On a fateful day in April 2000, the agent for the creative team of Glen Morgan and James Wong, hot from the sleeper hit ”Final Destination,” took his clients to a Dodgers game and pitched them another hot property. ”’You gotta do something with The Rock!”’ Morgan recalls him saying. ”And Jim and I said, ‘Okay.”’ Trying to brainstorm a vehicle, the pair lighted upon a scenario wherein a benevolent Rock would fight a malevolent Rock from an alternate reality. Revolution Studios chief Joe Roth liked it — offering up a $60 million budget. The Rock liked it too — but ended up liking ”The Mummy Returns” even more. But Roth had an idea. ”Joe said, ‘This is even better,”’ says Morgan. ”’I’ll get you Jet Li.”’
The martial-arts superstar was game but had some ideas of his own. ”When I read the script, it was like a big American sci-fi action movie,” Li says. ”If I played the role, it had to be rewritten, because it did not have a personal hook for me.” Specifically, that meant massaging the script to incorporate Li’s Buddhist beliefs. Li did his part by working with fight choreographer Corey Yuen to develop contrasting combat styles for his yin and yang characters.
Filming the wire-assisted fights made for a slow five-month shoot and an equally tedious postproduction process to merge the dueling Jets together. Still, Morgan says Li was worth the effort, and thanks to his nascent English skills, Li even made part of their work easier. ”With The Rock, you didn’t have to write a lot of dialogue,” says Morgan. ”With Jet, it’s even less.”