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How the Matrix revived Keanu Reeves career and cemented his status as a leading star | Hollywood


Keanu Reeves is one of those stars whose presence instantly reminds fans worldwide of the iconic Matrix movie, which released 25 years ago. But did you know that it was The Matrix that actually revived the star’s career after he was beaten down in a career slump with a bunch of unsuccessful horror movies? Released in 1999, the film enjoys a cult status, and is considered to bring an emblematic shift in sci-fi movies. (Also read: The Matrix turns 25: Keanu Reeves’ seminal film is that rare sci-fi movie where nothing is dumbed down)

Keanu Reeves in a still from The Matrix.

Casting for The Matrix

The story of its casting is another feat altogether. From Brad Pitt to Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith to Johnny Depp, the lead role of computer programmer Thomas Anderson, a hacker using the alias ‘Neo’ was tossed around by some of the leading young stars of that time. What’s more, the producers had such a hard time casting the lead role for a male actor that they initially suggested to be remade with a female lead, and wanted Sandra Bullock to be in it, according to a report by The Wrap.

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Leo was fresh out of the gigantic success of Titanic and was not eager to do another film which had a lot of visual effects. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura also revealed to the same publication that Brad Pitt declined the offer. “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 revealed.

Consecutive roles

Keanu was in a number of movies that fared poorly. 1993’s Freaked received mixed reviews, and did not do any favour for Keanu who starred in an uncredited role as Ortiz ‘The Dog Boy’. Then came the successful 1994 action feature Speed with Sandra Bullock. That was succeeded by Johnny Mnemonic, Chain Reaction, Feeling Minnesota, The Last Time I Committed Suicide, and The Devil’s Advocate, all of which received negative reviews and poor box office returns.

It was only with the risk that Keanu took with The Matrix, as a computer programmer, born Thomas A Anderson, who secretly works as a hacker named Neo, that ultimately paid off. It went on to collect $469 million on a $60 million budget and received glowing reviews. What’s more? The film even went to be nominated for 4 Oscars, winning them all- including Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects and Best Sound.

Over the years, The Matrix has been dubbed by fans as one of the best science fiction films of all time. It also popularized a visual effect known as ‘bullet time’, where a shot is in slow-motion while the camera appears to move in the scene at normal speed. It also led to the making of two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions. Keanu would taste more success after a few years, when he would take on the role of John Wick.

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