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A FIGHT TO FAME:
JACKIE CHANíS SUCCESS STORY

By Blake French:

As one of the most recognizable faces in international and domestic cinema, Jackie Chan needs no introduction. In his native land of Asia, the superstarís popularity has grown to incredible heights. His fan club once topped 10,000 members, mostly comprised of star-struck young girls. One unfortunate female actually committed suicide after she found out that he was married, and yet another crazed fan attempted suicide for the same reason, but was saved. So, what is Chanís secret? How did a typical Asian stunt boy rise to become the biggest non-Hollywood movie star on the planet?
 
"I just do the best I can," Chan explains modestly. The superstar does, however, agree entirely with the legendary James Brown, who acknowledges Chan as one of the hardest working actors in the industry. "For the past fifteen years, Iíve gone almost nonstop," Chan says. "As soon as I finish one movie, they start filming the next. Sometimes, they give me one weekís holiday, and then I'm flying back to Hong Kong to start talking about my next film."
 
While he now enjoys international fame and fortunate, Jackie hasnít always collected $15 million on top of gross points as he earned while making the recent buddy comedy, Rush Hour 2. Though, he did embark on the road to stardom very early in his career. At age of 6, Chan apprenticed to the China Drama Academy where he rigorously trained in music, dance, and traditional martial arts. One day, a visiting filmmaker offered Chan a small role in his movie as a stuntman. Chan eagerly accepted the part, which sparked his passion for the entertainment industry. Soon after, he left the Academy to pursue a career in film. Chanís talent and enthusiasm found him larger and more important roles, until he eventually graduated to stunt coordinator and then to second unit director, all before his 20th birthday.
 
Although the death of martial arts legend Bruce Lee shocked the world with grief, it opened a door for aspiring entertainers like Chan. Asian cinema began frantically searching for an entertainer who could inspire audiences on the same level as Lee. Almost every young martial artist was given a chance to showcase their talents, and many tried to duplicate the style of Bruce Lee. Chan, however, stood apart from the rest. Instead of imitating Lee, he developed his own style, blending both comedy and martial arts action. Chan still encourages his fans to do as he did and be themselves, not shadows of other people. "Don't try to be like Jackie," he proclaims. "There is only one Jackie."
 
Chanís refreshing style provided him with huge opportunities, of which he took full advantage. In 1980, Shi Di Chu Ma, Chanís directorial debut, was a milestone in martial arts cinema as one of the first movies to effectively blend screwball comedy with martial arts excitement. Its success set the pitch for many of Chanís future films, which continued to unite humor with faced-paced martial arts action. As he began making a name for himself, Chan became more of a descendant of Buster Keaton than of Bruce Lee.
 
Although he has well over one-hundred movie credits listed on the Internet Movie Database, Chanís most popular films, many of which he also wrote, produced, and directed, include Project A (1983 and a 1987 sequel), Wheels on Wheels (1984), the Indiana Jones spin-off Armor of God (1986 and a 1991 sequel), Police Story (1987 and a 1989 sequel), Dragons Forever (1988), the comedy-drama Miracles (1990), and Twin Dragons (1992), which wasnít released in America until years later. More recent credits include Police Story 3óSupercop (1992) and Crime Story (1993).
 
His first attempts to break into Hollywood failed when Americanís didnít express much interest in The Big Brawl (1980), Cannonball Run (1981 or a 1984 sequel), or The Protector (1985). After several failed attempts, however, Chan finally found his market in the United States as a leading man in martial arts action comedies, such as Rumble in the Bronx (1996), First Strike (1997), Mr. Nice Guy (1998), The Legend of Drunken Master (2000), and The Tuxedo (2002). Most recently, he conquered the worldwide box office in Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon. He also has a slew of upcoming projects, including Around the World in 80 Days, scheduled for release in December.
 
Now that he has found his market in both America and Asia, Chan is twice as busy. Both industries have kept Jackie so popular heís having trouble keeping up with his own success. "Now I have to make two movies a year,"" Chan explains, "one for the American market, and one for the Asian market." Chan is thankful, however, that his home country isnít as challenging as the American market. "In Asia, I'm already on the top. I never do promotions," he says. "Making movies is my job. That makes me successful. By making a movie, I am helping people. If it's good for the society, I'll do it. But I'm still new in America. I still have to travel and do promotions to introduce my movies. I hate promotions."
 
Despite the time commitment, Chan be going to continue functioning at this rigorous pace for as long as possible. "I'm very lucky," he claims. "I've been in the film business successfully for 20 years and I'm still on top. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and say, ĎJackie, youíre really lucky.í"
 
Chan sure is luckyólucky to be alive, that is. He was recently set to star in a film called Nosebleed as a window-washer at the World Trade Center who must stop a deadly terrorist plot. Chan was supposed to be filming a scene at the top of one of the twin towers at 7:00 AM on Sept 11, 2001, but didn't since the script wasnít ready in time. Understandably, the project was cancelled after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
 
Also, since he always does his own stunts, Chan is reportedly number-one on the insurance blacklist, as he should be. While performing, the actor has broken his nose three times, his ankle once, most of the fingers, both cheekbones, and even his skull. He also has a permanent hole in his head from a stunt accident. Often, audiences get a taste of his pain during outtakes of failed stunts and other accidents that Chan often includes at the end of his films. Yet he claims to know his own limits. "I'm crazy, but I'm not stupid," he explains. "It's just very important that I get hurt [when Iím making a movie]."

 

Directors who have worked with Chan claim he is one of a kind. "I truly believe there is not another actor on the face of the earth who could have done this role, and certainly not to his level of expertise," says director Kevin Donovan of The Tuxedo. "I don't think anyone else has that kind of physical dexterity. The man is amazing."

 
Chanís amazing achievements have earned him numerous awards. Though he hasnít got his hands on an Oscar yet, his shelves are stacked with nominations and awards from various institutions and committees, rewarded to him for reasons ranging from best "butt-kicking fight scene" to best actor in an action film. Even his daytime animated series Jackie Chan Adventures was nominated in 2002 for a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program.

 

So, what exactly is Jackie Chanís secret? How has the superstarís success shifted so effortlessly from continent to continent? Itís impossible to pinpoint one thing in particular that has made Chan such a big success. Perhaps itís his amazing physical dexterity, or his ability to blend slapstick humor with high-energy action, or his free spirit, or his on-screen charisma, or, as Chan himself puts it, perhaps itís just good luck. Whatever the reason, Jackie Chan has become a face known to audiences everywhere will be remembered for generations to come as one of the most successful superstars of all time.

 

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