Jackie Chan: 'I Forget How Old I Am'
by Jeanne Wolf
Jackie Chan joins the ranks of action stars who've gone PG in the family comedy The Spy Next Door. He plays a Chinese intelligence agent who gets stuck babysitting his girlfriend's three kids. But, of course, he also takes on a bunch of bad guys with some acrobatic kicks and punches.
His big makeover.
"For the last couple of years, I've done something different in every movie, and being with the kids was another way to surprise my fans. The audience still wants action and comedy, but slowly I want to change my image."
This time, it wasn't easy.
"You have three challenges. First, acting in English. Speaking English is like tongue-twist for me. I can speak each word perfect, but then you have to string them together like, 'Blah, blah, blah.' That's when I get crazy. Second, animals and the children. You know, is not easy. The kids never listen to you, especially the youngest ones. I'm in a scene with one little actress and she suddenly started singing. I was like, 'What are you doing? Am I that boring?' And she just walked away. Then we had a turtle and cat who were even more difficult than the kids."
But kids won't leave him alone.
"In the real world, children love me. On the set, I would teach them the tricks, the martial arts moves. But they wouldn't let me take a rest between takes on the set. When I'd rest, then they come and say, 'How do you do this kick?' And they want me to play hacky sack and all kind of things from 6 o'clock in the morning until I leave the set at night."
As for his own son...
"I never see him. He knows who I am and he's so proud of me, but he's 27 now and he never calls me. I think he's the luckiest boy, but maybe he's not. I know there's a lot of pressure because you are the son of Jackie Chan. He never wanted to be an action star. He wanted to be a composer and performer. So he released an album and then was in a movie. Unfortunately, they didn't do too well."
"My driver says, 'Jackie, there are paparazzi in that car parked behind us.' I turn around and the windows are tinted, they're all black so you can't see anything. So I go over and knock on the window and say, 'Don't hide there. Just come out. Ask me what I'm doing. It's OK to take my picture.' I was with these two girls who are my assistants. We had just finished a session in a recording studio. So I explain that and the next day I read, 'Jackie Chan out for a night on the town with two girls.' So, no matter what you tell them, they just write whatever they want to write. That's bad and I've given up."
Who cares what it cost him to be a part of the Olympics in Beijing.
"I skipped one movie and two commercials. I would have made about $20 million, but I was willing to take the loss. Money for me today does not really matter. It's about doing something for myself, for my country, that's most important. So whatever they need from me, I'm there."
The stunts aren't getting any easier.
"I just forget how old I am and sometimes I just try to do it when maybe I shouldn't. I'm not like I used to be. I tried to jump up the wall and I was going, 'Wow.' It's not easy anymore.' But I don't worry. I will take care of myself. And all my stunt team takes care of me too."
Retirement isn't in his vocabulary.
"I'm on my way to being 60. I should have stopped, but I have so many scripts, so many projects right now! It's just crazy. Now, I'm talking about an ice cream business, restaurant business, theater business, a clothing line, watches and even a school."
Learning to play the Hollywood game.
"They called me for the first Rush Hour and I said, 'No, I don't like to do this kind of movie.' I say, 'Policeman from Hong Kong with a black American cop...what's that about?' But, I do the film anyway, and when I see it, I hate it. The action's bad. The dialogue I don't understand. Then they call and say, 'Wow, big success ... $32 million the first week.' I go, 'Oh, now I like it!'"