“He was our maniac”: The Matrix Directors Struck Gold With Keanu Reeves After Actor Agreed to Their Tough Conditions That Made Sandra Bullock Shudder

Keanu Reeves has portrayed several iconic characters throughout his acting career and has become one of the most renowned action stars of the time. Some of the most celebrated work of the actor includes The Matrix and the John Wick franchise. Both film series required the actor to go through extreme training to perform his stunts and action sequences.
Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves
While Reeves’ The Matrix series has gained a massive fan following all around the world, it once faced difficulty in casting its leading man, Neo. A 2019 Wired article reveals the makers’ struggle to find their protagonist until they finally met the Speed actor.

Keanu Reeves Wasn’t High on the Studio’s Wish List For Neo

Keanu Reeves was not the initial choice for leading the $1.7 billion franchise. Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski reportedly wanted to cast Johnny Depp in the 1999 film The Matrix. However, things did not go according to their plan, and the movie faced rejection from several Hollywood stars, including Will Smith, Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and even Sandra Bullock.

Keanu Reeves in a still from The Matrix (1999)A still from The Matrix
Smith found the makers’ plan a bit confusing and rejected the offer. While Pitt and DiCaprio initially accepted the offer, they later declined for their respective reasons. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura shared that the Seven Years in Tibet actor finished the 1997 film and stated that he was “way too exhausted” to star in The Matrix.

The Titanic star denied the role, claiming that he did not want to do another project involving heavy use of visual effects. The makers even suggested swapping the lead character for a female and sent the screenplay to Reeves’ Speed co-star Sandra Bullock.
Sandra Bullock

Sandra Bullock
However, she also declined the offer and later shared that the 1999 sci-fi action was “a movie I wish I had done.” After going through multiple actors, the role was finally offered to The Devil’s Advocate star, who immediately accepted the offer.

The Matrix Found its Leading Man in Keanu Reeves

The makers of The Matrix eventually sent the screenplay of the 1999 film to Keanu Reeves, who was eager to learn more about the movie and what Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski had in mind for it. “When I first read that script, it made my blood happy,” he said.

The Matrix (1999)The Matrix (1999)
During their first meeting, they discussed some of the details of the movie, and Reeves shared that the sisters set some conditions for him. He was asked to train for four months for the film, and Reeves happily accepted the requirements.

They told me they wanted [me] to train for four months before filming. And I got a big grin on my face and said, ‘Yes,’” he recalled. The Wachowskis have also shared that they knew that they would need someone with “maniacal commitment” to accept and prepare for the role, and “Keanu was [their] maniac.”

The Matrix franchise is available on Max.

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