Jackie Chan doesn’t want to be remembered as an action star. He wants to be remembered as an actor, he says during our interview, who happens to have done some action films.
The fact that those films have gone on to be some of the most memorable and iconic action films of all time, well… that’s another story.
Chan began his career in the early 1960s and 1970s as a stunt man opposite Bruce Lee in ‘Fist of Fury’ and ‘Enter the Dragon’. Over the past four-and-a-half-decades, however, he’s become a household name and a martial arts icon, recognised for doing his own stunts and making audiences laugh.
His latest action adventure spy-thriller ‘Vanguard’, releasing in UAE cinemas this weekend, sees him play the head of an elite security agency, who goes on a cross-continent rescue mission (including a stop in Dubai) to retrieve a kidnapped client. (And yes, Chan still does his stunts; he had a near-death experience shooting ‘Vanguard’: while rescuing a hostage in Africa, his aqua-bike hit a rock and he became trapped in a rapid river beneath a strong torrent, waiting for a rescue team of his own.)
Ahead of the film’s release, the Hong Kong actor, 66, spoke to Gulf News over email, reflecting on his career, being bullied as a child, how he spends his rare day off — and the surprising genre he still can’t wait to do.
How was your latest experience filming in Dubai?
The car chase scene is superb. Audiences have seen exciting car chase scene before, including the one in ‘Kung Fu Yoga’ [also filmed in Dubai], but this time we have gold-plated sports cars. And not only on the city streets but also through the inside of a mall!
You’re best known for action films. Is that because you have always preferred to do action to other genres?
I do a lot of action comedies because that’s what I’m best known for. But since I don’t like repeating myself, I don’t limit myself to one particular genre. I’d like audiences to think of me as an actor who can do action, not only as an action star. I really look forward to trying more dramatic roles. I’ll still continue to do action comedies, but also other genres, too.
Is there any type of movie that you haven’t done yet, that you’d like to?
I’m interested in making musicals. I can sing and dance, too. It would be great if someone would hire me in such a movie so that I could show off that side of me and actually sing and dance.
You are extremely well-known and beloved in the Middle East. How do you feel about your popularity in the Arab world? Why do you think your fan base is so international?
I am really grateful that I have so many fans in the Arab world. The support from the fans is what encourages me to keep on pushing my boundaries. I think my fan base is global because the language of movies is international. It always brings people together. Action comedies especially transcend language barriers so that everyone around the world can enjoy them.
Did you visit your star on the Dubai Stars? What was your reaction to hearing that you would be part of it?
I haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit The Dubai Stars yet, but I will definitely go there if I have the chance. I’m really grateful and humbled that I was given recognition for my body of work.
When you came to Dubai last time, you said the one thing you don’t like is a holiday — your motto is to work, work, work. But what do you do on a day off?
I would watch documentaries on television, on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic. And I can’t help myself from cleaning the film set, recycling the empty bottles, vacuuming, and tidying up rooms. Also, I still go to the gym every day and run for an hour.
Jackie, you are a trailblazer in Hollywood who opened up doors for dozens of young people. How do you feel about the growth of Asian representation in Hollywood in recent years? Is there still a long way to go?
It’s great to see more, and better, Asian representation in Hollywood. Since it’s the biggest movie industry in the world, it’s important to give Asians and other minorities in Hollywood a voice so that we can promote better understanding of each other. There’s still a long way to go, but at least things are starting to improve. I’m looking forward to more changes in the future.
Can we expect to see you on a TV series, perhaps with a web streaming service like Netflix, Amazon or Disney?
As long as I’m interested in the subject matter, I’m open to anything!
It’s rare to see you on social media. Do you think it’s necessary to be active online in today’s entertainment industry?
Honestly, I do not have the time for social media. I always want to have greater interaction with my fans. I prefer to interact with people face-to-face.
You have become famous for not using body doubles. Is that still a point of pride for you, or do you feel like you’ve proved yourself enough at this point in your celebrated career?
I no longer do the crazy stunts of my younger years, but I still do my own stunts. I trained since I was very young so my foundation is still strong. Most action moves are still easy for me. Of course I’ve changed my style of fighting in recent years, but my audience still expect me to do my own stunts, and I don’t want to disappoint them.
What would you say is the toughest stunt you had to do in your career?
I shot over a hundred films and there are too many memorable filming experiences, so I can’t really name one here. For example, in ‘Police Story’, when I jumped down from the shopping mall Christmas decoration; or ‘Project A’ when I fell down from the clock tower; or ‘Police Story 3’, when I hung on the helicopter… All the stunts I designed were difficult.
In previous interviews, you’ve been open about being bullied as a child. What would be your advice to kids facing huge amounts of bullying and cyberbullying today?
Kids should be brave and learn to stand up for themselves. If not, they’ll be easily picked on as an easy target. Be brave, defend yourself, and stand up to bullies!
What do you want to be remembered for?
I wanted to be remembered as an actor, not an action star, but as an actor who also happened to make some action films.
Don’t miss it!
‘Vanguard’ releases in UAE cinemas on October 8.