Will Smith earned the nickname “Mr. July” for starring in 1996’s Independence Day and 1997’s Men in Black, both of which are very fun movies that came out around July 4th. After taking the holiday weekend off in 1998 (Enemy of the State was released in November), Mr. July returned the next year with Wild, Wild West, and that was the end of his Fourth of July dominance. The steampunk-western-comedy (yikes) made made money, but not as much as ID4 or MIB, and reviews were brutal. Even Smith, who apologized for tricking his fans into seeing it, has regrets about playing James West.
During Tuesday’s episode The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Smith was asked to name a piece of advice he’d give to his younger self, a nod to his upcoming film Gemini Man, where he plays a hitman who’s being targeted by a younger version of himself. “Hey man, don’t do Wild Wild West,” he replied. “I would say, ‘Dude, do Neo,’ because I got offered The Matrix.” Cue the groans from the audience. “How do you think I feel?”
Smith turned down the lead role in The Matrix because it’s a “difficult concept to pitch [and in] the pitch, I just didn’t see it… [There’s a] fine line in a pitch meeting between genius and what I experienced in the meeting.” Everything worked out fine, though. Smith is still one of the biggest movie stars in the world, and The Matrix (and its sequels, including The Matrix 4) made Keanu Reeves and the Wachowskis lots of money.
Also, wicki-wicki-wild entered the lexicon.
Gemini Man opens on October 11.