Keanu Reeves Kicks Off 'Man of Tai Chi' Tour

Left to Right: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok and Ye Qing.
Left to Right: Tiger Chen, Keanu Reeves, Karen Mok and Ye Qing.
 Richard Trombly

SHANGHAI – After more than five years of development and nearly one year since filming opened on the martial arts action film The Man of Tai Chi, first time helmer Keanu Reeves, 48, on Saturday kicked off an eight-city publicity tour and announced the film's July 5 premiere on screens nationwide.

“Let the show begin,” said Reeves as he unveiled the Chinese trailer, also revealing the signature one-liner of the film's villain, played by the director himself. Reeves spearheaded his promotional roadshow on Friday in Beijing at a press conference at the Headquarters of Qihoo 360 Technology Co., a local computer anti-virus and security software firm.

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The official 90-second trailer for the Chinese-American co-production premiered before an audience of more than 200 Chinese and international media at a venue separate from the 16th Shanghai International Film Festival which concludes Sunday. The film promised high action and another collaboration with Tiger Chen who has worked with Reeves since the Matrix trilogy starting in 1997.

“Without Tiger [Chen] there would be no Man of Tai Chi,” said Reeves.

In the film, Chen takes the lead as a practitioner of the martial arts who must decide his path between being a pit fighter in black market fight matches and seeking the spiritual mastery of the art. He must face his personal demons even as he seeks to conquer the villain. So the film has layers of philosophy that Reeves hopes will give the film more appeal than the average summer blockbuster.

Chen is only one of several of the stars that Reeves has brought together in a promotional tour that indicates the level of commitment that the director and producers place upon this film's success in China.

“This film is more than just entertainment,” said Reeves. “It is something I hope the audience will take into their lives in a positive way.”

He said that working on a film in English, Mandarin and Cantonese was a challenge but that members of the team had worked together on past films and so there was a strong level of trust.

Karen Mok, an esteemed Hong Kong actress with more than 40 roles to her credit and a strong reputation in mainland China, also turned out to join this promotional tour-de-force. She said she was honored to act opposite Reeves and appreciated the international aspects of the film.

“Every time you work with different teams you can learn different things,” said Mok. “To work with a director with this sort of background director help a lot.” Though a first-time director, Mok noted Reeves' long acting career and said that his long years of planning paid off. She credited the smooth cooperation to the director's experience. “The production was simply better organized than most,” said Mok. “He constantly checked our safety during the stunts and directed with skill and patience.”

Relative newcomer Chinese actress Ye Qing from Love on That Day spoke of the honor in working with a leading man and director like Reeves and that there was a certain level of romance in his style. Mok concurred with that level of chemistry between people on the set.

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The team will set out on their eight-city promotional tour kicking off with screenings in Shanghai followed by Hangzhou, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Dalian and concluding in Beijing. There will be events where audience members can meet the cast and director face-to-face for questions and answer sessions and certain other regional activities unique to each city.

This effort to assure the success of this film indicates how serious the producers are about the Chinese market. Man of Tai Chi was co-produced by the China Film Group, Wanda Media, Village Roadshow Pictures Asia, and Universal Pictures. It will be distributed internationally by Universal, which is owned by Comcast.

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