The legendary martial arts star made the announcement at the Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where he spoke about his upcoming projects and 60-year film career in front of a a crowd of adoring fans who regularly interrupted the talks to shout out questions, congratulate him on his honorary Oscar and ask him to sing. (He was happy to oblige with a quick burst of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” explaining that he learned to sing so that he’d be able to do something for his fans that wouldn’t involve fight moves.)
Chan spoke of his humble beginnings, earning 80 cents a day as a jobbing stuntman. It was in this capacity he first met Bruce Lee, when the superstar hit him during a staged fight. Chan says Lee was shocked, and Chan played up his injury to get sympathy. “As a stunt guy you can get hit every day,” Chan said. “It doesn’t matter. I pretend I’m hurt then he comes to help me. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says. The whole day and the whole night, every time I turn around, I see Lee looking if I’m okay. I wanted him to hit me again.” Chan got extra work as a result.
When Lee died, Chan recalled how he was groomed to be his successor. “I said: I am not Bruce Lee. So, if Bruce kicked high; I kick low. Bruce fights like this. I do it the opposite. That’s Jackie Chan. I just do myself.” Going to Hollywood, they told him to slow down his fighting style. “Like Clint Eastwood — BOOM — Make my day! It’s so easy.” Much of the conversation had Chan on his feet and demonstrating his moves, his fighting style and just bouncing with irrepressible vim as he acted out the story. Despite the fact that his first forays into Hollywood weren’t successful, cheers from the audience asserted that Chan is a worldwide star.
What has become “the Jackie Chan style” is marked by its combination of action and comedy. He said, “You cannot create any more action because, what? Punching? Kicking? Those kinds of things… boring. So this is why I slowly use comedy with action and all the props around me, and after I cannot use any more, then I do dangerous stunts. High jumps. Believe it or not, this year is my 60th year in the film industry.”
Chan speaks with extraordinary enthusiasm and affability. He’s the king of the humblebrag: detailing how he dominated cinema in Hong Kong, then Japan and finally Hollywood with “Rush Hour,” which, pairing him with Chris Tucker, finally allowed him to use his own frenetic style. He originally thought the movie would flop, but, “I got a phone call. Brett Ratner and Chris Tucker call me from New York. They’re crazy. We were $70 million in the first weekend. For me, I don’t know how to count.” But he adds to cheers: “We’re talking about ‘Rush Hour 4’ right now.”
When it comes down to the secret of his popularity and success, Chan insists it is the way he controls his films on every level. “There are so many good action stars. My action is better than some other people, not because I’m really good, but because I write a script suitable for myself. I can use the camera angle to make my action better. At night, I go home and edit myself and use those kinds of things to make my action better.”
Chan has a number of new projects simmering, to add to his 150 credits — 300, Chan is quick to correct the moderator, if you include his stunt work. He implored his audience to go to theaters and not pirate movies. He also talked about playing a doctor in “Never Let the Rain Stop,” a new project that will shoot in Saudi Arabia, to enthusiastic cheers from the local crowd. He lists a series of scripts he wants to do, one involving just Chan and a bird; another featuring Chan playing a grandfather who looks after a panda. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Chan is still full of new ideas and ambition. “In the old days we used to go out partying, but now my ambition is to become the good Jackie Chan,” he said. He closed with a promise to make less action films and more love films, before rushing out to the sound of applause and cheers.