Jackie Chan, SBS, MBE (born Chan Kong-sang, 陳港生; 7 April 1954) is a Hong Kong actor, action choreographer, filmmaker, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer and stunt performer.
In his movies, he is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts. Jackie Chan has been acting since the 1960s and has appeared in over 100 films. Chan has received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As a cultural icon, Chan has been referenced in various pop songs, cartoons, and video games. Chan is also a Cantopop and Mandopop star, having released a number of albums and sung many of the theme songs for the films in which he has starred.
Chan was born on 7 April 1954, in Victoria Peak, in the former Crown colony of Hong Kong, as Chan Kong-sang (meaning “born in Hong Kong”) to Charles and Lee-Lee Chan, refugees from the Chinese Civil War. He was nicknamed Paopao (Chinese: 炮炮, literally meaning “Cannonball”) because the high-energy child was always rolling around. Since his parents worked for the French Consul to Hong Kong, Chan spent his formative years within the grounds of the consul’s residence in the Victoria Peak district.
Chan attended the Nah-Hwa Primary School on Hong Kong Island, where he failed his first year, after which his parents withdrew him from the school. In 1960, his father immigrated to Canberra, Australia, to work as the head cook for the American embassy, and Chan was sent to the China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera School run by Master Yu Jim-yuen. Chan trained rigorously for the next decade, excelling in martial arts and acrobatics. He eventually became part of the Seven Little Fortunes, a performance group made up of the school’s best students, gaining the stage name Yuen Lo in homage to his master. Chan became close friends with fellow group members Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, the three of them later to be known as the Three Brothers or Three Dragons.
At the age of 8, he appeared with some of his fellow “Little Fortunes”, in the film Big and Little Wong Tin Bar (1962), with Li Li Hua playing his mother. Chan appeared with Li again the following year, in The Love Eterne (1963) and had a small role in King Hu’s 1966 film, Come Drink with Me In 1971, after an appearance as an extra in another Kong Fu film, A Touch of Zen, Chan began his adult career in the film industry, initially signing to Chu Mu’s Great Earth Film Company. At the age of 17, he worked as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon under the stage name Chan Yuen Lung (Chinese: 陳元龍). He received his first starring role later that year, in Little Tiger of Canton, which had a limited release in Hong Kong in 1973. Due to the commercial failures in his early ventures into films and trouble finding stunt work, in 1975 Chan starred in a comedic adult film, All in the Family, which features Jackie Chan’s first and possibly only nude sex scene filmed to date. It is also the only film he has made to date that did not feature a single fight scene or stunt sequence.
Chan joined his parents in Canberra in 1976, where he briefly attended Dickson College and worked as a construction worker. A fellow builder named Jack took Chan under his wing, earning Chan the nickname of “Little Jack” which was later shortened to “Jackie” and the name Jackie Chan stuck with him ever since. In addition, in the late 90s, Chan changed his Chinese name to Fong Si-lung (Chinese: 房仕龍), since his father’s original surname was Fong.
Jackie Chan performs most of his own stunts, which are choreographed by the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. He has stated in interviews that the primary inspiration for his more comedic stunts were films such as The General directed by and starring Buster Keaton, who was also known to perform his own stunts. Since its establishment in 1983, Chan has used the team in all his subsequent films to make choreographing easier, given his understanding of each member’s abilities. Chan and his team undertake many of the stunts performed by other characters in his films, shooting the scenes so that their faces are obscured.
The dangerous nature of his stunts makes it difficult for Chan to get insurance, especially in the United States, where his stunt work is contractually limited. Chan holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Stunts By A Living Actor”, which emphasizes “no insurance company will underwrite Chan’s productions, in which he performs all his own stunts”. In addition, he holds an unrecognised record for the most number of takes for a single shot in a film, having shot over 2900 retakes for a complex scene involving a Jianzi game in Dragon Lord.
Chan has been injured numerous times attempting stunts; many of them have been shown as outtakes or as bloopers during the closing credits of his films. He came closest to death filming Armour of God, when he fell from a tree and fractured his skull. Over the years, Chan has dislocated his pelvis and broken his fingers, toes, nose, both cheekbones, hips, sternum, neck, ankle and ribs on numerous occasions. Promotional materials for Rumble in the Bronx emphasized that Chan performed all of the stunts, and one version of the movie poster even diagrammed his many injuries.