Agent Smith could be replaced by a digital successor in The Matrix 4, and here’s the evidence. Memorably played by Hugo Weaving, Agent Smith is the ice cool arch-villain of the Matrix trilogy. Originally a piece of software created by the Machines to police the simulated Matrix world, Agent Smith would roam around shutting down subversive humans like Thomas Anderson who threatened the illusion’s stability, and chasing off awakened residents of Zion such as Morpheus and Trinity, who sought to recruit new members to their cause. Smith performed his duties with characteristically machine-like precision, but also demonstrated an innate disdain towards natural life forms, preferring the order and regime of data to the chaos and unpredictability of flesh and blood.
After being defeated by Neo in the original 1999 Matrix movie, Smith returns as an exile program and sets out assimilating other Agents and programs to grow more powerful. Released from his assigned purpose, Smith yearns to destroy the last remaining humans of Zion and escape the confines of the Matrix as a free piece of code. Alas, Smith’s hubris and greed spells his doom, as the villain succumbs to the combined efforts of Neo and the Machines, seemingly destroyed for good.
Now set for release in 2022, The Matrix 4 will continue the story of the original trilogy, bringing classic characters such as Neo and Trinity back into the fold. However, the fate of Agent Smith in the upcoming sequel remains unknown, at least officially. Lana Wachowski has yet to confirm the overall plot of The Matrix 4, and despite Neo and Trinity cheating death to reprise their roles, there’s no word on Smith, with a new main antagonist widely expected to appear instead. Even if Smith is ousted as the lead villain, the character could still make an appearance in The Matrix 4, but every indication is pointing to a brand new version of the snappily-dressed assassin..
The biggest hint regarding Smith’s presence in The Matrix 4 comes from the rather reputable source of Hugo Weaving himself. Back in January, Weaving candidly revealed he was approached by Lana Wachowski to return in The Matrix 4, and the two sides hammered out a schedule that would allow Weaving to film his scenes as Agent Smith while honoring a prior commitment to The Visit, a West End production due to run in 2020 simultaneous to production on The Matrix 4. As Weaving tells it, an arrangement had been reached, but Wachowski changed her mind, leaving the actor to his stint in the West End and ending his participation in The Matrix 4.
In the absence of further comment from Wachowski, it’s impossible to say why the decision was made to push ahead without Weaving, but the attempt to capture his services does at least confirm Smith’s presence in The Matrix 4. In some cases, a sequel director will sound out an actor about a possible return before finalizing the script. For example, Viggo Mortensen was asked about making a Middle-earth comeback in the early stages of production on The Hobbit, but shot the idea down since Aragorn doesn’t feature in the original book. This isn’t the case with Hugo Weaving in The Matrix 4. In a more recent interview, the actor elaborated on his absence, explaining that he was convinced to reprise his character after reading Wachowski’s script, proving that Lana wasn’t just gauging Weaving’s interest in playing Smith again – the stern-faced Agent was part of the design.
Hugo Weaving has confirmed that, at one stage, Agent Smith was destined to plug back into The Matrix, but after his diary proved impossible to accommodate, Lana Wachowski would’ve been left with two choices: cut Smith entirely, or cast a different character. Given Weaving’s later comments in a subsequent September 2020 interview, recasting seems the more likely option by a comfortable margin.
If Agent Smith’s return was a mere cameo or fleeting appearance via flashback or dream sequence, cutting the character would barely be an inconvenience. Weaving could be removed from the script without seriously affecting the main plot of The Matrix 4. Details surrounding the sequel’s story remain top secret, but Weaving’s comments heavily imply that he was set for a substantial role. Speaking with Collider, Weaving described feeling a certain “reticence” about making a fourth Matrix movie, but began negotiations “immediately” after reading Lana Wachowski’s script, with the director “very keen” to bring him aboard. Weaving goes on to express his regret at being unable to play Agent Smith again, and these are not the words of a man who was set for a mere cameo. Lana Wachowski’s enthusiasm to cast Weaving and the actor’s own response to reading The Matrix 4‘s script strongly suggest that Agent Smith embarks upon a major story in The Matrix 4 – a narrative that couldn’t simply be removed due to scheduling conflicts.
The obvious solution would be to recast Agent Smith, and The Matrix has already set a precedent for this. Smith himself inhabited a different body in The Matrix Revolutions during his brief tenure in the real world, taking over a resident of Zion. Furthermore, The Oracle was forced to assume a different appearance after the death of Gloria Foster. Smith is a piece of programming, just like The Oracle, and changing his face in The Matrix 4 would certainly fall within the franchise’s mythology. Alternatively, The Matrix 4 may introduce an entirely fresh character who plugs the gap left by Weaving’s absence, picking up Agent Smith’s intended arc and essentially acting as the villain’s successor.
Another major clue towards The Matrix 4 replacing Smith is the return of Daniel Bernhardt as Agent Johnson. Debuting in The Matrix Reloaded, Agent Johnson was essentially Smith’s in-world replacement after Neo proved victorious in the climax of the first movie. Johnson leads the Agents loyally, just as Smith once did, executing the will of the Machines and protecting the Matrix as dictated by his programming. Agent Johnson never becomes a major player, and given how Smith’s arc diverges in the Matrix trilogy, Johnson won’t be replacing Smith himself in the fourth movie, but Bernhardt’s return does reveal that The Matrix 4‘s Agent storyline isn’t being cut due to Weaving’s scheduling conflict. If Lana Wachowski had decided to cut Smith from The Matrix 4 after losing Weaving, the other Agents probably would’ve been omitted too. Agent Johnson’s presence hints that the script hasn’t been amended on Weaving’s account, and Smith’s part could be taken by someone else…
A host of top acting names have joined The Matrix 4 alongside the more familiar legacy cast, and out of all the newcomers, Jonathan Groff is best suited to replace Agent Smith. The Matrix 4 is beset with speculation that a younger version of Morpheus will feature, played by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. If classic Matrix characters are reverting back to their younger selves in some sort of time travel mechanic, Groff could easily get away with playing a fresher-faced Smith. The actor portrayed an overblown villainous type in Hamilton and an intelligent investigator in Mindhunter. Combining the pair would offer a fairly close approximation of The Matrix‘s Agent Smith.
Even if Jonathan Groff is playing a previously unseen character, he might still adopt the part originally written for Weaving. Add a pair of sunglasses to Mindhunter‘s Holden Ford, and Groff is the archetypal Agent, and whatever part Lana Wachowski had in mind for Smith could be retrofitted for Groff’s new villain on the block. As Agent Smith in the original Matrix movies, Hugo Weaving combined the callous reserve of a computer program alongside an overflowing megalomania. With a background in both musical theater and drama, Jonathan Groff is ideally placed to inherit the Smith role and carry the character’s legacy into future movies.