I spy: Jackie Chan still kicking
Monday, January 11th, 2010 | 12:00 pm
Canwest News Service
LOS ANGELES – There’s a moment in The Spy Next Door when Jackie Chan performs one of his age-defying acts: leaping nimbly onto a roof to rescue a stranded kitten.
Ask Jackie about the challenge of bringing off the scene, and he responds with a disarming grin.
“The roof was nothing,” he shrugs. “But the cat was not easy. He grabbed me a few times.”
Actually, Chan was badly scratched. However, that sort of injury he can still handle. There’s no way he’ll make a big deal out of it. But there was another, far worse mishap during the filming of the family adventure opening Friday – and it shouldn’t have happened.
“I tore a hamstring – doing nothing,” he sighs. Basically, he was careless. There’s no way anymore that he can skip essential warm-up exercises before starting a strenuous day before the cameras.
“So these days, I have to tell myself, `Warm up! Warm up! Warm up!’ But on location, you forget some days to do it.”
At 55, the world’s most likable action star can no longer afford that kind of negligence. There was a time when he could be breezily casual about the nose that has been broken three times, or the 1986 misjudgment that led to a collision with a rock, emergency brain surgery and a permanent hole in his skull.
When he broke his right ankle 14 years ago in the Vancouver-filmed Rumble In The Bronx, he was jumping from a bridge onto a hovercraft – and miscalculated. He was back on the job 48 hours later with his leg in a cast, and, off-camera, was on crutches for the rest of the shooting. But when he had to go before the cameras to perform another awesome feat, cast and crutches were nowhere in sight. He coped without them.
In a 1995 interview, Chan joked that he had broken “everything from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.” It’s less easy to joke about such things now. Chan is still an exuberant, outgoing personality, but beneath the bonhomie, there’s a realistic acknowledgment of the passage of time.
Still, there remains this readiness to try new things and break new ground – even to have his first onscreen kiss in The Spy Next Door.
He’s lost count of the number of movies he’s made – both in China and in North America – but he’s firm on the fact that this is his first Hollywood family movie. And yes, it’s different from anything he’s tried before.
He plays Bob Ho, a nerdy pen salesman in his public persona, hopelessly in love with his next-door neighbour Gillian, played by Amber Valletta, and actively disliked by her three children, who see him as a threat to their own home life.
If Bob is ever to marry Gillian, he’s going to have to win over three hostile kids, played by Madeline Carroll, Will Shadley and Canada’s Alina Foley. Adding to his problem is that he hasn’t told her about his real profession of undercover super-spy for the CIA. On the very weekend when Bob is babysitting the children while their mother is away, he’s forced into a confrontation with a Russian terrorist gang – a confrontation that reveals his true identity to the kids, and places the whole family in jeopardy.
Chan ended up feeling like a babysitter throughout the entire shoot; he constantly worried about his young co-stars during the action sequences.
“It’s not easy being a babysitter. You have to protect people on the set, make sure everybody’s safe, especially the children.”
He had never worked with youngsters to this extent. And they were worshipful. “Oh, they asked so many questions. They want to see this. They want to see that. They want to hold my hand. They want me to do magic. They just loved me. And I liked them, but it was my first time with kids – and difficult.” Then there were the household animals: a pet pig, a turtle who plays a key role in an action sequence, and that formidable feline.
Jackie manages to sound cheerful about the whole thing because, after all, he hopes to reunite with this brood in a sequel. “We get married, adopt all these extra children. I don’t know if it will happen, but everybody hopes for that.”
As for kissing Valletta: “It’s my first, ever. I finally get the girl!” But this doesn’t mean romance will become a fixture of future movies: The Spy Next Door is an exception to the rule. “In my movies, we don’t have kissing or love scenes. I don’t want to see Jackie Chan naked. Also, so many children watch my movies, but a small kissing scene is OK.”
After all these years in the business, Chan seems to have a firm idea of what his international audience expects of him. But he’s also clear-eyed about the fact that he’s now middle-aged. There’s no denial, but rather, an honest pragmatism, leavened by his own personal Jackie Chan brand of humour.
Talking to Canwest News Service, he insists that his 55th birthday passed almost unnoticed, because he doesn’t worry about such anniversaries.
“I don’t want to have a birthday until I’m 60. For the Chinese, every five or 10 years is the big birthday. Other birthdays, I don’t care.”
But fans do observe every one of his birthdays, and that is a problem. “Every time I have a birthday, all these flowers and letters from all over the world remind me that I’m getting older, while I say – no, forget the birthdays.
“So I try hiding every birthday right away. I’ll go on location or I go somewhere else – hiding. But I still get a lot of messages on the telephone. Yeah, I don’t like birthdays anymore.”
But that doesn’t mean he ignores the signs of advancing age. He can still do a splendidly choreographed fight scene – witness a dazzling Eiffel Tower sequence two years ago in Rush Hour 3 – but now he constantly monitors himself.
“Every morning, the back, the knees, the ankle can hurt a little bit. Sometimes my mind doesn’t trust my body. Every day, I want to go and do something, and my mind says: `Stop! Can you do it? Let’s try, first.’ The mind is telling my body, the body is telling my mind. It’s not what it used to be, to do whatever you’d like to do.”
Yet he keeps constantly busy, and will be on view later this year in his own personal spin on The Karate Kid. With this one, he will take on a serious role as an aging martial arts teacher. “I have a moustache, white hair, an unhappy life.” And there’s also the musical he’s writing about his life and career.
Retirement is not in the books. Chan, whose cinematic action style is modelled on the physical comedy of silent-movie great Buster Keaton, abhors the very thought.
“As soon as I retire, I might just …” He breaks the sentence off, and slumps into his chair, deflating before your very eyes into a mere fragment of the real Jackie Chan. ” … just not care any more,” he says finishing the sentence. “I just might not want to do anything. The work makes me young.”
Which reminds him – he does have a problem with his shoulder.
“I have to go to hospital to put two screws into it,” he says matter-of- factly. The problem is finding time. “I haven’t gone for two years, and my shoulder hurts.”
LOL is this like 'the first time Jackie Chan dies' in 'Shinjuku Incident'? because right off the top of my head I can think of at least 10 movies in which Jackie kissed and/or 'got the girl' ....
1. The Medallion - kisses Claire Forlani.
2. Twin Dragons - Jackie x 2 kisses and gets MARRIED x 2
3. Twins Effect - Jackie gets married.
4. Heart of Dragon - kisses his girlfriend at the park.
5. Rumble in the Bronx - kisses the girl at the docks.
6. Dragon's Forever - kisses the girl on the beach.
7. Rush Hour 2 - quick kiss at the end.
8. Spiritual Kungfu - steals a quick kiss.
9. Police Story - kisses Maggie Cheung goodbye.
10 Miracles - kisses Anita Mui.
And how on earth could I almost forget Gorgeous!