Few names in popular culture command the kind of respect that Madonna does. Over the four decades since her debut single “Everybody” hit the airwaves, she has become the most successful female artist ever, having sold more than 300 million albums and singles worldwide. Her tours have brought in over $1.5 billion in ticket sales, and she’s had more singles on the Billboard Hot 100 than any other solo artist in music history.
Then there’s Madonna’s acting career, on both the stage and the silver screen. Over the years she’s given life to some truly memorable roles, from femme fatale lounge singer Breathless Mahoney in “Dick Tracy,” to sassy center-fielder Mae Mordabito in “A League of Their Own,” to her Golden Globe-winning turn as Argentinian first lady Eva Perón in “Evita.”
Any actress with this kind of resume will, naturally, be turning down her fair share of roles. During a recent appearance on “The Tonight Show,” host Jimmy Fallon asked her about two roles she famously turned down in the 1990s: Catwoman in “Batman Returns” and the Cristal Connors in “Showgirls.” But Madonna also turned down one particular role she regrets, which would have seen her star next to none other than Keanu Reeves in a film she describes as “one of the best movies ever made.”
“I also turned down the role in ‘The Matrix,'” Madonna told Fallon. “Can you believe that?” Fallon was shocked, partly because the idea of a star like Madonna regretting anything was unbelievable to him, and partly because he understandably wonders what “The Matrix” would have been like with Madonna. “A teeny tiny part of me regrets just that one moment in my life,” she told him.
Indeed, “The Matrix” was a box office smash when it was released in 1999, and it easily ranks among the most celebrated science fiction and action movies of all time. Madonna didn’t say which part she turned down. Given her star power, she likely would have been up for the starring role of Trinity, one of the bullet-dodging rebels working to bring down the techno-parasitic machines, and love interest to Keanu Reeves’ Neo. Ultimately, Trinity was played by Carrie-Anne Moss.
Since its release, “The Matrix” has spawned a lucrative sci-fi franchise, including sequels, animated shorts, and video games. Alongside his earlier work in “Johnny Mnemonic,” it also helped establish Reeves as a cyberpunk mainstay. Not only has he starred in other gritty sci-fi properties like “A Scanner Darkly,” he lent his voice and likeness to “Cyberpunk 2077.”
Most recently, after almost 20 years, Reeves and Moss reprised their roles for “The Matrix Resurrections.” Whether Madonna would have also agreed to come back as Trinity and rekindle the two characters’ romance is, of course, impossible to know. But with casting for her “visual autobiography” now underway, she’ll likely be staying busy.