Jackie Chan's life in pictures, from Young Master to Rush Hour
“Don’t try to be like Jackie,” he says. “There is only one Jackie. Study computers instead.”
Jackie Chan is a giant in martial arts and comedy movies. The genre 'kung fu comedy' is basically his invention. Chan's impressive list of roles for TV, cinema, and animation movies counts more than 150.
He's is considered the most successful Chinese actor of all times. To get to this high point in his life and career, he has had to overcome many obstacles.
Jackie Chan was born in Hong Kong as Chang Kong-sang on April 7, 1954. His parents were Chinese civil war refugees who worked for the French embassy in Hong Kong. Soon they moved to Australia, but Chan always kept a strong connection with Hong Kong and China.
Little Chan was very strong and liked to jump around a lot. They called him Pao Pao, which means "cannonball." His father often practiced Kung Fu with the child.
People also say, however, that the nickname was used as a slur by his classmates. When Chan's family moved to Canberra, Australia, he had a lot of trouble getting by in school and he was bullied by the other kids. In the end, Chan never learned to read or write well.
Chan's father decided to send him back to Hong Kong for the prestigious China Drama Academy. He joined the 'Seven Little Fortunes,' a group of young martial artists, and appeared for the first time in a movie when he was 8. According to his master, Chan was "not one of the best, but the naughtiest, yes."
At age 17, Chan graduated as an acrobat, martial artist and singer. But apart from his Drama diploma he had no other skills - not even reading or writing. So he decided to become a stuntman.
He worked in the Hong Kong martial arts cinema scene and tried to break through in Hollywood. It was very hard work, with backlashes, stunt accidents, and unemployment, but he managed to make a name for himself and his team of stuntmen in the 70s.
In the early 70s, Chan got to work as a stuntman with the legendary Bruce Lee in films like 'Fist of Fury' and 'Enter the Dragon.' One of Chan's gravest work accidents happened on the set of 'Enter the Dragon,' when Lee mistakenly hit him in the face with a nunchuck.
At the time of Bruce Lee's sudden death in 1973, martial arts movies with the words 'fist,' 'dragon,' or 'fury' in the title were incredibly popular around the world. Chan was often asked whether he wanted to be the next Bruce Lee. He'd say: "No, I prefer to be the first Jackie Chan."
In 1978 and 1980, Chan made two martial arts classics. The first was 'The Drunken Master,' directed by Yuen Woo-Ping, an early example of the comical kung fu style he would become known for. The second was 'The Young Master,' which Chan directed.
In his biography he says: “Bruce Lee would scream and roar while fighting in order to demonstrate his power and rage, but I prefer to cry out and pull faces. Bruce Lee is superhuman in the audience’s eyes, but I just want to be a regular guy.”
Several times, Chan tried to make it in Hollywood. He allegedly had plastic surgery in 1976 to make his eyes look more 'western.' In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, he embarked on projects with American film makers. Most of them flopped, others had only a little success.
Chan earned his first name 'Jackie' from the time he was not doing so well in showbizz. Moving back with his parents, he worked in construction for a while. His Australian colleagues could not pronounce his actual name and ended up calling him 'Jackie.'
'Police Story' (1986) was his breakthrough with action lovers in the U.S. Two more films in this franchise would follow.
Chan's biggest, mainstream breakthrough was with the movie 'Rush Hour' in 1998. He made it with comedian Chris Tucker. Jackie Chan was like a fish in the water in this combination of slapstick and action.
By the turn of the century, Jackie Chan was a household name in Hollywood. The Rush Hour franchise turned out to be a big cash cow. Perhaps not Chan's favorite artistic work, but certainly lucrative. Celebrities like Paris Hilton played parts in the films.
Meanwhile, Jackie Chan's private life was controversial. He had a daughter, Etta Ng, from an extramarital affair with a former Miss Asia in 1999. Etta Ng recently made the news when she came out as a lesbian and married the Canadian social media influencer Andi Autumn. In addition, Jaycee, the son Chan parented with his wife Joan Lin, got in trouble for drug abuse.
Jaycee's convictions for possession of marijuana have embarrassed his father very much, because Jackie Chan is a national anti-drug spokesperson for the Chinese government.
The actor reportedly disinherited his son after he had served a six-month prison sentence for drug use. He said: "If he is capable, he can make his own money. If he is not, then he will just be wasting my money."
Chan revealed some of his darker secrets in the biography "Never Grow Up" (2015). He wrote that he could not deal with his new wealth in the beginning. Chan gambled and drank a lot, visited prostitutes and ruined luxury cars while driving under influence.
Chan admitted to being an aggressive father. He threw the 2-year-old Jaycee through the room once. But the biography did not acknowledge that he had a daughter, as Etta and Jackie are estranged from each other.
In 2010, Jackie Chan starred in the remake of 'The Karate Kid' with Jaden Smith. In the film, an African American boy moves to China and gets bullied by Beijing's biggest rascal. Then Mr. Han, the handyman (Jackie Chan), steps in and teaches the newcomer some fine Kung Fu Moves.
The Karate Kid remake showed once again how creative Chan is with everyday objects. At one point in the movie, he catches a fly with his chop sticks. In other instances, we saw Chan hitting people with toilet seats, ladders, or feather dusters.
With blockbusters like 'Rush Hour' and 'Karate Kid,' as well as big successes in Asian markets, Jackie Chan is currently the number 5 best paid actor according to Forbes. His net worth is estimated at $230 million.
Jackie Chan is involved in a lot of humanitarian efforts. He is Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, the children's organization of the United Nations. His good work for children, animals, and other vulnerable creatures has connected him to the British royal family. Here he's talking to Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, about illegal wildlife trade.
Jackie Chan has always been very loyal to the Chinese government. This is striking because the People's Republic does not always adhere to the democratic principles of his native Hong Kong. Here he is meeting president Xi Jinping.
Jackie Chan was much involved in the celebrations surrounding the Olympic Games of 2008 in Beijing. A true representative of China, he participated in a music video at the National Stadium in Beijing, also known as the Birds Nest.
With such strong ties to the mainland, it may not be surprising that Chan supported the Chinese government in opposition to Taiwanese and Hong Kongese democratization efforts. In the summer of 2019, Chan expressed his loyalty to the Chinese flag rather than the cause of Hong Kong.
Several media quote Chan in saying that democracy in Taiwan is "the biggest joke in the world." As a response, Taiwanese politicians called for a ban of Jackie Chan films. When he arrived in Tapei one day in 2008, protesters yelled at him: Jackie Chan, get out!"
Despite the controversies, Chan is regarded as one of Asia's prime entertainers and a bridge-builder between Eastern and Western culture.
Jackie Chan's favourite films of all times are 'Gone with the Wind' (1939), 'Singing in the Rain' (1952), and 'The Matrix' (1999). They reflect very well that he is interested in singing and acting as well as in action.
Jackie Chan's favourite actors are Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. He's actually more into comedy than martial arts, but the world has labeled him an action hero.
Chan, here with Liu Ye and Jing Tian, refuses to play the bad guy in movies. He only did it once, in 1974, in "Rumble in Hong Kong." In 1993, Sylvester Stallone offered him the role of villain, for the blockbuster 'Demolition Man'. Jackie turned it down.
Jackie Chan is very specific about love scenes in his movies. "I have a few rules that I tell my manager: No intimate scenes. No make love. The kids who like me don't need to see it. It would gross them out."
Chan mostly does his own stunts. "A lot of people ask me when I do a stunt, 'Jackie, are you scared?'" he says. "Of course I’m scared. I’m not Superman."
He has an impressive record of stunt injuries. According to IMDB statistics, he has "broken his nose three times, his ankle once, most of the fingers in his hand, both cheekbones, and his skull." They say he has "a permanent hole in his head" from a stunt accident.
Despite all the injuries, Jackie Chan is alive and kicking. He makes fun of his own accidents by showing the failed takes at the end of his movies.
In 2016, Chan received an honorary Oscar for his work in cinema. "After 56 years in the film industry, making more than 200 films, after so many bones, finally," he said.
About his acting ambitions he says: "Action stars have a shelf life. I want people to say Jackie is a good actor who can also do action. I want to be the Robert DeNiro of Asia."