The biggest non-western movie star in the world, a successful actor, director, producer, action choreographer, and a stuntman; we all know him as Jackie Chan. Well-known for his perfect comic timing and impeccable fighting style, Chan has created a one-man film industry with his ability to combine easy gags with high kicks.
Jackie Chan has been a part of famous movies like ‘Rush Hour’, ‘Rush Hour 2’, ‘Shanghai Knights’, ‘Shanghai Noon’, ‘The Tuxedo’, ‘The Karate Kid’ to name a few. Chan has acted in more than 100 Hong Kong as well as Hollywood movies and is known to perform all his stunts on his own. At the Cannes Film Festival in 2012, Chan announced his semi-retirement from the action movies as his body needed care and rest.
Jackie Chan has worked very hard to reach where he is today, and his success story is an inspiration in itself.
Born on April 7, 1954, in Hong Kong, China to parents Charles and Lee-Lee Chan, Jackie was named Chan Kong-sang at birth. His parents were so poor that at birth the doctor offered to take the child in payment. His father turned down the offer and borrowed money to pay for the operation.
His parents moved to Australia to find jobs at the US embassy leaving 7-year-old Chan to study at the Chinese Opera Research Institute where Jackie was trained in music, dance, acrobatics, and traditional martial arts. Chan was subjected to stringent discipline that included corporal punishment for poor performance. It was a harsh and difficult life for the young Jackie Chan, but as he had nowhere to go he had to stay, and he rarely saw his parents for years.
In 1962 at the age of 8, Jackie Chan appeared in his first film, the Cantonese feature ‘Big and Little Wong Tin Bar’. In the academy, Jackie teamed with fellow opera students in ‘The Seven Little Founders’ a performance group, and it was here that his friendship began with actors Sammo Kam-Bo Hung and Biao Yuen.
Jackie graduated from the China Drama Academy at the age of 17 and since Chinese opera was not that popular Jackie and his classmates had to look for other work. It was difficult for Jackie as he did not learn to read or write and the only work available for him was an unskilled labour or stunt work. Since there was always a need for stuntmen in Hong Kong movies, Jackie started working as a stuntman and became popular as Jackie was athletic and inventive.
Chan began his movie career in the early 70’s and appeared in minor roles which starred the rising martial arts superstar Bruce Lee in ‘The Chinese Connection’ aka ‘Fist of Fury’ and ‘Enter the Dragon’.
Chan moved to Canberra in 1976 to be with his parents, enrolled at Dickson College and worked in construction. He wasn’t very happy in Australia as the construction work was both difficult and boring. A telegram from Willie Chan changed Jackie’s life forever, and he moved back to Hong Kong to star in ‘New Fist of Fury’.
Jackie Chan still points out that he owes his success in movies to Willie who went on to become his best friend and manager.
The search for a popular replacement was on following the death of the martial arts legend Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan rather than following his footsteps developed his own style. Jackie Chan began to experiment with comic characterizations, and it improved his fortunes. Chan took advantage of his learning at the opera combining it with the genre the legendary Bruce Lee had originated.
By 1978, Chan had become the most popular martial arts star. His directorial debut ‘The Young Master’ became a milestone in martial arts films. It was the first film that effectively combined martial arts with slapstick comedy. He also directed and starred in films ‘Armour of God’, ‘Mr. Canton and Lady Rose’ that went on to become two of the highest-grossing films in Hong Kong and so Chan formed his production company.
Chan married Lin Feng-jiao, a Taiwanese actress in the year 1982 and the same year they had their son Jaycee Chan who is now a famous actor and singer.
Chan had an affair outside his marriage with Elaine Ng Yi-Lei and together they had a daughter in 1999, Etta, who still is never formally acknowledged as Chan’s daughter.
During the making of the movie ‘Police Story’ many stuntmen were injured and none was willing to work with Chan again. This incident forced him to form the Jackie Chan Stuntmen Association in the year 1985. He personally trained and provided medical coverage for its members.
Chan himself almost died during the filming of ‘Armour of God’, and it is due to this reason that Jackie Chan cannot ever get insured in the U.S.
By the mid 80’s, Chan had become more than a movie star and was considered as a one-man film industry. Besides forming his production company Golden Way in the year 1986, Chan also founded Jackie’s Angels, a modelling/casting agency to recruit talent for his films. By this time Chan was unknown in the United States but experienced a meteoric rise during the mid-1990.
‘Spartan X’, Chan’s comic book character hit newsstand in both Asia and the U.S. in 1995, and it was the same year when director Quentin Tarantino presented Chan with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards. In 1996 ‘Rumble in the Bronx’ was released in America and proved to be a number 1 film at the box office garnering $10 million in its first weekend. The success of this film prompted the American debuts of Chan’s earlier films ‘Crime Story’ and ‘Drunken Master II’.
Despite his limited knowledge of the English language, Chan was offered more and more roles from Hollywood. He was offered to play a villain in Hollywood movies, but Jackie was not interested in doing typical roles or play stereotypical characters. Chan even declined the role offered to him by Sylvester Stallone in the ‘Demolition Man’.
Jackie Chan starred in the Hollywood movie ‘Rush Hour’ with comic actor Chris Tucker in 1998 and it went on to become a huge success. In 2001 they teamed up again for the sequel ‘Rush Hour 2’. But it was with Owen Wilson that Chan starred in big budget movies like ‘The Tuxedo’, ‘Shanghai Knights’ and ‘Shanghai Noon’ that also went on to become huge hits of his career.
Chan-sang the original soundtrack of the movie ‘Mulan’ and it was for the same movie that Jackie Chan lent his voice to the character ‘Shang’. Jackie again lent his voice to the cartoon ‘Jackie Chan Adventures’ from the year 2000 to 2005 that was based on him.
In 2003, Jackie Chan teamed up with British comedian Lee Evans and Claire Forlani for the movie ‘The Medallion’. In 2004 he worked in the movie ‘Around the World in 80 Days’, and the year 2005 saw 4 of his releases, ‘The Huadu Chronicles: Blade of the Rose’, ‘New Police Story’, ‘The Myth’ and ‘Rob-B-Hood’.
Rush Hour 3′ which starred Jackie Chan and Roman Polanski was released in the year 2007 and grossed over $258 million. In 2011, the remake of ‘The Karate Kid’ was released that starred Chan and Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith. The movie was much talked about film of the year as it showcased a combination of Chinese-American martial arts and became a huge box office success earning over 358 million US dollars. The 100th movie of Jackie Chan’s career is ‘1911’ released in the year 2011 and was his first directorial venture after ‘Who Am I?’ that was released in 1998.
Chan revisited his old franchise with ‘Police Story 2013’ and his 2015 historical action film ‘Dragon Blade’ enjoyed huge box office success which featured John Cusack and Adrien Brody that set the dice rolling for Chan’s 2016 releases ‘Skiptrace’ and ‘Railroad Tigers’.
Although Chan cannot read or write, he can speak several languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Thai, English, German, Spanish, etc. He is a follower of the Buddhist religion. Despite his minimal formal education, Chan was made an honorary doctor of social science of the Hong Kong Baptist University and an honorary fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.
Besides being one of the most respected figures in the Hong Kong film industry Chan is also one of the most well-known philanthropists in Hong Kong. He has worked to champion many charity works and causes that include conservation, animal welfare, child education and disaster relief. Chan has served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2004, and in 2006 he announced that half of his assets would be donated to charity after Jackie Chan’s death. In 2015 Chan was named Singapore’s first anti-drug ambassador.
Chan has a star on the Avenue of Stars in Hong Kong and the Walk of Fame. Besides being a superstar, he’s also a major pop star in Asia with over 100 song titles to his credit in 20 albums since the year 1984. Chan sings in different languages including Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, and English.
During early years of his movie career, Jackie Chan was cast aside as just another failed Bruce Lee emulator. But now after more than 5 decades of being in the movie business, after breaking his nose three times, cracking his ankle, most of his fingers and even his skull that is patched together with a steel plate he has reached stardom that nobody can beat.