With the overwhelming success of “Rush Hour” in the United States in the fall of 1998, Jackie Chan established himself as the most popular movie star in the world. Prior to the release of the action/comedy co-starring Chris Tucker, Chan was a mere cult personality in America, while in the rest of the world he was an international superstar. Four years later, Chan continues to be a massive draw both here and abroad.
“I think I am successful because I have international humor and international body language,” says Chan. “Because my movies are shown around the world, I use more body language to tell the story.” Chan’s body language is more than just exaggerated facial expressions and physical humor. He is the martial arts version of Buster Keaton, risking life and limb for the sake of his audience, whether it be jumping on top of a moving hovercraft or falling off a building. The star said he has broken his nose three times, his ankle once, most of his fingers, both cheekbones and his skull, just to name a few. “Everybody thinks ‘Jackie you’re a great stunt guy.’ No! I’m not a great stunt guy, I just have the guts to try it is all,” he explained.
“I do the things the people believe I can do,” Chan said of his movie stunts. “I think of other ways to do things. When I’m planning my own stunts, it’s something I can really do. I don’t do crazy things. I know how far I can go and how high I can jump.” Over the years the actor has played a wide variety of behind the scenes roles, from directing, producing, writing and choreographing.
His latest film, “The Tuxedo,” follows Chan as a chauffeur who comes in possession of a $2 billion high-tech tuxedo. The special effects heavy action film was a new experience for Chan, who has starred in more than 100 films in his extensive career. “I decided I wanted to learn something about special effects,” Chan said. “I’ve always been interested in special effects, but I just don’t have the guts to do it.”
Chan has nothing but praise for his co-star, the effervescent Jennifer Love Hewitt. “She is a wonderful girl. She’s just like the female Chris Tucker,” he adds. “After weeks I realized, not only is she pretty, she can act, she can dance, she can sing and she can do some acrobatics.”
While he enjoyed virtually limitless freedom with his Asian releases, Chan finds himself with less control in the Hollywood system. “I had almost half and half creative control with what I did in “The Tuxedo,” because of the special effects. Not like in “Shanghai Knights” when it was about 100 percent.” No matter how much control he has in his films, he said “I always choose Jackie Chan-style movies, I do my own thing.”
“Sometimes I think do I need a break,” the star admits. In the last few years his schedule has been almost non-stop, beginning new projects as others wind down. “They’ve mentioned ‘Rush Hour 4,’ then they talk about ‘The Tuxedo 2,’ now they’re talking about ‘Shanghai Nights 3,'” Chan said of his upcoming features. “One just comes after another. I just want to retire someday, but they just keep on coming.”
Chan almost always chooses films that will appeal to the mass audience, especially children. “When I choreograph all my action scenes it’s very difficult,” he explains. “Action without violence, very difficult. The children have to laugh.” The international star is critical of many Hollywood action films, in particular those with excessive bloodshed. “So many American action movies are about the big machine gun. I think how to get rid of the gun.”
Despite making action film after action film, the hard working actor has other aspirations for the end of his career. “I would love to make a movie like “Rain Man” or “Kramer vs. Kramer,” but with my English how can I do these things?,” he reluctantly admits. “I think I can only do action comedy, but I really hope one day I can do a whole movie without action, only drama and comedy.” Chan continues, “I want to get rid of this image. I want to be an actor one day. The action star life is so short.”