I may not have had the Matrix heartthrob all to myself, but across a crowded Cannes room, Reeves, still boyish at 48, revealed how he had just made his directing debut, Man of Thai Chi, which is currently in post-production.
Shot in Beijing and Hong Kong in Mandarin, Cantonese and English, the contemporary story follows an innocent martial artist (Tiger Hu Chen) who uses his incredible Tai Chi abilities in an underground fight club.
“He's being manipulated by my character and in order to save his temple, he fights,” explain Reeves in his oddly formal way of talking.
“On the one hand, he's a simple delivery guy, and on the other hand, he's a very high level martial artist. As his power rises in China, we see his loss of innocence and he ultimately has to confront himself.
“The lead actor, Chen Hu, was a gentleman I'd worked with on the Matrix films,” Reeves continues. “He was part of the team of the action director Woo-ping Yuen, who also worked on Man Tai Chi. In training with Chen Hu over the years, we became friends and after we finished the Matrix films we stayed in touch. He started to do some acting and we wanted to do something together and over five years we developed the story, which became Man of Tai Chi.”
Reeves brought Lemore Syvan, who had produced his movies, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and Henry's Crime, to the film. “It took a unique producer to be able to tell this story,” he says.
“The task of making it happen was daunting,” admits Syvan. “We had a first-time director and we were filming in three languages. The China Film Group worked with us to bring in another Chinese partner and also Village Roadshow Asia was very supportive as well as Universal Pictures.”
Village Roadshow will release the film in Australia.