The English-language version of Jackie Chan’s confessional memoir, “Never Grow Up,” hits the shelves Tuesday, full of behind-the-scenes stories of his action-packed career and his freewheeling days as a prostitute-frequenting, drunk-driving big spender.
The book includes salacious details of how the kung fu star and honorary Oscar winner blew through money drinking, gambling and buying splashy gifts. He also acknowledges mishandling relationships with women and family, describing his former self as a “total jerk.”
The candid account was first published in Chinese in 2015 but has not been translated into English until now. Jeremy Tiang, the book’s Singaporean translator, told Variety that the English version is unabridged.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how frank and open this book is,” Tiang said. “Though there was a co-writer involved, it felt as if Jackie Chan was speaking very much from the heart, and coming clean about even the less noble aspects of himself and his past. Chan is clearly a complicated person, and this book will allow fans to learn about aspects of his personality they may not have previously been aware of.”
In one section, the actor describes the shock of being a 20-something “uneducated chap who suddenly has 10 million” Hong Kong dollars overnight. “All day I’d drink and drive, in the morning bashing a Porsche, in the evening bashing a Mercedes. Every day I was in this dizzied state,” Chan says in the Chinese-language version of the book.
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“I wanted to go and buy everything I’d ever wanted in the space of a week,” Chan wrote, recounting a time when he and his stunt group carried 500,000 Hong Kong dollars in cash – about $64,000 today – into a watch store and asked the clerk: “Is this the most expensive, with the most gemstones? OK, I’ll take seven, in cash, no need to wrap it up!” Chan wore a different watch every day of the week, purposefully rolling up his sleeves to show them off when dining with colleagues.
He tempers such stories with such asides as: “You see how bad, how childish I was back then. At the time, I still had no confidence, and was always afraid of people looking down on me.”
Chan admits in the book that he hasn’t always been the best father, although he believes that “children these days are often misbehaved and should be hit.”
“When [my son Jaycee] was still young, I hit him once, and was very heavy-handed – directly lifting him and throwing him onto the sofa,” Chan wrote. “That time I really scared him and his mother to death, and I myself was very regretful.”
Chan also speaks in the book about cheating on his wife, Joan Lin, with beauty queen Elaine Ng Yi Lei, the 1990 Miss Asia. The book makes no mention, however, of his estranged daughter from that dalliance, Etta Ng, now 19, who just last week announced her marriage to girlfriend Andi Autumn, a Canadian internet celebrity. Ng has in the past stated that Chan never acted as a father to her, and wrote on Instagram in an announcement of her nuptials: “A home is the family that you can choose…Love is undoutbly [sic] stronger than blood.”
The Chinese version of Chan’s memoir was co-written with Zhu Mo, a former PR director for Huayi Brothers Media, the backer of a number of his films. She came up with the idea while listening to the raucous stories the martial-arts star told while they were traveling together in Myanmar and Thailand for charity work, according to the Chongqing Evening News in southwestern China.
“He has friends all over the world, and wherever he goes, he goes with a bunch of people, and talks of his adventures once he’s in good mood,” said Zhu, according to the China Daily. “In 2013, I asked him if I could write his stories down and make it a book. He answered right away, ‘You can give it a try.'”
On the back of the Chinese book, Chan writes: “I almost forgot who I was until Zhu started to write about me….This man is not the one on the big screens, neither is he the one in the news. I want you to know him.”
The book was well-received by fans in China, where it has a 7.5 out of 10 on user-review site Douban, with one user writing, “Really, there is no more authentic autobiography than this one!”