Award season tends to be a drag, but if we’re lucky there’s one person who makes it a periodic delight. Last year it was Olivia Colman. This year it’s Brad Pitt. The star and ageless time lord has been scooping up award after award, all thanks to his peerlessly chill turn as stunt man (and possible wife-killer) Cliff Booth in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And with those trophies come speeches and interviews that are hilarious, sometimes even revealing. One thing we didn’t know about Pitt: He turned down The Matrix.
According to Entertainment Weekly, the actor (and, lest we forget, rock star producer, his name on everything from Selma to Okja to Moonlight) was at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival Wednesday, where he was handed yet another trophy: the Maltin Modern Master Award, the fest’s highest accolade. And wouldn’t you know he gave yet another laidback, joke-heavy speech, this time revealing he was nearly Neo.
“I did pass on The Matrix. I took the red pill. That’s the only one I’m naming,” he said. “I wasn’t offered two or three. Only the first one. Just to clarify that. I come from a place, maybe it’s my upbringing, if I didn’t get it, then it wasn’t mine. I really believe [the role] was never mine. It’s not mine. It was someone else’s and they go and make it.”
That person, of course, was Keanu Reeves, who got to reveal that he knew kung fu. But don’t worry, Pitt still got to beat people up in a very, very different film released later that year: Fight Club. That film’s director, David Fincher, was there to give Pitt his trophy, and Pitt made sure to name-drop it in his speech.
“It’s things like this and nights like these that tell me I’m old,” he said. “I’ve been around a while and I’ve been doing this for a bit…. I can’t do night shoots anymore, and I’ll gladly hand a stunt over to a stunt man. I no longer remember the first rule of Fight Club. But it’s also nights like this where I get to look back and feel really, really blessed.”
Pitt has already won a dozen awards for his Once Upon a Time turn. On February 9 we’ll find out if he nabs his first acting Oscar, too.