Superfan: "I've seen 31 of your movies." Lao Li (Keanu): Wow!
by Ma Yue
(Translated from Chinese by Anakin McFly. With thanks to Nina)
Keanu drives to "Nandu's Avenue of Stars"
Being in the same room as Keanu, meeting him in a close embrace, and then letting him and partner Chen Hu teach you a few kungfu moves live on stage... to Lao Li's fans in China who have been watching him from a distance, could they ever have imagined such a thing were possible? Yesterday at Nandu's Avenue of Stars, all of this became reality.
Also, due to "business development needs", Nanfang Dushi newspaper honoured Keanu Reeves to be their 'guest director', and Chen Hu to be their 'special martial arts instructor'. Nandu's media CEO sent out letters of appointment to them. After receiving those letters, both Lao Li and Chen Hu said they would work hard!
Lao Li sat on the side of the audience that made more noise
At four in the afternoon, in the midst of applause and cheers, Lao Li and Chen Hu appeared at the Nanfang Dushi Bao studio. There were two VIP seats at the third row. Nandu host Yan Ting Yu opened the session: "Lao Li's seat hasn't been determined yet. He'll sit wherever the audience cheers the loudest." At this moment, loud voices became weapons, and the audience erupted into even more enthusiastic cheering.
Welcome Keanu Reeves and Chen Hu for accepting our invitation
The Nandu media CEO gave out letters of appointment to Keanu Reeves and Chen Hu, inviting Keanu Reeves to be their guest director, and Chen Hu to be their special martial arts instructor. The letters caused the audience to laugh. When Keanu received his, he scrutinised it for ages. He couldn't read Chinese, but he was assured that there was nothing wrong with that, and he said, "I'm very happy, thank you." Chen Hu then said, "I'm very honoured, very honoured, and I'll also work hard!"
How does Chen Hu's 'self-constructed' tai chi hold up? A sneak peek
Chen Hu said, for the movie, he designed a kind of kung fu that had its basis in tai chi but wasn't the same as traditional tai chi. The movie comes out on July 5th, but yesterday, he went ahead to demonstrate some of it. On stage for one minute, the audience could get to see the actual kungfu! Praise!
The many benefits for the superfan: Sitting together, chatting, hugging
Lao Li was exceedingly charming! Many fans in the audience had travelled far to get here. Before the event started, "Nandu's Avenue of Stars' Date with Keanu Reeves" began soliciting Keanu's loyal fans, and eventually selected Nina from Hong Kong. She counted the number of "Keanu movies" she had seen, and found that they came up to as many as 31! (I've seen 40. :| - Ani) This made Keanu exclaim, "Wow!" The greatest reward for the superfan was to get to sit with Lao Li and Chen Hu to chat, as well as get a big hug from her idol!
Q: Quentin Tarantino's movies have no shortage of fight scenes, and a violent aesthetic. Your movie Man of Tai Chi also has quite a lot of bloody fight scenes. Comparing it to Quentin's films, where do you think the differences lie?
Lao Li: I also really enjoy Quentin's movies. In comparing it against the violent kungfu aesthetic of Quentin's movies, Man of Tai Chi is kungfu, not just brute force, and has a lot more content dealing with issues of morality and respect.
Q: Chen Hu, you've been Lao Li's friend and colleague for many years, and this time also the male lead in his new movie. Who is the Lao Li in your eyes? When filming, did he behave himself?
Chen Hu: The Lao Li in my eyes is a person with a lot of responsibility. Beause he had too much responsibility, it made him afraid of responsibility, and the things he was afraid of were very important, including making this film Man of Tai Chi. The moment he agreed to do this movie with me, he became very serious about it. You look at so many of those Hollywood stars... how many of them would, for the sake of one movie, go around eight cities promoting it? It's because of this responsibility he felt. He wanted to do this movie well.
Lao Li: Our Chen Hu was also very hardworking and responsible during the film shoot. When we were shooting, the effort he put into this was very encouraging for all the other actors.
Q: Man of Tai Chi has a lot of fight scenes. Can you tell us how many different types of martial arts were in the movie?
Chen Hu: Because in the eyes of Westerners, Chinese kungfu is something seen in the movies, and rarely do they see Chinese kungfu in sporting contests or real life fights. In the movie I hoped to have a confrontation between tai chi and the kind of kungfu that's well-known around the world, to show how tai chi and Chinese kungfu can compete with contemporary popular fighting styles - karate, taekwondo, Muay Thai - using about seven, eight different forms of martial arts in total.
What kind of martial arts were these three groups performing? Lao Li answered correctly.
Keanu Reeves wanted, for his directorial debut, to have an accurate knowledge (?) of Chinese kungfu. For his sake, the studio had arranged for performances from three groups, each demonstrating a different type of martial arts. This was a small test for Lao Li and Chen Hu sitting in the audience. After these fine guests gave their performances, the host asked Lao Li and Chen Hu to go up on stage, and have Lao Li say what kind of martial arts those were. Lao Li answered everything correctly! After that, host Yan Ting Yue asked, if all three groups were to fight, which group would win? Lao Li immediately said, "Why must we always fight? Don't fight all the time. Kungfu is also for peace and nobility."
Man of Tai Chi seeing reporters in Guangzhou
Keanu Reeves: Box office and influence are the concerns of businessmen
Nandu newspaper: "Getting to work with Keanu Reeves is like cake falling from the sky!" That's how young actress Ye Qing described her excitement acting in Keanu Reeves' directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. Man of Tai Chi director Keanu Reeves, star Chen Hu and Ye Qing arrived in Guangzhou yesterday afternoon to promote the film before its 5th July release. Reeves chatted about his understanding of what a 'hero' is, saying 'Each of us are our own hero."
What on earth does the word 'hero' mean: "Everyone is their own 'hero'."
In his directorial debut, he's already going up against Chinese kungfu movies. Keanu Reeves explained that this stemmed from his childhood love for kungfu movies, and when he first started working with Chen Hu in 1997, he always hoped to one day work together with him on a kungfu movie. Man of Tai Chi let him fulfill this dream. Keanu shared which scene in Man of Tai Chi made the greatest impact on him - Chen Hu's character Chen Linhu was fighting in the underground games and never losing a single match, but one time went up against a rival and got mercilessly beaten because his heart softened; and that made him lose the match. Because of this, his character grew increasingly fierce, and his heart made a 180 change. Keanu Reeves said: "The film I wanted to make was an action movie packed both with exciting action and deep emotion. The movie didn't just have to have good-looking scenes, but also had to have a good story."
So far, reactions to the Man of Tai Chi screenings have been mixed. Addressing the negative criticism from audiences, Keanu Reeves said: "This is the entertainment industry, and I hope my movie fulfills the role of being entertainment. As for box office takings and influence, those are things for businessmen to be concerned with. But I look at the movie from a content perspective. I'm a storyteller, and I can only say that I really like this movie, and hope that everyone does as well."
In the movie, fight scene after fight scene, some reporters mentioned that the concept of 'hero' was not clearly reflected within the movie. (Note: the Chinese word used for 'hero' here is the 'man' in 'Man of Tai Chi', similar to the 'man' in 'Superman', 'Batman', etc - Ani). Reeves explained that the 'man' (hero) in Man of Tai Chi is not like 'Spiderman', 'Iron Man' and many other Hollywood heroes. He said, "Chen Hu plays an ordinary guy, someone who's one of us, but goes through a series of twists and turns, and finds a balance between strength and weakness, holding fast to traditions, returning to innocence. In fact, each of us are our own heroes.
The tai chi in the movie is really solid: "It's actually a mix of rigidity and flexibility".
Famous action trainer Chen Hu comes to the foreground from behind the scenes, and in the movie plays the young Chen Linhu protecting his cultural heritage and that of traditional tai chi.
Chen Hu said that Man of Tai Chi will subvert the impressions audiences have of tai chi. He said, "Tai chi isn't just what everyone sees in parks, it's not just a physical fitness exercise like yoga. Tai chi in reality is slow to learn but quick in fights, rigid yet flexible." The strong, powerful side of tai chi is presented in the movie.
Chen Hu was a action trainer on The Matrix, Charlie's Angels and other movies, as well as Keanu's personal kungfu trainer. Working together on Man of Tai Chi, the two of them swapped the roles of student and teacher. When filming, Reeves regularly worried about Chen Hu's image, clothes and other details. As for what's next on the road, Chen Hu hasn't made too many plans. He has no desire to be a huge kung fu star. "I just want to be like Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, upholding the tradition of Chinese kungfu and Chinese culture. Nothing more."