Five Favorite Kung Fu Films with Keanu Reeves
The Man of Tai Chi director reflects on his favorites, filmmaking inspirations and his career; plus, watch an exclusive behind-the-scenes clip from the making of the movie.
Was there any particular film, or films, that you looked at to prepare for Man of Tai Chi? You obviously have a head full of kung fu movies.
Keanu Reeves: You know, we looked at the cinematography of the films Tiger [Chen] had acted in. We looked at a lot of films. I was looking at them mostly for camera angles and editing, just to see how they were shot and what people were doing. I kinda just went into the library. But mostly, for me aesthetic-wise, the film that I was probably looking at the most was Funny Games by Michael Haneke.
That's interesting. I guess you've got the whole "reality TV/ fight" angle going in Man of Tai Chi.
Yeah, 'cause I wanted to play with the subjective and the fourth wall a lot in Man of Tai Chi, and with Funny Games I liked the composition and those characters looking into the camera. I liked how that worked. So that film, I would say, had the most impact for me, cinematically, on this one.
Looking at your career, you basically went to the best film school in the world; I mean, the people you worked with -- from Francis Coppola to Gus Van Sant to the Wachowskis to Richard Linklater, the list goes on -- was there a specific moment where you caught the directing bug, or did it happen organically over time?
I mean, catching a bug is pretty organic. [Laughs] You know, when I was acting, I always loved the floor -- where was the camera going, you know? I'm one of those actors who likes to see the finished film, as opposed to not, 'cause I wanna see what the directors did.
So many actors never watch their film, which is weird.
Yeah. I mean, I get it. But for me, I like to see, when you go to tell this story, how did they tell it?
You're a student of cinema, as you showed in Side by Side.
Was there any film of yours where you went, "Wow, I didn't know it was going to turn out like that"? I guess The Matrix might be the obvious answer there.
For sure. If only for the simple reason of having the visual effects in it. But I would say another experience of that, for sure, would be My Own Private Idaho. Gus [Van Sant] did such a lovely story. And River [Phoenix], of course. That film, definitely; I was very curious to see what that would be.
There were some stories recently to mark the 20th anniversary of River's death. Was he on your mind?
Yeah, of course. Absolutely. I miss him very much.
Okay, I'm not gonna ask you about Bill and Ted 'cause I'm sure you're sick of answering the third movie questions -- and don't get me wrong, I love those movies.
But let me ask you this: Are there any other of your movies that, in a fantasy world, you'd love to do a sequel to?
Ah, I wish I had a chance to play Constantine again. I liked that character. I wish the producers had followed up on that more than they did. I think that Francis Lawrence did a great job. It's definitely an adaptation of the source material, but I thought we did it in the spirit of it, certainly. I really did enjoy playing that role.
Have you ever talked to Kathryn Bigelow about making a sequel to Point Break?
[Laughs] Yeah... I don't know. I think there was talk of it many, many, many years ago, but I guess it never came to pass. I guess that journey was done, you know? Vaya con dios. [Laughs]
[Laughs] Don't mess with what's perfect.
I'd like to see you revisit the characters from River's Edge.
Oh my gosh, like, "Where are they now?"
Where do you think those guys would be now, if they're even alive?
I just hope [Reeves' character] Matt's not selling insurance. [Laughs]
[Laughs] That's the worst possible outcome.
Yeah, I know. That'd just be bad.
Now that you've made your first film, are you gonna be directing more? It feels like, between this and Side by Side, your interests might be gravitating to behind the camera.
Yeah, I would love to. I really enjoyed it, and I'm looking for a story to tell. Absolutely.
How about you just direct the third Bill and Ted?
Well, I'd go direct it with Alex Winter. [Laughs] No, absolutely not.
You know, I think it's time Alex got back behind the camera -- Freaked is really something.
Ahhhh, yes! That's a good movie! "Leader of the freaks!"
Your performance as the dog boy is very moving.
Thank you so much. [Laughs] It's pretty surreal.
It's pretty weird.
It's very weird!
Below, go behind-the-scenes with Keanu Reeves with an exclusive look at the making of Man of Tai Chi.
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Man of Tai Chi is released this week on Blu-ray and DVD, and is available through iTunes and VOD.