Keanu Reeves is among those actors whose mere presence immediately brings to mind the legendary Matrix film, which was released 25 years ago. Interestingly, it was The Matrix that revived the actor’s career after facing a downturn with a series of unsuccessful horror movies. Launched in 1999, the movie has attained a cult following and is recognized as a pivotal moment in the sci-fi genre. (Also read: The Matrix turns 25: Keanu Reeves’ seminal film stands out as a unique sci-fi spectacle where complexity reigns)

Keanu Reeves in an image from The Matrix.

The Casting Process of The Matrix

The narrative of its casting process is a remarkable one. From Brad Pitt to Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith to Johnny Depp, various prominent young actors during that era were considered for the lead role of computer programmer Thomas Anderson, who goes by the hacker alias ‘Neo’. Interestingly, the casting process faced significant challenges, to the extent that the idea of a female lead was initially pondered, with Sandra Bullock being a potential choice, as mentioned in a source by The Wrap.

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After the massive success of Titanic, Leonardo was reluctant to engage in another project heavy on visual effects. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura also disclosed in the same interview that Brad Pitt turned down the opportunity. “Initially, Brad Pitt signed on, but after ‘Seven Years in Tibet’, he felt too drained to commit to another project,” he disclosed.

Successive Film Ventures

Keanu’s filmography included a string of underperforming movies. The 1993 film Freaked received mixed feedback, and did not contribute positively to Keanu’s career, where he played an uncredited role as Ortiz ‘The Dog Boy’. Following this, the hit action movie Speed in 1994 with Sandra Bullock met success. However, subsequent films like Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction, Feeling Minnesota, The Last Time I Committed Suicide, and The Devil’s Advocate did not fare well with critics or at the box office.

It was the bold move that Keanu took with The Matrix, portraying a computer programmer named Thomas A Anderson, who leads a double life as a hacker known as Neo, that eventually paid dividends. The film grossed $469 million against a $60 million budget and received critical acclaim. Notably, it garnered 4 Oscar nominations, winning in all categories – including Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, and Best Sound Mixing.

Over time, The Matrix has been hailed by fans as one of the supreme science fiction works of all time. It introduced the ground-breaking ‘bullet time’ visual effect, where a sequence is shown in slow motion as the camera moves at normal speed within the scene. Furthermore, it paved the way for two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Keanu experienced further success years later, especially with his portrayal of John Wick.

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