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In a recent interview with The New York Times, Trevor Noah, the new host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” compared his surprise appointment to the casting of “The Matrix.” Though the fact has now been consigned to an obscure bit of movie lore, the role of Neo — the po-faced hero so memorably played by Keanu Reeves — was originally offered to Will Smith.

It’s hard to imagine how Reeves’ career would have panned out if he hadn’t taken the lead in the Wachowski’s 1999 sci-fi blockbuster and its (not-so-great) sequels. Few roles are quite so iconic. Just as Ted “Theodore” Logan — the slacker protagonist that Reeves played in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure” — cast a shadow over his career throughout the ’90s, Neo has been defining it ever since.

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