Yeoh v. Neo in Matrix 2 & 3?

As we reported last week, Michelle Yeoh has confirmed she`s signed on to star opposite Harrison Ford in the next Indiana Jones sequel. Now news out of Hollywood has her taking over the role of lead villain in the next two Matrix sequels. Her current film has been named Picture of the Year (2000) by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.

NEW YORK (Variety) – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“ star Michelle Yeoh is being courted to star in the two sequels of “The Matrix“ which Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures will start shooting next year.

While the storyline of the sequels is a closely guarded secret, sources said the role she`s in talks for is the same one that fellow Hong Kong tailkicking import Jet Li once seemed destined to play.

Li`s decision not to take the role in the twin pictures gives a glimpse at the struggle sequelmakers face in trying to mount movies that have a chance to make money. In the case of “The Matrix,“ the dilemma for Li was that there was no money left over to pay him the star salary to which he`s grown accustomed. The film is already expensive, not only because writer/directors Larry and Andy Wachowski are trying to make two more cutting-edge sci-fi films, but also because of the presence of gross players. Keanu Reeves signed to reprise the starring role in two films for a $30 million advance against 15% of gross, and producer Joel Silver and the Wachowskis are both part of the gross pool.

While Li`s stature would certainly have benefited from appearing in the second and third legs of a trilogy that is on course to become “Star Wars“ for the Gen X set, he would have had to take a massive paycut to do it. Word is Li asked for about $13 million for the two pictures, but sources said Li was offered $3 million to work for 11 months to star in two movies for which he`d have received no backend. He also would have had his likeness used in a “Matrix“ videogame.

Spending a year essentially working for $1.5 million a pic would have been undermined his existing price quote, the $9.5 million advance against gross profit participation that Li will receive to star in the Revolution action film “The One.“

Interestingly, Li`s quote escalation was made possible by his declining to join Yeoh in the Ang Lee-directed “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,“ which has emerged as an Oscar contender. Li instead followed “Lethal Weapon 4“ with the hit “Romeo Must Die,“ and just starred in the France-based drama “Kiss of the Dragon“ under the supervision of Luc Besson. The maneuvering seems to have worked out fine for both thesps.

Copyright: Reuters 2000. This article was reprinted with the express permission of Reuters, Inc. All other rights reserved.

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