JACKIE'S BUILDING A BETTER WORLD
By VEENARAT LAOHAPAKAKUL
Published on January 20, 2010
The martial-arts movie star kicks down borders to build schools, cultural harmony and bridges to peace
Action hero Jackie Chan, best known by Thais for his martial-arts comedies and by his Chinese name Chen Long, is wearing many hats nowadays, including those of a philanthropist and Unicef Goodwill Ambassador.
The Hong Kong superstar recently embarked on a mission to promote peace in Thailand and Cambodia as part of the third session of "Bridges - Dialogues Toward a Culture of Peace", hosted by the International Peace Foundation.
Here are excerpts from his interview on Modernine's "Cheepajorn Loke" ("World Pulse"), a show produced by Nation Multimedia.
What films are you are working on?
I just finished "The Kung Fu Kid" with the son of Will Smith, Jaden Smith. Basically, it's a remake of "The Karate Kid", but a totally different story: A young kid from America comes to China and I take care of him. I teach him kung fu, attitude and discipline. It's a very interesting story.
You've been doing your stunts and action comedy since the '70s. Do they still sell today?
It's my dilemma: I like action but I hate violence. The only thing I like is comedy with action. I still like action things, maybe because I've been training for so many years, and also, I like to make people smile. I like to get the audience excited.
You think they still smile at your action comedy?
I don't think the audience likes watching Jackie Chan running around Krabi beach, kissing and singing a song - "Do you love me and I love you and bye-bye and my girlfriend has cancer …"
The audience always goes to see a Jackie Chan movie because it's very funny and has good stunts. Nobody says, "Go and see it and have a good cry."
How has the Asian audience changed over the years?
It's become more Westernised, thanks to American movies, the Internet, TV dramas and rap music. On the street the young people have headphones and it's always American songs.
On TV shows all the young people go, "Yo yo!" But you never see people in America wai other people.
So is it a good or bad thing?
It's good, but it shouldn't be only one side, it should be many sides. I promote my own culture. Even my jeans are Chinese. Everybody should love your own country and promote your own culture.
I like Thai, Japanese and Korean cultures, I like Muslims, I like everybody, though I have to promote my culture. Everybody should know everybody else's culture because, in the world there's actually no boundary. The world belongs to us. Bangkok belongs to me, not only to you.
Korean movies are everywhere now.
That's because the government really supports them. Hong Kong movies were really strong when I went to Korea looking for locations, but the Korean government was building a whole studio.
The producers were running the studio at the time, so the studio and equipment were cheap. A few years later, boom!
When Hong Kong was under the British, the British government didn't support our movies. We had to hide when we filmed. We took our cameras on the street and the gun - bang bang - and the police said stop, we ran away.
Now the Chinese government supports the industry, but it's too late. We don't have a Hong Kong movie industry anymore - we have China movies. Piracy in Hong Kong was so strong that the investors didn't get back what they wanted.
But China is too big. The government is against piracy, but you clamp down here, they start over there. I think one day when I have nothing to do, I might become a pirate businessman. Today I'm Jackie Chan and I'm against this.
It's a big problem for everybody. They have fake Gucci bags, fake Cartier watches, fake everything. At least fake movies don't kill people - make fake aeroplane accessories and the plane will crash. Fake medicine - that kind of thing hurts people.
People say that when an actor is funny onscreen, he's serious off-screen. Is that you?
Yes, because I do have responsibilities. I work with charities, not only in Hong Kong but around the world. Because when I was young, I saw so many people from around the world coming to Hong Kong to help us. The Red Cross helped me.
So today I have the responsibility, not to represent my country, but at least represent myself, to give back to society.
What does the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation do?
Twenty-something years ago it was just a small foundation helping a few people in Hong Kong, but later on, with more money, they spread out to China. The government is doing the big things, and let us do the small things. I help out old people and the crippled, and build schools. I've built 24 schools already.
I come to Bangkok, I go to Cambodia and find out the problems, and then I go back. I plan to do peace concert next year in Bangkok. I don't know if it will work.
What about the Dragon's Heart Foundation?
It also helps build schools and helps children, all over the world. I try - I'm not big enough to help all over the world, but I try. I'm not like Bill Gates - he has billions, but I don't.
Do you only spend your own money?
Some is my own and the rest comes from auctions, my fan clubs - even the club in Bangkok, they send me money. They send me a dollar and I put up $2. Every penny I get, I have to write down all the details.
Twelve years after Hong Kong was returned to China, how has it changed?
Everyone is happy. Before I wasn't Chinese, I was British, but when I went to England I needed a visa.
We used to call ourselves Hong Kong-nese, but now everyone says, "Yes, we're Chinese," especially in last two years, thanks to the Olympics. Everyone can see China growing up. We're proud to be Chinese.
You seem to stand behind China in every way, and you've been criticised for it, for comments about Taiwan, for example, and how Chinese people should be controlled.
Whatever I say, I want Hong Kong good, I want Taiwan good, I want China good.
When I see things I don't like, I'll say something, because I want everything good. But somebody will do something - they have a purpose, like they want to sell newspapers or books.
Not everybody is against me, just a few people. They won't kill me, but what about freedom? Why can they say something and I can't? They just use me to become famous. You say something, they think, "Ah, Jackie Chan said something that could make me famous."
I know. It doesn't matter. Today Jackie Chan, I don't care. You go to the street and ask people.