An interview with Jackie Chan
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International roundtable discussion with Rush Hour II star Jackie Chan
W.E.B. DuBois, African American scholar, philosopher, and leader, often remarked about the duality of African American life. DuBois recognized the identity tug of war that often positioned the two components of African American identity against one another. For action film star Jackie Chan, international success has often placed the stunt specialist in the similar position of man in the middle. Chan grapples daily with trying to appease his loyal Asian base of fans as well as the tastes of the more lucrative Western (American) market. This East versus West ďtug of warĒ has often placed Chan in a difficult position of negotiating where he has come from and what that means for him and his films. In this interview, Chan reveals the pressures of being Jackie Chan, making the Rush Hour sequel, his search for movies that appeal to all audiences, and his cynicism with Hollywoodís recent interest in Asian films. Those familiar with the struggles of African American, and other filmmakers of color, will definitely recognize this tired storyline.
When you were making the first, did you know then that you were going to make a sequel?
A: Never. When I made Rush Hour I, I looked at the film and I didnít really like it. Another one of my films that is not appealing to the American market. I thought Rush Hour could do well in the American market, but I donít think so at that time. At the time, I didnít know about American humor. So when I looked at it [the film] by myself I was not sure. Then I return to Asia to make my own film and boom, Rush Hour is a big success. I just donít understand why. Then at the premiere everybody is happy and it is a success. But I still think I am right. The movie is good for the American market and Europe market, but not in Asia. [In Asia] it is not as successful as it is in America. In Asia, because of the humor, we donít know it or understand. At that time, I know that I have to make two movies a year; one for Asian market and one for American market. From that point on, I make one movie in Hong Kong and one in America and I go back and forth.
Youíre a huge international star in Asia. I read from an article that female suicide rates went up when you got married.
A: Not even married
How do you respond to that kind of publicity?
A: Oh, I am very sad. It makes me sad. It makes me very nervous. At that time, I remember I didnít even say married. I just said that I have a girlfriend. I just said girlfriend and a girl jumped into the subway, [it was a] suicide. From that, I knew how serious it was. And so, for all those years I have been hiding. Another girl was found in front of my office drinking poison. So many things have gone on. Another girl, came to Hong Kong, she would never go away. 24 hours a day she followed me. She would stay in front of my house, stay in front of my office. At the end, I called up immigration to have her sent back. There are too many things going on. When I stay in a hotel, the rooms around me all fans. They are just watching me, everyday. It makes me very nervous.
How do you cope with that?
A: I go to Japan and set up a meeting with 3000 fans and I go look there is only one Jackie Chan. I ask can I get married, and they go, ďNo!Ē I ask can I get a girlfriend, and they go, ďNo!Ē I ask can I cut my hair and they go, ďNo!Ē The most crazy fans are Japanese fans. In Hong Kong, they treat me like the ďboy next door.Ē Jackie is our hero, but in Korea and some other countries it is very crazy. But it has passed and now and all the fans have grown up and got married. They know what happened. The good thing is that these fans are very loyal. They get married, they tell their children to see my movies.
Is this still one of the reasons that you still want to
make movies for Asian fans?
Not for the United States?
A: The Asian movies are for fans around the world. I have fans that have been watching me for 20 years in America, but thatís action films. Rush Hour was a big success and it didnít even appeal to my own fans. Family audiences [were the main followers. 150,000,000-200,000,000 thatís the market. My films are big successes everywhere, but Rumble in the Bronx, $35,000,000; $30,000,000; $25,000,000 thatís Jackie Chan fans. But those Jackie Chan fans, they watch Rush Hour and they donít like it. But they still support me. So I have to make Asian film, and American films. I have to let them know this is an Asian film and thatís an American film. But slowly, I want to change the situation because [the schedule] is very tiring. It is hard to make two movies a year, one for Asian fans and one for American fans. So now I am very glad because I am slowly changing my character. Change, not only an action star, but I want to be a star. So now, I am making movies based on acting. I want to have one audience like Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks. They have only one audience because from the beginning Asian fans know them. But for me, they know I am action, Hong Kong style. But less fighting, more action, all English they are not ready for it.
Then what kind of movie would you do to have one
A: My next movie is a Spielberg movie, Tuxedo.
Youíre doing a Spielberg film?
A: He is the producer and he asked me to direct. I said No! I am not going to direct. But this is a film that I feel I can get one audience.
What are you going to do in it?
A: I am a taxi driver and suddenly become a spy and helping a lot of spies.
So you are not doing any stunts?
A: Yes, I am doing stunts, but also special effects. Then thatís OK, but I also want to do something like Jurassic Park. I want to walk with dinosaurs. This kind of movie is one audience.
Did you tell Spielberg you wanted to be in Jurassic Park?
A: He said No! What we like you in is Jackie Chan action. Thatís what we like.
What kind of spy are you in this Tuxedo movie?
A: Itís like they want to find the best driver in New York. They choose me then the spies get kidnapped. I donít think they will let me say that much. I better not say anymore.
When is the movie going to be released?
A: September 1st
Who is the director?
A: Kevin Donavan
For Rush Hour II what was the biggest challenge in making it better than the first movie. And what steps did you take to try to make the movie appeal to the Asian audience and the American audience?
A: The problem with making the second is that we were all nervous in making it, including Brett Ratner. The production people also. So in the first movie the audience did not know, they knew Jackie Chan as an action star, but Chris who? And Brett who? We make the film and boom! Now we make a part II and we sit and try to figure out how to make part II better. Because the audience goes to the theater expecting a film that is better than part I. So I tell the director, this film has to be the best. Because we want to make part III and part IV and continue. We are very lucky when we made part I because we get to make part II. I made Shanghai Noon and now we are making Shanghai Night so we have to make every movie the best we can. So now we have more budget, more action, more comedy. Everything is bigger.
Do you think Asians will like it better?
A: I donít know.
Because it is shot in Hong Kong.
A: I think they like it, but I donít know. It still is difficult because of the English humor, but they still will come see it. But for me, what is most important is the Europe and American markets. When I make an American film, this film is for American audiences. Everything [in this movie] is American; American humor, everything is American. Asian film, that is for my own audience. It is very clear.
There are not many Asian stars that have gained popularity in Hollywood. How do you explain your international success?
A: American audiences, a lot of audiences think I am a new action star. Actually, I am not a new action star. I am an old action star and I have been doing action films for more than 30 years. All my life. I think, from all of those years, all that I have done has begun to be passed along through word of mouth, slowly introduced me. I have a bank of fans and they have never gone away. Like for the last 10, I have seen actors and actresses come and go. But I am still here. I have never changed. Same action [films]; no sex, no violence, no F-words, same action films. Also, the family audience has pushed children to go see my movies. They push them to go to Blockbuster Video to get old Jackie Chan movies. They like the style of the movies and then Warner Brothers calls me up, and Columbia Tri-Star calls me up and they are like wow and ask me to make a cartoon. Children love my movies even when I am doing the action. In Asia, some of the parents donít want children to see action movies, they donít like the action movies for their kids. But for my action movies they bring the kids to see it, they want the kids to see it. They bring the kids to my office. From that point, I tell myself to be careful. I worry about my action films. Because action films we always think violent, violent. How can I make the action non-violent. It is very, very difficult. I think that is why I attract a large audience.
What do you see in the future for Asian filmmakers like
yourself, especially with the success of Crouching Tiger?
A: Do you accept Asian movies right now?
I understand that Crouching Tiger was shown in Germany.
It seems that they have accepted the language and subject matter.
A: Actually it is not that Asian films are accepted now. Yes, Crouching Tiger is different. How many of this kind of movies is there, 1? Honestly, in Hong Kong we have made this type of movie for 20 years. [We see this movie] on pay television, television all the time. That is why Crouching Tiger was not successful in Asia. We have been making this type of movie and nobody was interested. Now, it is successful in America and everybody is like wow. Itís the timing that is good. You never know.
How long do you think Asian filmmakers will be able to keep the momentum?
From what I see, not very long. The Asian filmmakers are killing themselves. When I look at Crouching Tiger I say very good. Bruce Lee brought the action, I brought the comedy action, but Ang Lee bring Crouching Tiger. But when I go back to Hong Kong, I know that there are twelve movies called [things like] Crouching, Crouching or Tiger, Tiger or Hidden Tiger. Even TV, Hidden Dragon, thatís TV. So now, everybody is the same. Some companies pay $1 million to buy the rights. I ask them why would they want to be what I call a rubbish film. They say they donít care.
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