Photo: VCG (Getty Images)

Jet Li was one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars in the early 2000s, parlaying an already decade-plus martial arts movie career in China into projects like Lethal Weapon 4, Romoe Must Die, and Unleashed. But while he lent his talents to any number of big budget action epics, Li’s path never crossed with the biggest American martial arts movies of the era: The Wachowski Sisters’ Matrix films. Not for lack of trying, either; Li was reportedly offered the role of the otherworldly Seraph in The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions, but ultimately turned it down. (The part later went to Collin Chou.)

Now, Li—who recently announced that he’d be appearing in the upcoming live-action Mulan remake—has explained why he passed on two of the biggest action movies of their generation: Those damn machines. “I realized the Americans wanted me to film for three months but be with the crew for nine,” Li recently mentioned during a Chinese talk show appearance. “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.”

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Li said he was worried about the idea that the martial arts he’d spent his life perfecting would become the intellectual copyright of someone else, to hypothetically be reused in some future digital effects work. “I was thinking: 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.”

[via Abacus]