Karen Mok screamed when she got role in Man of Tai Chi
by Jocelyn Lee
Who doesn't get star-struck meeting Hollywood star Keanu Reeves?
Veteran Hong Kong singer-actress Karen Mok sure did.
The 43-year-old, who recently worked with Reeves in his directorial debut Man Of Tai Chi, gushed about the handsome actor in an interview with FiRST in Shanghai, China, saying that it was "surreal and amazing working with one of the most good-looking guys on earth".
The friendly Mok said with a laugh: "He is so nice, so gentlemanly, well, all that put together is a little too much."
In the movie (which is in English, Mandarin and Cantonese) opening here next week, Mok plays a tough policewoman determined to hunt down powerful villianbusinessman Donaka (Reeves). He runs a secret underground fighting ring for wealthy patrons, where opponents fight each other to the death.
When Mok first received the invitation to meet Reeves, 48, she remained calm despite feeling really excited. It was previously reported in the Chinese media that other female A-listers such as Gong Li and Zhang Ziyi were being considered for the role.
On beating out tough competition to get the coveted role, Mok said: "I am sure he has seen literally everyone you could think of, and I am very flattered and honoured to be part of this project."
"When I got the phone call telling me that I got the role, I screamed and jumped in delight."
The dark-haired beauty, who is of Chinese, German, Welsh and Persian ancestry, sang praises of Reeves as a director, describing his cool demeanour on set as "amazing and reassuring".
"It's understandable that as a director, you might get frustrated and it's not unusual for a director to lose his temper," she said.
"I'm amazed at how he is always able to keep his cool. It's very important because as a director, you set the mood for everyone else.
So if you lose your cool, it'll affect the rest and make them more jittery."
Mok may be an experienced performer, but she said she had picked up some acting skills from the first-time director, likening the experience to "taking a drama masterclass".
Mok has acted in more than 40 films to date, including the classic Stephen Chow comedy God Of Cookery (1996) and Hollywood's Around The World In 80 Days (2004).
She said: "Keanu talks quite a bit but I wouldn't say he is naggy. I find it quite useful because he gives good directions and would try different things for even the simplest shots. I learnt a lot."
The duo had great rapport from the moment they met, even finding time on their days off to jam in a recording studio.
While they were filming, Mok, who was also in the midst of recording her debut English-language jazz album Somewhere I Belong, shared her experience with Reeves, who is a bass guitar player.
Reeves was interested in Mok's use of the guzheng and suggested they jam together to try out different musical styles.
She said: "There was no particular purpose in the jamming, but it was a lot of fun."
Not so tough role
For the leggy star, playing a tough policewoman in the movie was nothing new as she had tackled similar roles in the past.
One of the main challenges she faced was filming a car chase scene in the wee hours.
She said: "I have a licence but I never drive in Hong Kong. Suddenly I was speeding along the roads. It was a little daunting initially but after a while, I thought it was actually quite fun."
Although she is making headway in Hollywood, Mok has no plans to drop everything in Asia and fly off. She released her jazz album a few months ago, and is busy with Man Of Tai Chi promotional activities and filming a new movie.
"It's not that I am saying no to Hollywood. I would love to try different things and work with more people, but I have my fans here, and I have quite a few things on my plate already," she said.
"Anyway, as everyone puts it, it's the century of Asia now, isn't it?
"If anyone has to knock on anyone's doors, it has to be them knocking on our doors."