"I never wanted to be the next Bruce Lee. I just wanted to be the first Jackie Chan."
Jackie Chan (April 7, 1954-), born Chan Kong-sang, is, quite simply, Made of Awesome. He has hit the big time since being "discovered" by Hollywood in the mid-90s and films such as Rush Hour
, Shanghai Noon
, The Tuxedo
and The Medallion
have made him an American household name.
Chan is best known as a stunt performer and fight choreographer, and really that's the entire point of going to see any of his movies - watching dumbfounded as he does all sorts of insane tricks and stunts in jaw-dropping fight scenes. He reportedly says that he loves action, but hates violence. Rather than being bone-crunching kung fu instead he is heavily inspired by the physical comedy of Buster Keaton
and Charlie Chaplin
(being that those were silent films, he was able to watch them without having to worry about the language barrier). Most of his films are just backdrops to amazing stunts, creative fight scenes and little wire work.
Traditionally, Chan does all his own stunts
and in his days of producing low-budget Hong Kong chop-socky that was the only way it was ever done. So, if you see Jackie Chan's character fall through three awnings onto the street below? Really him. You see Chan's character roll artfully over a running circular saw
was really him.note
But worry not — Jackie always OK
And in case you don't believe it, there's usually a montage of outtakes over the end credits showing things going wrong while filming (go to Youtube and search for Jackie Chan outtakes... and prepare to be amazed!). Often involving ambulances. It's a good thing he's been so successful, because he's gone on record in many interviews as saying that no insurance company in the world
will give him coverage. As he's grown older, despite being one hell of a Badass Grandpa
at the age of 60
, he understandably has stopped doing 100%
of his stunts, partly because he has been told that if he falls on his head one more time
it will KILL HIM, also in part because in the Hollywood system, insurance for the stars is a must and, as aforementioned, he has a little trouble with that.
Chan has developed a distinctive fighting style, quite comedic and usually making extensive use of props, even those at first sight most unsuited to fighting
, such as a stepladder.
(Seriously, if you've somehow never seen his work before, you can spend many happy and amazed hours on Youtube
watching fight scenes.)
Needless to say, he's been injured fairly frequently. His closest brush with death came from Armour of God
when he fell from a tree and fractured his skull. A comparatively "safe" stunt (this is a man who has run along the tops of skyscrapers), it was a reminder that he can't be casual about anything he does. Among his injuries he has dislocated his pelvis, broken his fingers, toes, nose, both cheekbones, hips, sternum, neck, ankle and ribs on numerous occasions.A lesser-known aspect of his career
(at least in America) is that he is also a professional singer
, having recorded many albums and often performing the Theme Songs
for his movies (ex. Who Am I?
and I'll Make a Man Out of You
in Disney's Mulan). This is a little less surprising when you know that he originally trained for Peking Opera
, which features acrobatic fight scenes. He also has his own Animated Adaptation
, Jackie Chan Adventures.
In the last decade, Chan has been the subject of much controversy in Asia. His political stance that Taiwan should reunite with China earns him few friends outside the People's Republic
, but he cannot be accused of not putting his money where his mouth is, because this devastates his box-office profits in Taiwan. He has also been accused of selling out his hometown of Hong Kong
with his staunch pro-Beijing stance, reducing democratic freedom in Hong Kong.
In some parts of the global Asian community, he is also accused of being a sellout to his own culture, pandering to the western market
by repeatedly portraying caricatures of the Chinese man. Reportedly advising that the protagonist role in The Forbidden Kingdom
, originally intended to be a Chinese-American boy rediscovering his roots, be recast as a kung-fu obsessed white boy
is sometimes advanced as evidence for this view. Further rubbing salt in wounds is his compliance to Sony's decision to force the The Karate Kid
remake to bear its original title, rather than the proposed The Kung Fu Kid
, in spite of the fact that the film is set in China and is about
the Chinese martial art of Wushu (aka kung fu). The people who accuse Chan of this are probably right, in that Chan has admitted he does this
. He claims he does it for the money
, so that he can finance the films he actually likes
to make, as well as fund his not-inconsiderable charity work.
It seems possible, however, that the strains of old age may have finally caught up with him, as is painfully evident from Rush Hour 3
onwards wherein he is no longer able to perform stunts without the aid of computers that were second-nature to him only 5 years ago. As he has become more and more overshadowed by his younger and more athletic co-stars, as well as trapped by the formula of wholesomeness that the fans have come to expect from him, Chan finally announced that Chinese Zodiac
, the third installment in the Armor of God
series, will be the last
"big action movie" of his career, and intends to go out with a dignified slam-bang of a finale rather than as a faded shadow of his former glory. He has come out to clarify that this doesn't mean he's retiring, it just means his future roles will not be so action-oriented.
When his series/movies is dubbed in Japan, his voice is usually dubbed by Hiroya Ishimaru
. In Latin America
, he's dubbed by Juan Alfonso Carralero, who also dubs-over for Will Smith
and David Hasselhoff, and in Spain, his voice is usually dubbed by Ricky Coello.
Anyway, here's a list of some of his most famous and/or best movies. Note that many fans consider his pre-Hollywood movies to be better.
Movies that Jackie has starred in include
- Fist Of Fury and Enter the Dragon: Yes, Bruce Lee's last movie was also one of Jackie's first... as one of the goons in the cave. (Bruce snaps his neck.) Even earlier, in Fist of Fury, Jackie was a stuntman, most notably standing in for the Big Bad when he falls to his death. He recalled that Bruce Lee was a harsh taskmaster but very appreciative of hard work and could be quite apologetic if he accidentally hurt someone, including Chan.note After said incident, rumors state he was promised to be in all of Bruce Lee's movies. Jackie Chan speaks about it here.
- New Fist Of Fury: After Bruce's death, Jackie starred here as the successor of Bruce, in what would be called a Brucesploitation. Unfortunately, this movie bombed big time, and could've been a Star-Derailing Role for Jackie. Fortunately for Jackie, future movies after this start developing his character in his much more well known slapstick badass style rather than imitating Bruce, growing out from his shadow, and it was good for his career from that point on.
- Drunken Master. One of his first breakout hits in Asia.
- Shinjuku Incident is his attempt to branch out into serious (and gritty!) drama.
- Police Story features some jaw-dropping amazing stunts (with no CGI!) and is sometimes called 'Glass Story', due to the ridiculous number of sugar glass panels that break in the final 20 minutes of so of the movie. It's also important to mention that it has three sequels and a spinoff. Also, Chan considers it his best action film. The sequels to this film are:
- Police Story 2 (notable not just for the destruction of an actual building for the finale, but the outtakes showing something like forty cameras all lined up to ensure there was at least one good take.)
- Police Story 3: Super Cop (released in America as SuperCop)
- Police Story 4: First Strike (released in America as Jackie Chan's First Strike) - The stepladder fight? This is the movie it's from.
- Once a Cop (the spin off starring Michelle Yeoh's character from Super Cop; also known as Super Cop 2. Only featured a cameo appearance by Jackie)
- The franchise received a Gritty Reboot in 2004 with New Police Story and a second film, Police Story 2013 was produced in the same vein, only with Jackie's character as a wholly Chinese policeman.
- Project A: His first film to feature a show-stopping, gratuitously dangerous stunt; in this case, Jackie falling from a clock tower and smashing through two awnings that slow him enough to make the fall survivable.
- Even crazier is that he wasn't satisfied with the first take, so he did it two more times!
- Project A 2, the sequel, showed Jackie chewing up hot peppers and spitting them onto his fists to fight someone. Actual hot peppers. Which may or may not have been a smart idea.◊ Rumor has it that the sequel was made at the behest of a very enthusiastic fan of the first movie. The Emperor of Japan, who even asked Jackie himself.
- Armour of God 1, and its sequel Armour of God 2: Operation Condor, later released in the US in reverse order as Operation Condor and Operation Condor 2: The Armor of the Gods.
- Armour of God 1 is notable for being the closest Jackie Chan has come to death, suffering a critical head injury after a stunt misfire. The irony is that the stunt wasn't one of his usual showstoppers; even the "little" stunts can kill you. The ending credit outtakes go into great detail on this. Ever since, he has worn his hair long to cover the plastic plug in his skull.
- On an unrelated note, end credits of Armour of God 1 feature a good example of Jackie Chan singing.
- 2012's Chinese Zodiac is a sort-of sequel to Armour of God, though the treasure hunter character Chan portrays is now renamed "JC".
- City Hunter: Based on the Hojo Tsukasa manga, and most famous for funny and enterprisingly well done Street Fighter 2 parody, which is usually considered to be better than the movie! Jackie personally dislikes it, though.
- Drunken Master II: Selected as one of Time magazine's All-TIME 100 Best Movies, the end of this film features a nearly 20-minute fight sequence that Roger Ebert described as "one of the most remarkably sustained examples of martial arts choreography ever filmed", also stating "it may not be possible to film a better fight scene".
- That sequence also has a scene where Jackie falls onto a bed of hot coals. Actual hot coals. A scene he re-shot three times to get right. He still bears scars on his arm from the failed takes.
- Rumble in the Bronx: His breakout movie in the U.S.; prior to this movie, he had been offered a roles in Hollywood (such as the villain in Demolition Man), but declined to avoid being typecast as either a villain or a bumbling Asian man. He wanted to succeed in Hollywood as Jackie Chan and not as a Bruce Lee Clone.
- Mr. Nice Guy: The saw blade scene? Yep, this is the movie.
- Rush Hour: Probably his most famous and successful movie in the world, it cemented him as a bona fide Hollywood action star.
- Shanghai Noon: Not as famous as Rush Hour, but some consider it superior, as the fight scenes are way better. Shanghai Knights features one of the most inspired "Singing In The Rain" tributes in cinema history.
- The Tuxedo: A Bond parody that didn't fare so well with critics.
- The Forbidden Kingdom: Part of his attempt to do more 'serious' movies and roles.
- Kung Fu Panda: Surprisingly, given his well-known difficulties in speaking English, he's the voice of master Monkey! He has roughly two lines in the first one but more in the second.
- The Karate Kid: Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi? Actually not that bad.
- Actor Allusion: There is a poster in his room of the Mitsubishi he drove in Cannonball Run 2.
- The Spy Next Door: This is, though.
- The Beast in the Chinese dub of Beauty and the Beast.
- Cannon Ball Run: Easy to miss as this movie was before he broke out as a international star. He and another Asian actor were brought over to be the tech-savvy Japanese racers who cannot speak a word of English.
- This is the movie that he credits with his decision to add outakes at the end of all of his movies.
- Wheels On Meals, which has what many consider to be one of the greatest fight scenes put on film.
- The weird title is due to a superstitious executive, as the studio had recently suffered two expensive flops that both began with the letter M.
- The Myth: Part historical epic, part contemporary action movie, featuring an impressively international cast.
- The Twins Effect: He has a supporting role as a paramedic in this Hong Kong vampire movie (the protagonists gate-crash his wedding).
- Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu: One of his early films, and the first to show his trademark comedic take on martial arts.
- Who Am I?: The climax features Jackie fighting two guys on a skyscraper rooftop, with all three actors spending a hair-raising amount of time close to the edge as they leap around fighting. Parts of said fight are textbook examples of why designer suits and earrings large enough to grab are a bad idea for combat.
- Miracles, also known as Ji Ji or The Canton Godfather: One of Jackie Chan's lesser known movies, it's best described as Frank Capra meets Kung Fu. Ever seen a man stop a running fan with one hand? Ever seen one man fight 20 people in a rope factory? You will in this movie. Unsurprisingly, the outtakes are painful.
- Plus, Chan's own personal favorite of his films.
- Mulan, in the Mandarin AND Cantonese dubs. He does (and sings!) Shang's voice.
- 1911, Chan's 100th film which was coincidentally released 100 years after the event it commemorates. It concerns China's 1911 Revolution, which ended the rule of emperors. Unlike most of Chan's films, it contains little martial arts or comedy.
- Around the World in 80 Days (2004): Good stunts but horribly misplaced in the film. Should be noted this was one of the few live-action films he acted for Disney.
- Twin Dragons. Jackie plays twins, Separated at Birth. This one concludes with the famous fight sequence in and around cars that are being actively crash tested.
- Little Big Soldier. Jackie portrays an old soldier who appears cowardly and unwilling to fight, who manages to capture an enemy General. It's half comedy and half drama as he attempts to bring the General back to his country so that he can finally go back to a normal life as a farmer and raise a family.
- Dragons Forever, the last time Jackie would co-star in a film with the other two of his Three Brothers friends from the China Drama Academy, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. It also stars another one of Chan's old academy friends, Yuen Wah, as the main villain and was the last film to feature Chan fighting Benny Urquidez. An amazing film, that nonetheless actually saw Chan playing against type, because instead of playing the happy go lucky every man he plays in his other films, he plays a slick, hotshot, skirt chasing lawyer. Both Sammo and Biao also played against type in this film. The film noticeably had a darker story than most martial arts films, featuring a tale of drugs and criminals that notably saw Hung's character injected with narcotics against his will.
Video games starring Jackie Chan include
Tropes applicable to him:
- Action Girl: Most of the women in his movies tend to not be typical Distressed Damsel characters. Even if not as crazy as he is, they tend to throw a hard punch or save his butt when necessary. Although Jackie admitted to being intimidated by Michelle Yeoh, worried that she might outshine him in the martial arts and stunts.
- Averted in Operation Condor, where the women are so dumb and helpless you think you've stumbled into a 1940s film.
- Averted during a big chase scene in Project A, where he ends up doubling back a couple of times during the chase, because the girl with him at the time becomes The Load. This forces him into a bit of trickery to protect her, knowing there was no way she could keep up with him.
- Apologetic Attacker: He tends to play characters who would like to avoid violence as much as possible.
- Badass: Would YOU do most of the things Jackie has during his film career?
- Badass Grandpa: Still up and kicking ass at the age of 60.
- Big Name Fan: Several big stars like Sylvester Stallone and Robin Williams are big fans of his, which led to their becoming friends.
- Book Dumb: Describes himself as this in his autobiography, because he didn't apply himself in grade school and spent a good portion of his youth in the Chinese Opera school. He laments that it means he's not as good with technology like computers that could have really helped his career.
- Bruce Lee Clone: Started out as this in his early roles. Hilariously enough, he points out that in his old movie posters, the words "The Next Bruce Lee" are written above his name in much bigger fonts.
- The Danza: In several of his films his character is named (or translated as) simply "Jackie."
- Dented Iron: His status as a major Determinator (see below) and all the amazing stunts coupled with the injuries that come with them, have been slowly taking a toll on his body. Although he still does his own stunts, he scaled down on some of the more spectacular displays and does whatever he attempts with much more security and safety than before.
- Determinator: He's broken pretty much every bone in his body and has a hole in his head, but keeps going like it's nobody's business.
- Enforced Method Acting: The crew of Police Story decided that regular sugar glass panels looked too fake and so used a stronger, thicker version. Ergo, all those glass cuts you see? Yeah, they're real.
- The constant panicked looks Jackie gives when he's clinging from a tall building or helicopter? Also real.
- Everyone Went to School Together: Justified, as there were only so many Chinese Opera schools; several of his classmates are famous in their own right, like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.
- Faux Fluency: In most of his English-language movies, he plays characters that speak more fluently than he can. He does speak English fairly well, just not as naturally as some of his characters.
- Fish out of Water: Going by the stuff he says, his early experience in Hollywood is like this in regards to the way they do their stunts.
"I asked Mr. Spielberg
how he put all the dinosaurs and people together
and he says it's easy, just push button, button, button. Then he asks me how I can jump from building to building. I say that's even easier. Rolling, jump, cut, hospital.
"They want to inflate this big cushion, set up wires... it takes five hour!
And I'm just like 'Look, let me jump between buildings, give me the money! Just give me the money, I'll do it in two minutes!'"
- Good Is Not Soft: Generally speaking, his characters are nice guys, however, when push comes to shove, he will kick your ass if he has to.
- Harpo Does Something Funny: Many of his fighting scenes aren't planned until the day of the shoot. As noted in the commentary for Shanghai Noon, they simply set up a saloon with as many props as they could find and simply let Jackie plan the scene and the shots as he wished.
- Hilarious Outtakes: A staple of many of his films, most of them are multiple takes of stunts fights that just didn't go right. According to the man himself, this was inspired by Cannonball Run.
- Improv Fu: Jackie Chan's characters are all about this. This is because the Chan man loves action but dislikes violence so he uses his own style involving a lot of dodging and using the environment to combat his opponents.
- Improvised Weapon: It's safe to say that Jackie would be invincible if he got into a fight at Wal*Mart or Home Depot. He truly is the poster child of this trope.
- As an example, one fight scene in Police Story 4 manages to utilize folding tables, wooden chairs, a skiing jacket, a box of flyers, wooden poles, scaffolding, packing crates, sheets of drywall, the head of a dragon dance costume, a broom and, most infamously, a 10 foot tall stepladder. All in the span of five minutes.
- It Will Never Catch On: Lo Wei, the first director who gave Jackie a chance, actively worked to prevent him from making comedic kung fu movies and forced him to work on endless Bruceploitation films. Obviously, Jackie won that argument.
- Jackie had this attitude when it came to seeing the early Bruce Lee movies. No wire work, bare-bones fights, long cuts that show exactly what they are doing and only fighting one guy at a time. He later admitted he and his stuntman friends were actually jealous, recognizing that Lee was crafting a new age of action movies that relied on the skill of the performers and not the flurry of the visuals.
- Made of Iron: Did you read yet about all the injuries he's had over his career?
- Mean Character Nice Actor: Jackie abhors violence in real life and claims to having only been in one fight his entire life and only then because his friends dragged him into it. Most of his characters, though, are normally nice guys pushed too far.
- Money, Dear Boy: Does not hide the fact that he does movies, particularly American movies, for the money and makes pragmatic decisions to make them sell. He's also got his own clothing line among his many franchises. Also, in Ellen's talkshow, he gives us this line:
"(Talking about the elaborate setups for stunts in America) Just give me the money, and I'll climb that tree! No need for all this complicated stuff."
- In particular, he doesn't care for the Rush Hour films, doesn't get the American humor, and only did a second film because they offered him an "irresistible" amount of money (reportedly something like 20 million to match his co-star Chris Tucker's salary). When it came time for a third one, they had to give Jackie and Chris Tucker both 25 million, promise Chris Tucker 20% of the gross, and give Jackie the distribution rights to the entire continent of Asia. Although he certainly had fun working with his compatriots in it.
- Older Than They Look: Would you believe he was born in 1954? The only role he shows it is Mr. Han and even then he simply looks aged up.
- Old Shame: The City Hunter movie mentioned above. He also played a minor role in a Sex Comedy called All In The Family with Sammo Hung waaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy back when he was pretty much a nobody in the industry. There was an Urban Legend perhaps spread by Cracked.com that it was a porno that was in black and white (the article featured a black and white picture). In actuality, it would be tame by modern Western standards but was racy for 1970's China and is available on Youtube.
- His autobiography includes a filmography with comments by the man himself. One film he laments making, The Protector, was completely gratuitous and nonsensical (as in, a drug den staffed by naked women), and another, All In The Family, contains his only on-screen sex scene (which he says was terrible and nobody should ever want to see it.)
- Omniglot: He speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and American Sign Language and also speaks some German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Thai.
- Re Cut: Many of his films for Golden Harvest were recut for international audiences, generally by dubbing every character's lines into English (even those originally speaking English in the scene) and by replacing the musical score. Some films, such as the Armour of God films, had as many as 15 minutes of footage cut out for their US debut. Jackie often participated in these re-cuts by providing an English dub for his own voice.
- Jackie was very disappointed with The Protector and recut the movie himself so that things made sense (such as changing the nude female lab assistants to fully clothed ones) and so the story was more cohesive (re-editing the fights into a Hong Kong style, removing swearing, adding a scene or two to flesh out Character Development, etc.)
- Small Name, Big Ego: He admits in his autobiography that he went through a phase of this early in his career, pulling stunts like behaving badly in restaurants. He quickly wised up.
- Take That: His stage name "Cheng Long" means "already a dragon" and was intended as a dig at all the Bruce Lee Clones with stage names like "becoming a dragon".