Chinese choreographers inspire stunts in Hollywood films

Updated: 2013-07-10 07:18

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

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 Chinese choreographers inspire stunts in Hollywood films

Chen Hu (right), the stuntman and choreographer, plays the lead in Keanu Reeves' directorial debut Man of Tai Chi. Provided to China Daily

The inspiration for Man of Tai Chi comes from Chen Hu, the Chinese stuntman and choreographer who trained Keanu Reeves for The Matrix.

Chen enrolled in a martial arts team in Sichuan province at age 8. He practices various schools of kung fu, including the film's namesake tai chi form.

Chen's first Hollywood project was The Matrix. Choreographer Yuen Woo-ping scouted him from martial arts contests to join his stunt team, which handled The Matrix trilogy's action scenes.

The Wachowski brothers are Yuen's loyal fans but Warner Brothers' executives were unsure about choosing a Hong Kong stunt team. So Yuen asked Chen to display his skills with the traditional Chinese nine-section-whip at dinner with the executives.

It worked.

Chen trained Reeves for about four months.

Chen penetrated Hollywood around 2000. In the late 1990s, kung fu stars such as Jackie Chan and Jet Li sought new opportunities in Hollywood. They brought their own stunt teams to design action sequences. The success of The Matrix in 1999 and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000 made Chinese kung fu more appealing.

Yuen Woo-ping is probably Hollywood's most famous Chinese choreographer.

The seasoned martial artist established his name with such blockbusters as Kill Bill, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix trilogy.

Yuen grew up in a family of martial artists. His brother Yuen Cheung-Yan directed action scenes for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in 2003's Daredevil, training them for three weeks beforehand.

Jackie Chan has his own stunt team, which helped him in such smash hits as the Rush Hour franchise, Shanghai Noon and its sequel Shanghai Knights.

Corey Yuen (not related to the other Yuens) is another veteran choreographer who built his name in Hollywood, mainly through his cooperation with Jet Li after the superstar went to Hollywood in the late 1990s.

He worked with Li on nearly all of his Hollywood projects, such as Romeo Must Die, Kiss of the Dragon and The One.

His style is noted for speed and creativity.

He's acclaimed for mixing hand-to-hand combat with gun fighting.

(China Daily USA 07/10/2013 page9)