Coulda, woulda, shoulda. Jada Pinkett Smith originally flirted with the possibility of playing Trinity in The Matrix. At the same time, her husband Will Smith was involved in talks to play the main character Neo, "the chosen one."
It did not work out for either actor for the film that became a 1999 hit and pop culture phenomenon. Larry and Andy Wachowski ended up with two Canadians in the key roles.
Keanu Reeves was cast in the Neo role — it dramatically resuscitated his mainstream movie star career — while the then unknown Carrie-Anne Moss did a star turn as Trinity.
And that was exactly right for the original film, Pinkett Smith says now.
The 32-year-old says her husband has no regrets. "Nah. He knows for an absolute fact that he couldn't have done the job that Keanu did. He knows it would have been a different movie with him in it. He thinks he probably would have ruined it."
As for her own participation, things worked out perfectly. She and the Wachowski brothers, parted on good terms in 1999 and the co-writers/co-directors wrote her into the two sequels. Pinkett Smith plays the gung-ho femme fighter Niobe in both The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, which is due in theatres Nov. 7.
"What I loved about Niobe was that she was created for me," Pinkett Smith says of a character who joins Neo, Trinity and warrior Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) on a quest to discover the secrets of the Matrix computer system that threatens free humans in a retro-future world.
"I met the Wachowskis for the first Matrix," Pinkett Smith says, "so I really didn't need to read anything when I was told: 'They created this character for you!' 'Really? Any nudity?' " The answer turned out to be no.
"All right then!" Pinkett Smith says of how she felt joining the Matrix team, fully clothed. "Let's get it on!"
Her husband is not jealous, says Pinkett Smith. Instead, he's supportive. "There's no rubbing faces in anything. You know, he's just really happy for me because he knew how much loved the first one was. And to be able for it to come back around again, and for me to have the opportunity to be involved, he was just really happy for me. He really was."
The couple have two children, son Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, who will be five in July, and daughter Willow Camille Reign Smith, who will be three a week before Revolutions is released.
Willow was born just before Smith had to ramp up her physical training and join the rest of the cast in intensive martial arts and other physical training for the sequels.
Even though the kids are young, they're eager to see mom in the Matrix movies, if and when they're allowed to go. "Yeah," says Pinkett Smith, "they're very psyched."
She, on the other hand, is not worked up yet, especially about the exalted and sometimes controversial place The Matrix movies have in pop culture.
"It hasn't really hit me yet, in that sense. I did this movie because I love the Wachowski brothers. I did it because I loved the project, you know. I really didn't think about the (hype) because, you know in my life right now ... I mean, come on."
She laughs. As a movie star married to a movie star, Pinkett Smith knows fame already.
"So, at the end of the day, this really was for the love of it. And to do a movie like this, it has to be. It has to be."