During a panel moderated by Leonard Maltin at Santa Barbara International Film Festival on Wednesday, January 22, Pitt — who was this year’s recipient of SBIFF’s Maltin Modern Master Award — discussed his body of work over the years. In doing so, he opened up about parts he turned down, including the original Matrix film.
“I really believe it was never mine. It’s not mine. It’s someone else’s and they go and make it. I really do believe in that,” the Ad Astra actor, 56, said on Wednesday. “I really do. But I did pass on The Matrix. I took the red pill.”
He continued, “Maybe it’s my upbringing. Faith, like, in the sense that, like, if I didn’t get it and it wasn’t mine, it just wasn’t mine. But I could feel myself getting closer. [That’s] usually the way it works, and I see it with younger actors too.”
Despite missing out on the opportunity to appear in the blockbuster franchise, Pitt mentioned how appreciative he is of his career’s journey while accepting the honor. “It’s also nights like this where I get to look back and feel really blessed,” the Academy Award winner said in his speech. “I feel so fortunate to all the amazing people I’ve been able to work with, that have taught me so much and touched my life.”
Pitt isn’t the first A-lister to reveal that they passed on appearing in The Matrix. This past October, Will Smith admitted that he regretted turning down the chance to star as Neo, a part that eventually went to Keanu Reeves.
“There’s a certain naivety to youth that is powerful, right,” Smith, 51, said on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert at the time. “When you don’t know something. Like, not knowing can be a real power ’cause… you’re aggressive. So, I feel like I would ask my young self for advice.”
The Pursuit of Happiness star added, “I just thought of something I would tell myself. I would go, ‘Hey man, don’t do Wild Wild West.’ I would say, ‘Dude, do Neo! Do Neo!’ ‘Cause I got offered The Matrix.”
Reeves starred in 1999’s The Matrix along with Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus) and Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith). Following the late ‘90s film’s success, The Matrix garnered two sequels.
In August 2019, Warner Bros. announced that a fourth installment to the sci-fi franchise was in the works. The upcoming film is expected to debut on May 21, 2021.
With reporting by Amanda Champagne
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