Keanu Reeves talks MAN OF TAI CHI; why he chose to direct, and how he found his lead actor

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Keanu Reeves knows Kung Fu. He apparently also knows how to direct Kung Fu, as the actor will showing off his skills both in front and behind the camera for his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi, which if the name and this entire sentence isn’t a dead giveaway will be a martial arts movie.

Reeves is over in Cannes with most of Hollywood it would seem, and he took some time out to discuss the Kung Fu flick.

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Reeves gave Total Film a sneak peek at one of the film’s “admittedly impressive” action set pieces which makes use of its revolutionary Bot & Dolly camera system, before explaining how it was that he ended up behind the director’s seat for this one.

“About four or five years ago I started to think about directing. My dictum was I would only direct if I had a story to tell and, having developed the script over this length of time, it became a story I wanted to tell and one I didn’t want anybody else to tell.”

While Reeves is starring in the film, he actually will be playing the film’s villain instead. The white hat will be falling Tiger Chen, a long time team member of legendary fight choreographer and Kung Fu movie director Yuen Woo-Ping’s stunt team. The same stunt team who had actually taught Reeves and co their abovementioned Kung Fu in Matrix movies. It was here that Reeves met Chen and where the two became friends.

“We would sit for hours and stretch and hang out and we just used to tell each other stories. He would tell me these extraordinary stories about his master, like he would stand outside with birdseed in the palm of his hand and the bird would land there, but when the bird would try to fly away he would take its chi and the bird couldn’t fly… And I’d be like ‘No way! Tell me another master story!” So through that we found we shared a sense of humour, a sense of perspective on life, and we bonded.”

But his flair for storytelling was obviously not the only reason why Reeves thought of Chen when he began making this movie, as the Sichuan born wushu practitioner is quite the skilled fighter. Skills that were luckily up to the task that Reeves set him.

“My hope was to use the fighting sequences to tell the story. I really thought of them as acting scenes, so you can really experience what this character goes through.”

“Tiger has over 11 action sequences in the film and he was pretty heroic. All these [stunt actors] would come in strong and by the end of the day they were like, ‘Oh my god, Man Of Tai Chi has broken me!’ And Tiger would be like, ‘Come on!’”

Man Of Tai Chi opens later this year.

Last Updated: May 22, 2013

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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