Chan Kong-sang SBS MBE PMW (陳港生; born 7 April 1954), known professionally as Jackie Chan, is a Hong Kongese martial artist, actor, film director, producer, stuntman, and singer. He is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts, which he typically performs himself, in the cinematic world. He has trained in wushu or kungfu and hapkido, and has been acting since the 1960s, appearing in over 150 films.
Chan is one of the most recognizable and influential cinematic personalities in the world, gaining a widespread following in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres, and has received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He has been referenced in various pop songs, cartoons, and video games. He is an operatically trained vocalist and is also a Cantopop and Mandopop star, having released a number of albums and sung many of the theme songs for the films in which he has starred. He is also a globally known philanthropist, and has been named as one of the top 10 most charitable celebrities by Forbes magazine. In 2015, Forbes estimated his net worth to be $350 million, and as of 2016, he was the second highest-paid actor in the world.
Chan was born on 7 April 1954, in Hong Kong, as Chan Kong-sang, to Charles and Lee-Lee Chan, refugees from the Chinese Civil War. His mother or parents nicknamed him Pao-pao Chinese: 炮炮 (“Cannonball”) because the energetic child was always rolling around. His parents worked for the French ambassador in Hong Kong, and Chan spent his formative years within the grounds of the consul’s residence in the Victoria Peak district.
Chan attended the Nah-Hwa Primary School on Hong Kong Island, where he failed his first year, after which his parents withdrew him from the school. In 1960, his father emigrated to Canberra, Australia, to work as the head cook for the American embassy, and Chan was sent to the China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera School run by Master Yu Jim-yuen. Chan trained rigorously for the next decade, excelling in martial arts and acrobatics. He eventually became part of the Seven Little Fortunes, a performance group made up of the school’s best students, gaining the stage name Yuen Lo in homage to his master. Chan became close friends with fellow group members Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, and the three of them later became known as the Three Brothers or Three Dragons. After entering the film industry, Chan along with Sammo Hung got the opportunity to train in hapkido under the grand master Jin Pal Kim, and Chan eventually attained a black belt. Jackie Chan also trained in other styles of martial arts such as Karate, Judo, Taekwondo and Jeet Kune Do.
He began his career by appearing in small roles at the age of five as a child actor. At age eight, he appeared with some of his fellow “Little Fortunes” in the film Big and Little Wong Tin Bar (1962) with Li Li-Hua playing his mother. Chan appeared with Li again the following year, in The Love Eterne (1963) and had a small role in King Hu’s 1966 film Come Drink with Me. In 1971, after an appearance as an extra in another kung fu film, A Touch of Zen, Chan was signed to Chu Mu’s Great Earth Film Company. At seventeen, he worked as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon under the stage name Chan Yuen Lung (Chinese: 陳元龍). He received his first starring role later that year in Little Tiger of Canton that had a limited release in Hong Kong in 1973. In 1975, due to the commercial failures of his early ventures into films and trouble finding stunt work, Chan starred in a comedic adult film All in the Family in which Chan appears in his first nude sex scene. It is the only film he has made to date without a single fight scene or stunt sequence. Jackie Chan later also appeared in one other sex scene, in Shinjuku Incident.
Chan joined his parents in Canberra in 1976, where he briefly attended Dickson College and worked as a construction worker. A fellow builder named Jack took Chan under his wing, thus earning Chan the nickname of “Little Jack” that was later shortened to “Jackie”, and the name Jackie Chan has stuck with him ever since. In the late 1990s, Chan changed his Chinese name to Fong Si-lung (Chinese: 房仕龍), since his father’s original surname was Fong.
Early exploits: 1976–1979
In 1976, Jackie Chan received a telegram from Willie Chan, a film producer in the Hong Kong film industry who had been impressed with Jackie’s stunt work. Willie Chan offered him an acting role in a film directed by Lo Wei. Lo had seen Chan’s performance in the John Woo film Hand of Death (1976) and planned to model him after Bruce Lee with the film New Fist of Fury. His stage name was changed to Sing Lung (Chinese: 成龍, also transcribed as Cheng Long, literally “become the dragon”) to emphasise his similarity to Bruce Lee, whose stage name meant “Little Dragon” in Chinese. The film was unsuccessful because Chan was not accustomed to Lee’s martial arts style. Despite the film’s failure, Lo Wei continued producing films with similar themes, but with little improvement at the box office.
Chan’s first major breakthrough was the 1978 film Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, shot while he was loaned to Seasonal Film Corporation under a two-picture deal. Director Yuen Woo-ping allowed Chan complete freedom over his stunt work. The film established the comedic kung fu genre, and proved refreshing to the Hong Kong audience. Chan then starred in Drunken Master, which finally propelled him to mainstream success.
Upon Chan’s return to Lo Wei’s studio, Lo tried to replicate the comedic approach of Drunken Master, producing Half a Loaf of Kung Fu and Spiritual Kung Fu. He also gave Chan the opportunity to make his directorial debut in The Fearless Hyena. When Willie Chan left the company, he advised Jackie to decide for himself whether or not to stay with Lo Wei. During the shooting of Fearless Hyena Part II, Chan broke his contract and joined Golden Harvest, prompting Lo to blackmail Chan with triads, blaming Willie for his star’s departure. The dispute was resolved with the help of fellow actor and director Jimmy Wang Yu, allowing Chan to stay with Golden Harvest.
Success in the action comedy genre: 1980–1987
Willie Chan became Jackie’s personal manager and firm friend, and remained so for over 30 years. He was instrumental in launching Chan’s international career, beginning with his first forays into the American film industry in the 1980s. His first Hollywood film was The Big Brawl in 1980. Chan then played a minor role in the 1981 film The Cannonball Run, which grossed $100 million worldwide. Despite being largely ignored by audiences in favour of established American actors such as Burt Reynolds, Chan was impressed by the outtakes shown at the closing credits, inspiring him to include the same device in his future films.
After the commercial failure of The Protector in 1985, Chan temporarily abandoned his attempts to break into the US market, returning his focus to Hong Kong films.
Back in Hong Kong, Chan’s films began to reach a larger audience in East Asia, with early successes in the lucrative Japanese market including The Young Master (1980) and Dragon Lord (1982). The Young Master went on to beat previous box office records set by Bruce Lee and established Chan as Hong Kong cinema’s top star. With Dragon Lord, he began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences, including the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground.
Chan produced a number of action comedy films with his opera school friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. The three co-starred together for the first time in 1983 in Project A, which introduced a dangerous stunt-driven style of martial arts that won it the Best Action Design Award at the third annual Hong Kong Film Awards. Over the following two years, the “Three Brothers” appeared in Wheels on Meals and the original Lucky Stars trilogy. In 1985, Chan made the first Police Story film, a US-influenced action comedy in which Chan performed a number of dangerous stunts. It was named the “Best Film” at the 1986 Hong Kong Film Awards. In 1986, Chan played “Asian Hawk,” an Indiana Jones-esque character, in the film Armour of God. The film was Chan’s biggest domestic box office success up to that point, grossing over HK$35 million.
Acclaimed sequels and Hollywood breakthrough: 1988–1998
In 1988, Chan starred alongside Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao for the last time to date, in the film Dragons Forever. Hung co-directed with Corey Yuen, and the villain in the film was played by Yuen Wah, both of whom were fellow graduates of the China Drama Academy.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chan starred in a number of successful sequels beginning with Project A Part II and Police Story 2, which won the award for Best Action Choreography at the 1989 Hong Kong Film Awards. This was followed by Armour of God II: Operation Condor, and Police Story 3: Super Cop, for which Chan won the Best Actor Award at the 1993 Golden Horse Film Festival. In 1994, Chan reprised his role as Wong Fei-hung in Drunken Master II, which was listed in Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Movies. Another sequel, Police Story 4: First Strike, brought more awards and domestic box office success for Chan, but did not fare as well in foreign markets.
Chan rekindled his Hollywood ambitions in the 1990s, but refused early offers to play villains in Hollywood films to avoid being typecast in future roles. For example, Sylvester Stallone offered him the role of Simon Phoenix, a criminal in the futuristic film Demolition Man. Chan declined and the role was taken by Wesley Snipes.
Chan finally succeeded in establishing a foothold in the North American market in 1995 with a worldwide release of Rumble in the Bronx, attaining a cult following in the United States that was rare for Hong Kong movie stars. The success of Rumble in the Bronx led to a 1996 release of Police Story 3: Super Cop in the United States under the title Supercop, which grossed a total of US$16,270,600. Chan’s first huge blockbuster success came when he co-starred with Chris Tucker in the 1998 buddy cop action comedy Rush Hour, grossing US$130 million in the United States alone. This film made him a Hollywood star, after which he wrote his autobiography in collaboration with Jeff Yang entitled I Am Jackie Chan.
Fame in Hollywood and Dramatization: 1999–2007
In 1998, Chan released his final film for Golden Harvest, Who Am I?. After leaving Golden Harvest in 1999, he produced and starred alongside Shu Qi in Gorgeous a romantic comedy that focused on personal relationships and featured only a few martial arts sequences. Although Chan had left Golden Harvest in 1999, the company continued to produce and distribute for two of his films, Gorgeous (1999) and The Accidental Spy (2001). Chan then helped create a PlayStation game in 2000 called Jackie Chan Stuntmaster, to which he lent his voice and performed the motion capture. He continued his Hollywood success in 2000 when he teamed up with Owen Wilson in the Western action comedy Shanghai Noon. A sequel Shanghai Knights followed in 2003 and also featured his first onscreen fight scene with Donnie Yen. He reunited with Chris Tucker for Rush Hour 2 (2001) which was an even bigger success than the original grossing $347 million worldwide. He experimented with special effects with The Tuxedo (2002) and The Medallion (2003) which were not as successful critically or commercially. In 2004 he teamed up with Steve Coogan in the big-budget loose adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days.
Despite the success of the Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon films, Chan became frustrated with Hollywood over the limited range of roles and lack of control over the filmmaking process. In response to Golden Harvest’s withdrawal from the film industry in 2003, Chan started his own film production company, JCE Movies Limited (Jackie Chan Emperor Movies Limited) in association with Emperor Multimedia Group (EMG). His films have since featured an increasing number of dramatic scenes while continuing to succeed at the box office; examples include New Police Story (2004), The Myth (2005) and the hit film Rob-B-Hood (2006).
Chan’s next release was the third instalment in the Rush Hour series: Rush Hour 3 in August 2007. It grossed US$255 million. However, it was a disappointment in Hong Kong, grossing only HK$3.5 million during its opening weekend.
In 1982, Chan married Joan Lin, a Taiwanese actress. Their son, singer and actor Jaycee Chan, was born that same year. After he engaged in an extra-marital affair with Elaine Ng Yi-Lei, an illegitimate daughter by the name of Etta was born on January 18, 1999. It turned into a scandal within the media. Although he reportedly gave Elaine 70,000 HK dollars each month for her living expenses and 600,000 HK dollars when she moved to Shanghai, the transactions were later claimed to be nonexistent by her lawyer. Despite regretting the results of the affair, Chan said he had “only committed a fault that many men in the world commit”. During the incident, Elaine stated she would take care of her daughter without Chan.
Chan speaks Cantonese, Mandarin, English, and American Sign Language and also speaks some German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, and Thai. Chan is an avid football fan and supports the Hong Kong national football team, England National Football Team, and Manchester City.
He is a fan of the Italian duo Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, from which he was inspired for his movies.