Hong Kong cinema will continue to live alongside mainland Chinese cinema despite the recent boom of China’s film industry, says Jackie Chan ahead of receiving an Honorary Oscar at the Academy’s Governors Awards.
“Hong Kong filmmaking has its own unique style and orientation, which I think works side-by-side with the Chinese film industry,” says Chan, who will be presented with the award on Nov. 12. “Our Chinese culture is the same but I don’t think Hong Kong cinema will cease to exist,” the Hong Kong-born action superstar tells Variety.
Chan is arguably the world’s best known Asian actor since Bruce Lee. Born in 1954, Chan was enrolled in the China Drama Academy for training in the art of Peking opera when he was 7. He made his motion picture debut a year later, but continued his training until he was 17.
Initially Chan was a stuntman. His major breakthrough came when he was cast as the lead in Yuen Woo-ping’s kung fu comedy “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” (1978). The instant hit was followed by “Drunken Master” released in the same year, also directed by Yuen. The 1980s saw Chan establish himself as an action hero in his native Hong Kong with his inventive stunt work in a number of successful action thrillers including “Project A” (1983) and “Police Story” (1985).
Chan then ventured into America and starred in a series of box office hits. After the success of “Rumble in the Bronx” in 1996, his other blockbuster hits include “Rush Hour” (1998), “Shanghai Noon” (2000), and “Shanghai Knights” (2003).
His dazzling on-screen action choreography and slapstick humor have not only sealed his status as a global cinema icon, but also bring back Hong Kong cinema on the world map. He was the ambassador for Hong Kong tourism for decades.
Although Chan had his success in Hollywood, he still praises filmmaking in Hong Kong. “The greatest qualities about Hong Kong cinema is the flexibility when it comes to making a film, ” he says. “But I think the Hong Kong movie business still hasn’t developed to its full potential because of budget limitations.”
Overcoming the language barrier, says Chan, is not the greatest challenge for Asian films breaking into the global market.
“The greatest challenge is finding the right topic, using brilliant techniques and being creative,” he says.
The star says he’s working on several projects, including collaborations with some of Hollywood’s biggest players. Although he declines to disclose more details, he promises he will never retire. “The day I stop making films is the day my heart stops beating.”