Johnny Depp has turned down a bunch of movie roles for different reasons, but there are three that ended up being played by Keanu Reeves, and these were key in boosting his career. Johnny Depp’s acting career began in 1984 when he played Glen Lantz in Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street, and even though he has appeared in movies from a variety of genres – such as the crime movie Donnie Brasco and the drama Chocolat –, he has become best known for playing “weirdos” and outcasts, mostly in his many collaborations with director Tim Burton.
Keanu Reeves’ acting career began in 1985 with the short film One Step Away, but his first lead role arrived three years later in the drama Permanent Record. Reeves’ breakout role happened in 1989 when he played Ted Logan in the sci-fi comedy Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and while he played a variety of roles after that (though not all of them well-received by critics and viewers), his career went through a turnaround when he starred in the sci-fi movie The Matrix. Reeves is now one of the most popular and beloved action stars in the entertainment industry, and surprisingly, three of his most notable roles were almost played by Johnny Depp: Johnny Utah in Point Break, Jack Traven in Speed, and Neo in The Matrix.
It’s Good Johnny Depp Wasn’t In Point Break, Speed & The Matrix
According to the notes on the Point Break DVD, and as noted by many other sources, the production crew of Point Break had other actors in mind for the role of Johnny Utah when the movie was close to production in the late 1980s. Among the names considered for the role was Johnny Depp, but production fell through and the project was picked up again four years later. Not long after, when the action movie Speed was in pre-production, Johnny Depp was offered the role of Jack Traven but he turned it down, and director Jan de Bont cast Keanu Reeves after seeing his performance in Point Break.
Last but not least, Johnny Depp was the Wachowskis’ first choice for Neo in The Matrix (according to composer Don Davis), but Warner Bros. was pushing for Brad Pitt or Val Kilmer. After Pitt and Kilmer turned down the offer, it came down to Johnny Depp and Keanu Reeves, the latter being the studio’s choice, and so Reeves ended up getting the role. None of these roles actually fit Johnny Depp’s style, as he’s a lot better suited to play outcasts and weirdos, and he isn’t an action star – and while Neo is an outcast, Keanu Reeves perfectly understood the concept of The Matrix and fit the Wachowskis’ vision, so much so that it’s hard to imagine someone playing a better Neo than Keanu Reeves.
Hollywood Would Be Very Different If Depp Had Played These Keanu Reeves Roles
By the time Point Break came out, Johnny Depp was already widely known thanks to his roles in Cry-Baby and Edward Scissorhands, the latter marking the beginning of his collaborations with Tim Burton and setting the tone for the type of characters he would become best known for. However, had he starred in Point Break and/or Speed, and supposing these were a success, Depp would have become an action star in the early 1990s, which would have surely taken his career on a different path.
Adding The Matrix to the mix would have impacted Pirates of the Caribbean as Depp might have made different choices and thus pass on the chance of playing Jack Sparrow (or not been considered for it at all) and many other now-famous Depp characters. As for Keanu Reeves, he might not be the big action star he’s now and he might not be playing John Wick at all if Johnny Depp had taken all those roles, but given Reeves’ talent and charm, he would have still become one of the most beloved actors of his generation.