In a YouTube video on his channel, Will Smith explained why he turned down the lead role in The Matrix.
“After we made Men in Black, [The Matrix directors] the Wachowskis, they came in and it was like they only did one movie – I think it was called Bound – and they came in and they did a pitch for The Matrix,” he said. “As it turns out, they’re geniuses, but there’s a fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced in the meeting.”
Smith remembers the duo telling him: “‘Dude, we’re thinking like, imagine you’re in a fight, and then you, like, jump. Imagine if you could stop jumping in the middle of the jump. But then people could see around you 360 while you’re jumping, while you’ve stopped jumping.”
“And then, we’re gonna invent these cameras, and then people can see the whole jump while you’re stopping in the middle of the jump’,” he added.
In the end Smith added that rejecting the film was a good idea because “I probably would’ve messed the film up, so I did y’all a favour!” For him, the casting of Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne was perfect.