Martial arts legend rejected Matrix movies because he was scared of AI

Before the likes of ChatGPT hit headlines, this legendary actor said no to The Matrix movies because of fears around AI and what it could mean for his future.

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Way before the world of AI dominated news headlines in the tech world, the best science fiction movies were dealing with the possible advances in the field. And one potential star of The Matrix movies was worried about how AI might affect him in the real world.

 

Jet Li was at one stage in the pipeline to play the role of Seraph in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, with Michelle Yeoh also in the frame to join The Matrix movies in this role at one stage.

But Li’s reason for declining to take part was very simple, and suggests he might actually be able to see the future when it comes to choosing his new movies. Quite the super-power.

In an interview with Chinese reporter Chen Luyu (via South China Morning Post), Li said: “It was a commercial struggle for me. I realised the Americans wanted me to film for three months but be with the crew for nine. And for six months, they wanted to record and copy all my moves into a digital library. By the end of the recording, the right to these moves would go to them.”

Li said he was concerned that his martial arts moves could then be super-imposed on to AI characters or other performers, without his consent. It’s a hot-button topic that even became the subject of Robin Wright movie The Congress in 2013, about an actor whose likeness is scanned into a digital version of her.

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“I’ve been training my entire life. And we martial artists could only grow older. Yet they could own [my moves] as an intellectual property forever. So I said I couldn’t do that,” Li said.

Li’s fears might well be justified, as AI and digital technology increasingly plays a part in the movie-making process.

Collin Chou was subsequently cast in the role of Seraph, playing the personification of a system login screen. But instead of a password, this particular system required some cool martial arts skills. That’s much better than having to click on all of the pictures of traffic lights.

For more of the best movies from the world of martial arts and innovative tech, check out our lists of the best action movies, the best anime movies, and the best alien movies of all time.