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JACKIE CHAN

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Born April 7, 1954

Blackbelt Magazine's 1996 Kung Fu Artist of the Year

Jackie Chan was born in Hong Kong on April 7, 1954 under his real name of Chan Kwong-Sang(Witch means born in Hong kong) After his birth, his parents were so poor that they tried to sell him to the British doctor who delivered him for a meager $26, Luckily the doctor refused. Another interesting fact, he weighed more than 12 pounds at birth!! Eventually, his parents (his dad was a chef, his mom, a housekeeper) found some jobs in Australia so the whole family moved there. In 1961, Jackie, who was only 7 years old at this time, returned to Hong Kong to enroll himself in the Chinese Opera Research Institute for the next 10 years to learn dancing, singing, miming, acting and martial arts. He also met little Sammo Hung and little Yuen Biao who eventually became successful actors. At the Institute, Jackie and his two friends worked very hard, it was normal for them to work from 6 a.m. to midnight. That's an 18-hour day, and Jackie was only 7 years old!  You can see a good example of what Jackie suffered during his days at the Peking Opera, such as savage corporal punishment and food deprivation, by watching a Chinese movie called Farewell, My Concubine directed by Chen Kaige and starring Gong Li and Leslie Cheung. 

In 1971, Jackie finally graduated from the Institute. He returned to Australia and worked as a dishwasher and bricklayer... he didn't want to do that all his life, so he went back to Hong Kong and adopted a studio name: Chen Yuan Long. He got a job at the Shaw Brothers Studios as a stunt man, fighter and more. Then he got his first real acting debut in Little Tiger from Canton. In 1972, the Hong Kong movie industry noticed him when he successfully performed one of the greatest stunts of the 70s. In Fist of Fury, a Bruce Lee international hit, he served as stunt double for Bad Mr. Suzuki and executed the longest stunt fall ever attempted in Asian Cinema. For your information, Jackie's dream, at this time, was to become a stunt coordinator or martial arts director. He wanted to control hundreds of people, tell them to lie there, put blood here, do that... For him, these jobs were kind of prestigious, because of the power involved. To tell the truth, the 70s wasn't that interesting for Jackie, it was a bad decade for Jackie. In 1975, he made a movie called Hand of Death which was directed by John Woo (A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, Hard-Boiled, in the US, he made a name with Hard Target, Broken Arrow and Face/Off), but the movie didn't do well. In 1976, he starred in 6 kung fu flicks for the late Lo Wei who saw Jackie as the next Bruce Lee. Sadly, they were all bad and didn't do well at the box-office. The only great thing Lo Wei did for Jackie was to give him an English name: Jackie Chan. He also gave him a new stage name, Sing Lung, which means "become a dragon" in reference to Bruce Lee's Chinese name Siu-Lung. In 1977, Jackie starred in the kung fu parody Half a Loaf of Kung Fu. That movie wasn't a hit, but it was the first funny Jackie Chan movie. It was a new style for Hong Kong Cinema, Kung Fu and humor, together? why not? His next movie was Snake in the Eagle's Shadow (1978). That movie was Jackie's first hit! In 1978, Chan appeared in Drunken Master. This movie catapulted him to stardom. That movie made more than one million dollars (US) locally in Hong Kong and finished second at the box-office and broke records in Malaysia, Singapore and Japan.

The U.S. market. Not very interesting. Jackie starred in The Big Brawl with Jose Ferrer and Cannonball Run. In 1985, Jackie starred in The Protector. That movie has everything Jackie hates, unnecessary nudity, violence and bad language.  After his US flops, he returned to Hong Kong to concentrate on the Asian market. In 1983, he directed and performed in one of his greatest movie: Project A. This movie is very special because it also starred Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, Jackie's life-long friends. They are also called The Three Brothers: Sammo is the bigger brother, Jackie is in the middle and Yuen Biao is the younger one. In 1985, Jackie, again, directed and starred in Police Story, aka Jackie Chan's Police Force. That movie was so good it was screened at the New York Film Festival. It also won the Best Picture award at the Hong Kong Film Awards, he was even nominated twice for best actor, but Kent Cheng, the fat guy in Crime Story, stole it from Jackie with a great performance in Why Me? A year later, Jackie directed-acted in Armour of God. On the set, Jackie was badly hurt and almost got killed while performing a relatively easy and routine stunt. Jackie was on a castle, he was supposed to jump from there and catch a tree branch, unfortunately, the branch broke so Jackie fell 30 feet and his head hit a rock. Blood was spurting out of his ears. Ouch! This accident kept Jackie out of business for nearly 6 months. Now, he walks around with an open hole in the skull. In 1987, like producer Tsui Hark (Film Workshop) and Jet Li (Eastern Films), he formed his own production company, Golden Way, who eventually produced the critically-acclaimed Rouge starring Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui.  Then came Police Story 2 (1988) and Mr. Canton And Lady Rose, aka Miracles (1989). In 1989, Hollywood gave a him a big chance. They wanted Jackie to star next to Michael Douglas in Black Rain. But Jackie turned down the role. The reason? Jackie had to play the villain. Jackie considers himself a model for the kids so he didn't want to give a bad image of himself to them by killing people in that movie.

I don't know what happened to Jackie in 1990, he starred in only one movie (Island of Fire) which was extremely bad. Jackie later admitted to a newspaper reporter that he owed a favor to the director, Chu Ying-Ping, so he agreed to do the movie which also starred Sammo, Andy Lau and Tony Leung Kar-Fai. Something interesting in that movie, Jackie, Andy and Sammo all died... They were shot, the cheapest and easiest way to die. Even worse, the bloopers were bad.

Armour of God II: Operation Condor is released in 1991. In 1992, he, Eric Tsang, Philip Chan and other movie stars led more than 300 people to march on Hong Kong Police Headquarters to protest against the very powerful Triad or organized crime who control the movie industry. Willie Chan, Jackie's manager and agent, almost got killed a long time ago when he was Andy Lau's agent. The Triad wanted Andy to work for them, but Willie refused. He eventually changed his mind.  City Hunter and Crime Story, a very serious drama, are released respectively in 1992 and 1993. In 1994, Drunken Master II is released. Considered by many to be the best Jackie Chan movie ever, this movie is amazing. The stunts are simply incredible and the acting is pretty good too. Hong Kong cinema veteran Ti Lung played Wong Fei-Hung's father, Jackie as WFH and Anita Mui, his mother #2. A new actor and villain was also born: Kenneth Low Houi Kang, the ultimate bad guy who kicks Jackie at the speed of light at the end of the movie. You may also need to know that Jackie is a real singer! In Hong Kong, Jackie has released more than 10 albums. It is him who usually sings at the end of his movie. He's not bad at all. Jackie is not only a very good stuntman, he is also a very good actor. 

In 1996, New Line decided to give the Americans another chance to discover Jackie Chan. To do so, they badly dubbed Rumble in the Bronx (Jackie dubbed himself, but the other people were dubbed by strangers) and released it on 1500 silver screens across the States. February 10th, 1996 was Jackie's big day. In order to promote the movie, he went to the Late Show and kicked some bottles, talked to hundred of reporters, made the cover of People magazine and numerous others. Rumble was a big hit and made more than 10 million dollars during its opening week-end, beating Julia Roberts' Mary Reilly. It went on to get more than 32 million dollars. Rumble was even the most profitable movie of 1996. Total U.S. box-office results: $US 32,380,143 and ranked #52 in earnings in 1996. Jackie got worldwide attention when he presented an Oscar with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the Academy Awards held in Los Angeles. "...I like your hair." Jackie told Kareem. That was in 1996. Supercop was released by Miramax. it was released one week after Independence Day. Results: US$16,3 millions. First Strike. Only 6 millions the first week. Mr. Nice Guy was released in Hong Kong on January 23, 1997 and made more than $HK11 millions on the opening week-end. Once Upon a Time in China and America finished second with a little $HK5.6M also on its opening week-end. The movie has since made $HK45 millions. Armour of God 2 (1991) or just Operation Condor, in the States, was released by Miramax on July 18th, 1997. Bad was the dubbing, the cutting and, consequently, the box-office results. It opened at Number 8... and made only $4.7 million on its opening week-end. The second week-end, No 10 and $1.6M. It should reach the very disappointing $10 million when Miramax stops showing it.

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