Sandra Bullock was almost cast as Neo on The Matrix after Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith both dropped out of the long casting process.
Matrix producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura talked to The Wrap that before they cast Keanu Reeves in the movie, they wanted Sandra Bullock for the role. He said, “We went out to so many people I don’t remember. We were getting desperate.”
He added, “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.”
Bullock turned down the role, after which Brad Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Will Smith also turned it down. Bonaventura said, “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.”
He added, “Then we go to Leonardo [DiCaprio]. He says yes, we have meetings with him. 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.”
He continued with how he feels about the movie after the entire casting drama, saying, “I don’t think I would change anything. The bigger the star, the more likely the studio was to say yes. So we started with the very biggest and got to Keanu and he gave us the momentum.”
Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock appeared in the 1994 movie Speed together.