arbitrary even by comic-book standards, and its characters share no common ground or emotional connection”.

Smith himself has commented on his snub, admitting that the success of Independence Day made him feel invincible.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Smith said in 2019: “I made Wild Wild West. I’m not proud of it.”

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Will Smith with his Oscar

Will Smith with his Oscar (Image: GETTY)

He added: “Keanu was perfect, Laurence Fishburne was perfect.”

“So I probably would have messed The Matrix up. I would have ruined it, so I did y’all a favor.”

Smith also revealed that had he been cast as Neo, Fishburne’s role as Morpheus would have gone to Val Kilmer.

Smith’s career began as a rapper, under the name the Fresh Prince, before he achieved huge box office success in the Noughties.

As well as his Oscar, the star is the winner of a BAFTA, Golden Globe and four Grammy Awards.

Filming locations in the UK

Filming locations in the UK (Image: EXPRESS)

As of 2021, Smith’s films have grossed nearly $10billion (£7.6billion) globally, to make him one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

After his altercation with Rock, Smith subsequently resigned from the Academy.

He was banned from attending Academy functions, including the Oscars, for ten years.

His Oscar win saw him become the fifth black actor to claim the Academy Award for Best Actor.

He was also nominated for his roles in The Pursuit of Happyness and Ali.



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