Keanu Reeves, the Kung Fu Interview
by Toma Clarac
(Translated from French by LucaM, translation edited by Anakin McFly)
With the release of '47 Ronin', and 'Man of Tai Chi' coming right after, we had an enigmatic and speedy meeting in Paris with the star of 'The Matrix'.
After becoming a muse of US independent films (Gus Van Sant's 'My Own Private Idaho') and a global star with 'Speed' and the 'Matrix' trilogy, Keanu Reeves starred in a chain of failures culminating with the flop '47 Ronin', an unconvincing 3D samurai movie. The Japanese epic landed in France a few weeks before the enjoyable kung fu movie 'Man of Tai Chi', directed by Reeves himself. We had a furtive meeting with the actor in Paris, but we're not sure that we understood everything he said.
You've made two martial arts movies, one right after the other. Is it an old passion?
I grew up watching kung fu movies. I loved it. It's a kid thing, but I've always been fascinated by the way the action was choreographed in these films, and I fantasized about being able to able to imitate what I saw on the screen. Like in science fiction, kung fu heroes are larger than life. They convey very powerful ideas. '47 Ronin' is a story of besmirched honor and revenge, told within an epic framework with lots of action, but which raises deeper questions about our lives and who we really are...
How did you get the idea for Man of Tai Chi?
I'm a friend of the lead actor of 'Man of Tai Chi' (Tiger Chen) and I've wanted to make a film since at least 2006. We developed a kung fu story together, about the end of innocence and the temptation of evil. The hero of 'Man of Tai Chi', who plunges into a dark world, must find his authentic self to protect himself against the seductions exerted on him by the modern world. This is an issue dear to my heart: how can we bring out the best of ourselves?
You play the villain...
Yes. I've played two or three villains before. But never a "super villain". Donaka is a Mephistophelian character. He presents himself as a benefactor, but he's quite the opposite. He encourages the hero to kill by bringing out his dark side.
47 Ronin and Man of Tai Chi were commercial failures...
Commercial failures? I don't quite agree with that. 47 Ronin hasn't found its audience in the United States, I'll give you that. But I think that artistically and internationally, both films did quite well.
There's going to be a remake of Point Break; do you have any comments on that?
I think it's great! I don't know if it's a true remake. I think it is more a reinvention of Point Break. Anyway, it's nice to be part of a film that became a classic which people want to reclaim.