Tiger Hu Chen

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Tiger Hu Chen is a martial arts performer, actor and stunt man.  He was born in Chengdu, China and emigrated to America to pursue his love of the maria arts.  He mentored under the famous martial arts performer Yuen Wo Ping and instructed Keanu Reaves in preparation for The Matrix and its follow-up films.  Tiger Chen is also known for his stunt choreography in Charlie’s Angels and Kill Bill: Volume 1.  He also participated in the production of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and played a role in House of Fury.  He starred in the film Kung Fu Man and costarred alongside his long time friend Keanu Reaves in Man of Tai Chi.

Hi, Tiger Chen!  It is very much a pleasure to meet you and welcome you to my Ninjagirl interview website.  I am so happy to have this interview with you Tiger.  You have charisma and you are not human being to me.  You are very special person same as Keanu Reeves. (He is getting younger and younger every year.)  I was very much amazed with the high quality of your work such as Matrix, Charlie’s Angels, Man of Tai Chi and Kung fu Man.

man_of_tai_chi poster1.  I’m very interested in your time before you came to America.  When you were living in Chengdu in the Sichuan region of China.

I actually grew up in Chengdu. When I left to America in 1996 I hadn’t even been outside of China. This is where I began fighting in Sichuan Wushu.

1 edit2.  The Sichuan Wushu Team – what was this team?  What martial arts skills did you learn here?  Did you compete while a part of the team?

Sichuan Wushu is the martial arts team that represents Sichuan province. They recruited me when I was around 11 years old. I spent more time here than at high school!

We trained in all martial arts but I had a particular focus on Tai Chi. My teenage years were very disciplined and regimented.

We all represented the team when we competed, but we fought individually.

3.  The National Youth Martial Arts Competition in China.  Can you tell us what you needed to do to win this award?  How long was the competition and who were you fighting?

Eat, sleep, train and repeat. I didn’t do much else growing up in Sichuan Wushu. With support from my teachers and family I won this award when I was around 13 years old. It was a national competition held over seven days, twice a year and the team considered them the most important events of the year.

Kung Fu Man Poster4.  When did you make the decision to come to America?  You seemed to be surprised by how hard you had to work to support yourself.  You said that in the United States, “you find that most of your time is washing the dishes and do a porter”.  

It was 1996 when I actually went to America, but I had always wanted to go and be the next Bruce Lee… When I first arrived, I worked around the clock to support myself doing martial arts demonstrations in the day and washing dishes at night.

5.  How did you manage to escape the drudgery of manual labor and start your career in the martial arts in America?

I started by doing as many martial arts competitions as I could during the day. I won a lot of awards but this didn’t end up helping me make a living as I still had to return to my “day job” at night. One day one of my Masters, Master Wo Ping called me up from Hong Kong and offered me a role as a stuntman in The Matrix. From there, I got more involved in the industry.

6.  You were lucky in that you were able to meet Yuen Wo Ping (the Chinese martial arts choreographer and film director) and study with him.  Through this connection you had an audition in front of some Warner Bros. executives.  Did you know this would be your big break?  Did they tell you what you were auditioning for?

Still young and new to the industry, I simply followed Wo Ping’s directions by preforming some of my martial arts sets in front of a panel of people. I had no idea who they were or for what I was auditioning for, except that it was going to be a big Hollywood film.

Tiger and Keanu7.  Can you talk about studying with the master of Hong Kong cinema?  What were some of the lessons he taught you?

He taught me how to fight in front of a lens. “Movie Kung-Fu“ is a whole different experience to how I fought in competitions. You have to consider how the audience will perceive you. But this also opens up more opportunity to exaggerate and deceive the audience for maximum effect.

8.  I’m sure it was exciting to be part of a Hollywood production like The Matrix.  But at the same time, the work was tough.  You said, “It’s very taxing working in this line. It’s very common that we do not have much sleep during filming. And martial arts directors and stunt professionals get injured easily; I broke my shoulder thrice, and legs twice.”

What did you do to cope with he hard work pain and injuries?

Learning from Keanu Reeves, pain is my best friend. That might seem strange, but it is the way to cope with such hard and strenuous physical and mental work. I kept working towards my goal, I didn’t really have time to think about the pain so I made it my companion.

9.  It sounds like you developed a very close relationship with Yuen Wo Ping, you said he treats you like his own son.  You continue to do business together, with Yuen overseeing production while you choreograph stunts.  

Can you describe your relationship with your mentor?  What is it like to collaborate with someone so much a part of the history of Chinese martial arts cinema?

We are like father and son, I have spent a great deal of my life with him. We took great care of each other outside our professional capacities. Of the 365 days in a year we ate dinner together on 300 of those nights.

Tiger Tai Chi10.  Can you talk about training Keanu Reaves during the production of The Matrix?  He had wanted his own special style of martial arts, rather than copying the style of Bruce Lee or Jet Li.  Can you tell us how you were able to train him while giving him his own personal style?

We did a lot of research watching old films staring legends such as Bruce Lee, Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Then I taught him some of my own stuff. From there he could combine the styles he had seen in a ratio that suited him best.

Keanu and Tiger at the window11.  As far as working with superstars, having the chance to work with three starlets on one film must have been an amazing experience!  Talk about your work with Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore in Charlie’s Angels.  Did they learn the martial arts moves easily?  Were there challenges to working with so much star power simultaneously?

It was kinda easy for Lucy as she has background experiences in martial arts. But overall, working with stars made it both harder and easier. Harder because they needed special treatment- I didn’t want to be responsible for any injuries!  Easier because they are extremely hard workers, and took the lessons very seriously.

12.  I read that each of them gave you a kiss at the end of the production.  How did they do it?  How did their kisses feel?  How did it make you fee?

They felt like kisses from females I guess… As a present for the hard work.

13.  I’d like to know more about your work with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  You had the opportunity to travel to Sichuan’s Mt Ermei and Jiuzhaiogou to do location scouting with Yuen Wo Ping.  What was it like returning to the region of your childhood, now an accomplished Hollywood professional and in the company of one of China’s greatest celebrities?

I felt more confident and comfortable with myself and the direction I was moving in. It was great to share important areas of my childhood with Wo Ping.

14.  Recently, you worked with Keanu Reaves on Man of Tai Chi.  I know that you had befriended Keanu while working on The Matrix.  The story has similarities to your own life experience – a young fighter escaping the drudgery of a high-stress/low pay job to pursue something bigger

Were you involved in writing the script?  How did this project come about?

Yes, we had been working on the story together for over five years. Naturally, a lot of our life experiences came about in the script. During that time we had the opportunity to learn a lot from each other.

Tiger Portrait 15.  The moral ambiguity is something to ponder in the film.  Your character compromises the strict moral code that Tai Chi is not to be used for profit or violence to save the temple that his master occupies.  

Have you encountered these situations in your own experience?  When entering the Hollywood community, did you encounter situations where you felt your personal code of ethics were being challenged?

There we some instances when I had to use my skills defend myself or help others. But I feel like you need to use your better judgment even if it is breaking a rule.

Tiger and Keanu at banner wall16.  I have heard it said that you want to be the next Bruce Lee!  How are you making this a reality?

I just want to be myself. These guys are all my idols but I want to cultivate my own identity in this industry.

17.  What are some of the current projects you are working on?  What do you have planned for the future?

I have a lot of projects on in both China and the States. I hope I can expand this to Japanese projects in the future!

18.  What makes you laugh?

haha, I laugh when someone make jokes….!

Tiger traditional costume19.  It looks like you are still single. Are you still single? Do you plan on getting married in the near future? You look like you are still in 20’s to me.

Yes, I am single. I am in late 30’s.

20.  What do you like to do when you are not working? 

(for example, traveling or having dinner with your friends or anything you like to do when you have some time for yourself)

I love to travel, especially within China. I actually enjoy visiting my hometown area the most, Sichuan province. I enjoy going out for dinner and trying new food and classic favourites with my friends. I keep fit by playing soccer, badminton and training in my martial arts of course. It’s also really important to find time to clear my head and meditate.

21.  What kind of music do you like to listen when you are training in the gym?

I’m not picky! All music is great as long as it is good…

Tiger Man of Tai Chi22.  I heard that Keanu Reeves was involved with the movie Kung-Fu Man.  Can you talk about the story?

Keanu gave us some really helpful advice on Kung-Fu Man. The movie would not have been the same without him.

23.  What is your life quote?

I like to think that life is always changing. I don’t think there is one quote that defines my life!

2Keanu and Tiger filming4.  Thank you Tiger for answering to my questions. I love martial arts so much so I really wanted to do interview with you Tiger!  You are awesome actor!!!  And next time when you visit Tokyo, would you let Ninjagirl know that? I can take you wherever you like!

Of course, whenever I have a chance to visit Japan, I will.

25.  Would you please send a message to your fans? It was a pleasure talking to you Tiger!

Thank you very much for supporting me, I really appreciated.Tiger and Beer

26.  You are the best coolest action hero! 

I am trying my best I can and I respect Bruce Lee very much.

Thank you.

It is very pleasure meeting you Tiger! You are the best coolest action hero!

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edited by Anthony Heller

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