Chopstick Cinema

Celeste Heiter's Adventures in Asian Food & Film

Jackie Chan: The Real 'Mr. Nice Guy'

Jackie Chan was born Kong-sang Chan on April 7, 1954 in Hong Kong, the only son of Charles and Lee-lee Chan. His parents were servants of the French ambassador to Hong Kong, and they lived in the servants' quarters of his mansion near Hong Kong's Victoria Peak. In 1960, his father moved to Australia to work in the Chinese embassy, leaving Jackie and his mother behind in Hong Kong. At age six, Jackie was enrolled in the Peking Opera school, under the apprenticeship of Master Yu Jim-Yuen. He was given the stage name Yuen Lo, and studied the traditional Chinese arts of performing, singing, acting, acrobatics and martial arts. When Jackie's mother joined his father in Australia, Master Yu adopted Jackie, and invited him to join his performing group The Seven Little Fortunes, which also included many performers who would go on to become some of Hong Kong's biggest stars. Samo Hung, Yuen Biao, have even co-starred in several Jackie Chan films.

Jackie Chan got his first taste of acting when a filmmaker visited the Peking Opera School and offered Jackie Chan a small role as a stunt player. Soon thereafter, Jackie left the Peking Opera at age 17 and went seeking roles in film. He got his first break in 1971 as the lead in a film called Master with the Cracked Fingers. Two years later, Jackie worked as an extra in Fist of Fury, and Enter the Dragon, two films starring the legendary Bruce Lee. In the years that followed, Jackie starred in films by director John Woo, the Lo Wei Film Company, and director Ng See Huen's Seasonal Film Company.

Jackie first began developing his unique comedic martial arts style in Snake in Eagle's Shadow, and later with Drunken Master, which broke all the box office records in Hong Kong. His 1984 film Project A, set in early 1900's Hong Kong, marked the first of Jackie Chan's spectacular stunts, an element that would later become his trademark.

In 1985, Jackie attempted to break into Hollywood with the film The Protector. It was a box office flop, which caused him to return to Hong Kong, where he directed and starred in Police Story. The film was a blockbuster hit, featuring some of the most exciting fight scenes and dangerous stunts ever attempted. The film was so successful in fact, that it has inspired four sequels.

Although Jackie Chan's first attempts at crossing over into the American market were met with failure, he had his first major breakthrough in the American film industry in 1996, when New Line Cinema bought the rights to distribute his Hong Kong film Rumble in the Bronx. The film was a huge box office success that made Jackie Chan a household name. With his newfound popularity at the American box office, rival film company Miramax bought the rights to Jackie's existing Hong Kong films for U.S. distribution, while New Line continued to contract his ongoing Hong Kong films for U.S audiences. Jackie Chan went on to make Rush Hour and its sequel, followed by Shanghai Noon and its sequel Shanghai Knights, as well as the James Bond spoof, The Tuxedo. And although his recent films have catapulted Jackie Chan to ever growing heights of box office success in the U.S., he continues to make films in Hong Kong to suit the tastes of his Asian audiences as well.

Jackie has been married to Feng-Jiao Lin since 1983, with whom he has one son. He has been knighted as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by the British Government for the Hong Kong Commonwealth; he was awarded the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Minister of Culture and Communication; and the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region conferred the Silver Bauhinia Star (SBS) upon him in 1999. And despite his lack of formal academic education, Jackie Chan has also been awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Social Science by the Hong Kong Baptist University, and an Honorary Fellowship of the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts.

His many films include Little Tiger From Canton (Master with Cracked Fingers), Enter The Dragon, Countdown In Kung Fu, New Fist Of Fury, Shaolin Wooden Men (Shaolin Chamber of Death), To Kill With Intrigue, The Killer Meteors, Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, Snake & Crane Of Shaolin, Fist Of Death, Magnificent Bodyguards, Spiritual Kung Fu, Dragon Fist, Fantasy Mission Force, The Fearless Hyena, All In The Family, The Young Master, Half A loaf of Kung Fu, Battle Creek Brawl (The Big Brawl), Cannonball Run, Dragon Lord, Winners And Sinners, Project A, Fearless Hyena Part II, Wheels On Meals (Spartan X), Cannonball Run II, Twinkle, Twinkle, Lucky Stars, The Protector, Police Story, My Lucky Stars, Heart Of The Dragon (First Mission), Armour Of God (Tough Guy), Project A II, Dragons Forever, Police Story II, Mr. Canton And Lady Rose (Miracles), Island On Fire, Armour Of God II (Operation Condor), Twin Dragons, Police Story III : Supercop, City Hunter, Crime Story, Drunken Master II, Thunderbolt, Rumble In The Bronx, Mr. Nice Guy, Police Story IV : First Strike, Who Am I, Burn Hollywood Burn, Rush Hour, Gorgeous, Shanghai Noon, Accidental Spy, Rush Hour 2, The Highbinder, The Tuxedo, and Shanghai Knights.