AP / File
Keanu Reeves (l.) bows to Hong Kong director John Woo during the Beijing Film Festival's award ceremony in Beijing, April 23. Keanu stars in 'Man of Tai Chi,' which also marks Reeves's directorial debut.

Keanu Reeves spent five years on his latest film: Why?

Keanu Reeves directs and stars in 'Man of Tai Chi,' due out later this year. He spent five years developing the storyline, based loosely on 'Matrix' stuntman Tiger Chen, whom Keanu Reeves befriended while filming the trilogy.

Keanu Reeves played a science-fiction hero, an LAPD cop, and even Hamlet. But now actor Keanu Reeves is taking on a new role: director of a contemporary martial arts movie — aimed at both Chinese and Western audiences.

Keanu Reeves has stepped behind the camera to make his directorial debut with "Man of Tai Chi", a trilingual film loosely based on the life of a stuntman, Tiger Chen, whom he befriended while working on the sci-fi "Matrix" trilogy.

At the Cannes film festival to promote his new movie, due out later this year, Reeves said he knew he had always wanted to try directing and spent five years developing the script.

"It was also tied to getting older," admitted the long-time Hollywood heartthrob, in an interview with Reuters Television at a hotel on Cannes' palm-lined waterfront.

He said the main character of the film, played by Chen, is a stuntman and martial arts expert who is struggling to maintain his traditional values and beliefs against the pressures of modern society.

Reeves plays the villain who lures him into underground fighting with promises of money, glamour, and power.

The film, made in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin and filmed in China and Hong Kong, is meant to appeal to both the huge market in China, where Reeves won fans with "Matrix" and for having a Chinese great-grandparent, and in Western countries.

"Man of Tai Chi" was co-produced by the China Film Group, Wanda Media, Village Roadshow Pictures Asia, and Universal Pictures and will be distributed internationally by Universal, which is owned by Comcast through its subsidiary NBCUniversal.

Clips from the movie suggested there would be big fight sequences and high-speed car chases along Chinese highways, as could be expected from the star of "Speed," a 1994 action movie.

"I loved the responsibility of telling a story," said the Canadian-born Reeves. "I hope I get the chance to do it again."

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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