The Power of Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan (born Chan Kong-sang, as a tribute to his native Hong Kong) can trace his origins to Hong Kong, where he was born to parents Charles and Lee-Lee Chan on April 7, 1954.
His parents were so poor at the time of his birth, that they contemplated giving him up for adoption to the doctor who delivered their only child, since they couldn't afford the hospital bill.
But because the birth of their only child made it too hard to give him up, the Chan family labored in order to have money to raise him. Chan's father was employed as a cook in the French Embassy, while his mother worked as a housekeeper, but they eventually relocated to Australia, where his father worked as head chef in the American Embassy.
At the age of 7 Jackie was sent back to Hong Kong, where he would become a student at the strict China Drama Academy for 10 years. There he endured 19 hours a day of the kind of acrobatic action we see in Jackie Chan movies today, in all his grace; mime, dance and martial arts, all thanks to very strict training.
Along with 6 more of the Opera Master's pupils, Chan (renamed Yuen Lou) was part of the sensational Seven Little Fortunes, after performing in an Opera of the same name. The Opera Master lent the septet as stuntmen in Chinese films, which is how Chan earned a reputation as an incredible stuntman.
After his introduction to the film company Golden Harvest, Chan began his stunt magic in the 1971 Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon (he also made Asian film history as the only one to successfully complete an extremely high fall).
Chan was finally cast in a rather substantial role in the film, The Little Tiger of Guangdong and appeared in John Woo's Hand of Death. But when the leading martial arts master of the time, Bruce Lee, had suddenly passed away, popular director Lo Wei wanted to prime Chan as the next dragon, and even bestowed upon him the name "Sing Lung," which means "to become the dragon."
But Chan had bigger plans, and decided to go back to classic comedy and film as inspiration, after acting a la Bruce Lee proved to be a film disaster. He wanted to use the slapstick antics of Buster Keaton and chivalrous grace of Fred Astaire, rather than the traditional kung-fu style action.
While a star in Asia, Chan had yet to break through with a hit in the United States. The late '70s and the '80s were marked by huge hits for Chan, such as Snake in the Eagle's Shadow , Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, The Drunken Master, Project A, Wheels on Meals, Dragons Forever, Miracles, and The Fearless Hyena.
Although he was signed with Golden Harvest, was Asia's highest paid actor, and had more than 60 films to his credit, Chan still had to succeed at what proved to be his toughest feat: becoming a Hollywood star.
He got a break when he appeared in Big Brawl, Cannonball Run and The Protector, but due to his poor English skills and even poorer promotion of the films in America, Chan wasn't more than a fleeting thought in the US.
But Chan scored during his second attempt to break into Hollywood, with the 1995 film, Rumble in the Bronx, and he was becoming a household name. He was even honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards. His 1999 comedy opposite Chris Tucker, Rush Hour, received critical and commercial praise, while 2000's Shanghai Noon, with Lucy Liu and Owen Wilson, was also considered to be a great success for Chan.
Leaving His Mark
As actor, director, producer, writer, and stuntman, Chan has won over American audiences thanks to his charm and amazing stunts. He is known internationally for his trademarks of using props such as chairs and ladders in his stunts, never using weapons, giving thumbs up in his films, and his big smile. His formula consists of always playing the reluctant hero (as opposed to the Arnold Schwarzenegger type of hero), who must save a child or a young woman, by always doing his own stunts (as do all actors in Chan movies).
Known for his extreme devotion to his fans (more than his personal life), doing his own stunts has led Chan to break his skull, both cheekbones, his jaw, one shoulder, most of the fingers in his hands, one ankle, and his nose three times. Make sure to stay in the theater while the credits are rolling, as Chan features out takes of failed stunts during production.
Filmography - These are some of the films Jackie Chan has acted in: