Jackie Chan Biography (1954-)

jackie-chan, , . Born April 7, 1954, in Hong Kong, China. When his parents moved to Australia to find new jobs, the seven-year-old Chan was left behind to study at the Chinese Opera Research Institute, a Hong Kong boarding school. For the next 10 years, Chan studied martial arts, drama, acrobatics, and singing, and was subjected to stringent discipline, including corporal punishment for poor performance. He appeared in his first film, the Cantonese feature Big and Little Wong Tin Bar (1962), when he was only eight, and went on to appear in a number of musical films.

Upon his graduation in 1971, Chan found work as an acrobat and a movie stuntman, most notably in Fist of Fury (1972), starring Hong Kong’s resident big-screen superstar, Bruce Lee. For that film, he reportedly completed the highest fall in the history of the Chinese film industry, earning the respectful notice of the formidable Lee, among others.

After Lee’s tragic, unexpected death in 1973, Chan was singled out as a likely successor of his mantle as the king of Hong Kong cinema. To that end, he starred in a string of kung fu movies with Lo Wei, a producer and director who had worked with Lee. Most were unsuccessful, and the collaboration ended in the late 1970s. By that time, Chan had decided that he wanted to break out of the Lee mold and create his own image. Blending his martial arts abilities with an impressive nerve—he insisted on performing all of his own stunts—and a sense of screwball physical comedy reminiscent of one of his idols, Buster Keaton, Chan found his own formula for cinematic gold.

A year after the release of his first bona fide hit, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978), Chan took the Hong Kong film world by storm with his first so-called “kung fu comedy” the now-classic Drunken Master (1978). Subsequent hits such as The Fearless Hyena (1979), Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1980), and The Young Master (1980) confirmed Chan’s star status; the latter film marked his first with Golden Harvest, Lee’s old production company and the leading film studio in Hong Kong. Before long, Chan had become the highest-paid actor in Hong Kong and a huge international star throughout Asia. He exerted total control over most of his films, often taking charge of duties ranging from producing to directing to performing the theme songs.

In the early 1980s, Chan tried his luck in Hollywood, with little success. He starred in the Golden Harvest-produced The Big Brawl (1980), which flopped; he also had a small supporting role opposite Burt Reynolds in the disappointing ensemble comedy Cannonball Run (1982) and its equally mediocre 1984 sequel.

Back in Hong Kong, Chan’s star only rose throughout the 1980s, as he produced impressive action-comedies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985), and Armor of God (1986), and the hit period film Mr. Canton and Lady Rose (1989), a clever remake of Frank Capra’s 1961 film A Pocketful of Miracles. By that time, however, Chan was far more than a movie star—he was a one-man film industry. In 1986, he formed his own production company, Golden Way. He also founded a modeling/casting agency, Jackie’s Angels, in order to recruit talent for his films. During the filming of Police Story, so many stuntmen were injured that none would agree to work with Chan again; in response, he founded the Stuntmen Association, whose members he trained personally and paid their medical bills. For his part, Chan claims to have broken every bone in his body at least once while performing stunts. In 1986, during the filming of Armor of God, he fractured his skull after falling over 40 feet while attempting to jump from the top of a building and land on a tree branch below.

In the early 1990s, Chan broadened his range even more, turning in a rare dramatic performance in the melodramatic Crime Story (1993). He also made several sequels to his hits Police Story and Drunken Master. As one of the biggest international box office stars, his popularity in America was limited to the savviest filmgoers. Chan’s profile began a meteoric rise in the mid-1990s, however, when a series of events combined to bring him to the attention of a wider American audience.

In 1995, Chan created his own comic book character, the central figure in Jackie Chan’s Spartan X, a series that hit newsstands in both Asia and the U.S. That same year, newly anointed directing sensation Quentin Tarantino, fresh off the success of Pulp Fiction (1994), presented Chan with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards (the admiring Tarantino reportedly threatened to boycott the ceremony if Chan did not receive the award). In 1996, New Line Cinema and Golden Harvest jointly released Rumble in the Bronx, Chan’s fifth English-language (dubbed) release but his first hit in America. The film grossed $10 million in its first weekend of release, shooting to No. 1 at the box office; its success prompted the American debut of two previous Chan films, Crime Story and Drunken Master II.

After two less successful efforts, Jackie Chan’s First Strike (1997) and Mr. Nice Guy (1998), Chan had another big box-office hit with Rush Hour (also 1998), an American-produced action-comedy. In Rush Hour, Chan employed his English-language skills as a Chinese police officer on an exchange program in the U.S. who is partnered with a streetwise Los Angeles cop, played by the rising comedian Chris Tucker. In 2000, Chan starred in Shanghai Noon, another crossover comedy-action film set in the Old West and co-starring Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu.

The following summer, Chan reteamed with Tucker for the smash hit sequel Rush Hour 2, for which the action star earned a hefty $15 million plus a percentage of the record-breaking box-office haul. In 2002, Chan costarred with Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Tuxedo, an action comedy about a taxi driver who receives special powers when he puts on his boss’s tux. That same year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was honored with the Taurus Award for best action movie star at the World Stunt Awards. Other recent films include Shanghai Knights, New Police Story and The Myth.

Chan is a noted philanthropist whose causes include conservation, animal treatment and disaster relief. In 2006, Chan announced that he would donate half of his assets to charity when he dies.

Chan has one son, J.C., with his estranged wife, the Taiwanese actress Lin Feng-Chiao.

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