Jackie Chan Discusses 'The Spy Next Door'
Jackie Chan Plays Babysitter While Kicking Some Bad Guy Butt
By Rebecca Murray,
Jan 13, 2010 - Jackie Chan is a spy on the verge of retirement in the family action comedy The Spy Next Door co-starring Amber Valletta, George Lopez, and Billy Ray Cyrus. Chan plays Bob Ho, a spy on loan to the CIA from the Chinese government who wants to leave the wild life behind and live peacefully in a nice, quiet suburban neighborhood. And he's got the hots for his pretty next door neighbor, Gillian (Valletta), but her three kids aren't so keen on having Bob be a part of their lives.
Gillian's kids think Bob's a mild-mannered pen salesman and a real wimpy guy. The kids have no idea he's one of the best spies in the business, but that changes when Gillian has to go out of town and Bob volunteers to babysit.
At the LA press day for the Lionsgate Films comedy, Jackie Chan said it wasn't the action or the acting that proved to be the most difficult part of filming The Spy Next Door. "English," declared Chan, "English is very difficult, especially when all the children don’t follow the dialogue. They just speak so fast, and also the dialogue coach and director wanted me to speak all the S's, D's. Sometimes in conversation it’s okay. You don’t care. But in a movie with the children, 'No, no, no, wiTH, wiTH. You missed an S.' The more your emphasize, the more it drives me crazy. Suppose I’m very natural, 'Ba ba ba ba with.' 'No, WITH,' the more nervous I get. Stunt choreography is easy. I’ve been doing it so many years."
Chan's resume is loaded with action films, and The Spy Next Door provided him with plenty of opportunities to show off his skills. "Now there’s more safety," explained Chan, comparing his current films to working on movies such as Police Story. "They make sure inside I have a wire and it’s stronger, then it goes away [in post-production]. There are so many things. I’m just so confident to just jump. Yes, you’re scared but it’s safe. Police Story, you die. You’re going to die. At the end, I’m yelling, 'Agh!!' That’s dying. I go, 'Okay, it’s suicide. I’m just going to [commit] suicide. When I get up, get down, 'Waaaa!' Wow, you survived. It’s just stupid. It’s really stupid."
Separating Action and Violence
Chan's approach to choosing films has changed over the years. He's become fully aware of how his movies affect audiences, particularly kids who try to imitate his moves. Chan still loves action scenes, but tries to show that being into action doesn't mean you can't make films that put out positive messages to their audiences.
"There was a long time when I realized, when I went to Africa, Egypt, still now the children do these kinds of things. They learn from me. Then I said, 'Wow, I have to be careful. There’s so many children who learn from me, I have to do something.' Whatever I do, whatever I make, I think about the children. Before I might do some dirty movement, but now I don’t do this," said Chan. "Maybe I’d say a bad word. Okay, no more F word. Slowly all those years changed to today. Okay, make an action comedy, humor, movement, use all kinds of things, make comedy. Even sometimes I use a gun like in a serious police story. 'Boom! Cut.' You don’t have to show boom, a guy pow, psh, pfsh. Making a movie, there are so many ways to introduce [action]. In the old days, I did the same thing, learn from American movies. That’s cool. But slowly, slowly, you know it’s wrong."
"Slowly, bit by bit, I hope the audience can recognize what I’m doing. If they don’t, okay, it’s still entertainment. If they do, I’m really happy. If some people say, 'Oh, I like that movie. My son really [loves it].' That makes me happy. Yes, I help children. I don’t only give you action, comedy, humor. I give the children education. In every movie I do have a dialogue. Not in American movies - I don’t have the right to change the lines - but when I’m making a Chinese movie, you can tell there’s so much philosophy inside. I believe that’s my responsibility. I have to do it. So that’s why I’m happy with what I’m doing right now."
In fact, one of Chan's latest Hong Kong movies even had a baby in it as his co-star. "See, there’s a lot of message inside. The funny thing is when I made Rob-B-Hood, the Chinese government refused. 'No, you cannot do this. Jackie Chan cannot be a thief.' I said, 'Please, look at the script.' After they slowly looked at the script, [they realized], 'Okay, good education.' Sometimes I want to do something and I can not. Even the government won’t let me do it because you have the image of, not 1.3 billion people, but at least 500 million children that watch you. You can not do this. Then after they look, 'Okay, they let me do it.'"
Asked about his opinion of martial arts (including Mixed Martial Arts) in America, Chan replied, "I sometimes just don’t like to see the Ultimate Fighting. I just find it, as a martial artist, I just find it too violent. They’re put in the cage. At the end, it’s not a fight anymore. It’s like this [rolling on the ground]. That’s not martial arts. Martial arts is about respect. If somebody’s knocked down, stop. So that’s why I really respect someone like Sugar Ray Leonard and boxers. Look at Sugar Ray Leonard - 'Ba ba ba ba ba, boom! Come on, stop. Come on, stop. Yeah, don’t fight. That’s the spirit.' It’s not like, 'Boom! You’re down, ba ba, ba ba.' No, you knock somebody down, 'Come on, get up. I’ll grab you up. You okay? You want to continue?' Make sure [then], 'Okay, come on.' That’s the martial arts spirit. That’s what I want. Boxing, yes. Mixed martial arts, okay if it’s just competition. I just don’t like those kinds of things."
Chan added, "We learn martial arts as helping weakness. You never fight for people to get hurt. You’re always helping people. Respect, we learn these kinds of things. It’s not somebody gets in two more kicks. No, when you look at Gorgeous, when I fight with the guy, I go down and the bad guy has a lot of bodyguards. 'Oh, Jackie’s down. Let’s go get him.' 'No, stop.' Every movie I have my philosophy. I say, 'This is not the hero. That’s a coward, just yelling at the bodyguards.' You see inside what I’m doing. My students give me the glove, then I tell them, 'Come on, wait. Come on, wait. Okay, come on. Come on, again.' We’re talking about the martial arts spirit."
Jackie Chan on His Career
Burn-out can definitely set in after 40 years of making films, but Jackie Chan tries to keep things fun when he tackles an acting job. And, stresses Chan, he wants everyone to realize there's more to him than just an action star.
"The last movie before, Shinjuku Incident, I know it’s too heavy. I make Spy Next Door and then I go back to China to make my own movie. It’s called Little Big Soldier. I hope you can see it because I have so many choices when I’m making a Chinese movie, but very few chances I can change an American movie because they choose me. In China, I want to make this, I want to make that. So in America, they will never let me make Shinjuku story. They will let Robert DeNiro do this kind of character, not me, but I can do it. So that’s why I’m so happy to make the movie Karate Kid, Kung Fu [Panda]. Mustache, white hair, old man like this [raspy voice.] I want the audience to know I’m not the action star. I’m the actor. I can act, but I can fight. I can do my own stunts."
"That’s why every movie is a different location, different character, different people. That makes it fun. The most fun job in the world is making a movie, really," admitted Chan. "For [me], today America, tomorrow Beijing. You see different people, then you see different movies, different costumes. Then every day is a different challenge. It’s fun, really, really fun and people pay you a lot."
The stuntman next door
With the tagline "Part spy. Part babysitter. All hero" and "spying is easy, babysitting is hard", you can't really expect anything new from Jackie Chan's latest offering — The Spy Next Door.
Even the title is reminiscent of Codename: Kids Next Door and Spy Kids — two popular kids' shows.
The story tells of Bob Ho (Chan), an undercover spy for the CIA who wants to live a normal life. "My character is a Chinese spy working for the CIA, and the only thing he wants to do is to retire," said Chan in an interview with an online media portal.
"He falls in love with his next door neighbour who has three children, who hate him initially."
The neighbour, Gillian (Amber Valetta), has to leave town for something so Ho has to babysit her three kids and perhaps win them over.
When one of the kids mistakenly downloads a top-secret formula from his computer, Ho's archenemy, a Russian terrorist, moves in for the attack, forcing Ho to juggle the roles of a spy and prospective stepfather in the most challenging mission of his career.
Cue Jackie Chan fighting wackiness and Home Alone-esque action sequences. "So she leaves for some reason, and bad guys come. He starts to fight the bad guys and the kids love him because he's, well, he's a spy," said Chan.
Not giving away the ending there, is he?
The Spy Next Door is quite predictable, just as how it is in most of Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's and Vin Diesel's movies — a tough man, has to do domestic, even effeminate chores. Kick some butts while shopping for groceries or changing diapers.
Classic fish-out-of-water 101. We have seen this in The Pacifier, The Tooth Fairy and several other movies aimed at families. The only difference is that this movie has Chan in it.
Just like his other movie The Tuxedo, where a civilian wears a crime-fighting, super-spy tuxedo and gains crazy fighting abilities. To his credit, Chan does not deny this and in fact, embraces it. "It's a children's movie," he admitted.
"I want it to be 100 per cent safe for children to go and see it."
Chan also had to work his mesmerising action around children, ensuring that it is harder to do his regular acrobatics.
"Stunts are easy. Stunts are very simple for me," he said.
"But for this movie, I have to do stunts with children, and I have to be very, very careful with their safety. I have to ask the director constantly, is it okay, is it safe?"
Despite making it sound as if the movie has a child-safety cap on, Chan promises to showcase his trademark crazy stuntwork which has made him an international star in over 100 movies.
He said, "It's the typical Jackie Chan style (of stunts). Everything a human being can do. You know, (using) the common things around you.Refrigerator, ashtray, microwave, pump gun."
Pump gun? Well, maybe in the Chan household that's considered normal. "It's not Superman, pshew-pshew-pshew," he elaborated.
This perhaps means the shift, even in Hong Kong or Chinese cinema from heavy focus on wirework, to more realistic action.
After Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, Hong Kong stunt-people have been moving towards the kind of action seen in Ip Man. No flying, more butt-kicking.
With several notable exceptions such as Storm Warriors, traditional kung fu movies are now more, well, traditional.
Jackie Chan, however, dishes out the same formula he has used since the 70s — kung fu comedy. You can't really argue with the guy. It is a formula that works and continues to work.
He has made hundreds of millions, if not billions with his movies.
Say what you want, but who has the money? It also seems like Chan, one of Asia's nicest guys, unlike his character in The Spy Next Door, is not keen on retiring just yet.
"I love to see children laughing. I love to see them happy," he said.
"When I go anywhere, the children go, 'oh, it's Jackie Chan! Hiiii!' That makes me feel good. And the parents come up to me and say, ‘my kids love you!'. I love that, because it means that (I'm still relevant and) I can keep doing action movies for at least another 10 years. The kids (who) are now three or five years old (will still know me then)."
This also means that his movies today will introduce him to a new breed of fans, a new generation who will continue to go and watch his amazing movies.
Malaysians seem to love Jackie Chan movies. Police Story III (released in 1992) was one of the highest-grossing movies in Malaysia at one point, grossing over a then-unheard of RM10 million at cinemas nationwide.
In comparison, to this date, no Malaysian movie has ever reached the fabled RM10 million mark. The Spy Next Door is not just a Jackie Chan movie.
There are other people in it. For example, Billy Ray Cyrus, who plays Colton James. "Billy, I know he is a big country star. First I know of him is from his songs. When he first came on set, I bought a CD and got his autograph," said Chan. "He has a very funny accent. He doesn't have much action scenes with me. I'm the one who fights and he's the one who talks."
Controversial comedian and TV host George Lopez, meanwhile, plays Glaze. "George Lopez has a few stunt scenes with me.
He is a very, very funny guy and always contributes ideas for every scene," said Chan. Chan seems to have The Spy Next Door pat down as another hit. It might not gross over US$1 billion (RM3.3 billion) like Avatar or Batman: The Dark Knight, but it will entertain a lot of people. Don't expect too much.
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy another Jackie Chan movie.
He's an action genius, and we're lucky to have him. The Spy Next Door opens tomorrow at cinemas nationwide.
Martial arts star goes 'Next Door'
HOLLYWOOD - After more than three decades of making movies, martial arts star Jackie Chan finally gets the girl in "The Spy Next Door." The girl in question is model-turned-actress Amber Valletta, who plays his girlfriend in the family friendly action comedy.
"It's just a kiss, not a love scene," Chan assures. "No one wants to see Jackie Chan naked or making love."
Chan, 55, plays Bob Ho, a bumbling pen salesman who appears to be as nerdy and boring as his job. He's actually a CIA super spy who secretly saves the world on a daily basis. Ho lives next door to Gillian (Valletta), a beautiful single mom he's been quietly dating for some time. He wants to marry her but before she'll accept his proposal, he must first win over her three troublesome children.
Gillian is suddenly called out of town on a family emergency, and Bob offers to baby-sit the kids in her absence and hopefully win them over. When one of the kids mistakenly downloads a top-secret formula from Bob's computer, Bob's enemies show up at his doorstep and the secret agent's real occupation comes to light. It's up to Bob to save his future family from the bad guys and keep the formula from falling into the wrong hands.
The Hong Kong-born action star appreciated the opportunity to try his hand at a family comedy that focuses on his relationship with kids.
"I wanted to make a PG movie," he explains.
Working with kids while incorporating his signature action moves into the comedy was a little tricky, though.
"I had to protect them on the set with all the action sequences," he says. "I made sure everyone was safe, especially the children."
The youngest, 5-year-old Alina Foley, was the biggest challenge. "She'd start singing and I'd have to go, shh,' " he recalls with a chuckle. "Then she'd say, I want to go to the bathroom' and walk away. So I had to trick her."
The choreographed fights with the bad guys were nothing compared to his scenes with the unpredictable young actress. In a scene where he is trying to put her to bed, Chan accidentally was kicked a few times by the youngster. The two other child actors (who were older) were less troublesome but just as demanding on the action star's time.
"Sometimes I wanted to take a rest on the set for 20 minutes and it was like, Jackie, show me some karate moves,' or do some magic,' " he recalls, smiling.
Kissing Valletta was the biggest challenge, though, as Chan had never kissed a girl in a movie before.
"We did several takes," he admits.
"He was fine," says Valletta. "(The kiss) was very chaste."
In the future, says Chan, his romantic scenes will be comical. "I love to do comedy action sequences," he says.
Good thing, because that's what he has been doing for much of his movie career - especially over the past 12 years in Hollywood.
After 20 years as a box office star in Hong Kong, Chan co-starred with Chris Tucker in 1998's "Rush Hour." The buddy-cop action-comedy became a huge box office success, as did its two sequels. He subsequently starred in another successful franchise with Owen Wilson starting with "Shanghai Noon," a buddy action comedy set in the Old West. "Shanghai Knights" followed in 2003.
Other recent Hollywood credits include "The Tuxedo," "The Medallion" and a remake of "Around the World in 80 Days." He also was one of the voice characters in the animated hit "Kung Fu Panda."
Born in Hong Kong to working class parents, Chan trained at the Peking Opera School from ages 7 to 17, where he learned various skills such as acrobatics, gymnastics, martial arts, weaponry, dance, singing and drama. By the time he graduated, Chinese opera was declining in popularity and he gravitated toward film.
In the early 70s, Chan worked as a bit player and action director. Inspired by silent film greats Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, Chan developed a unique style, combining humor and death-defying stunts. In the montage of outtakes that typically ends his films, fans see the proof that Chan is still his own most amazing special effect.
Among his fans is director James Cameron, who invited Chan to the set of "Avatar" during production.
"I've been making movies for almost 40 years but after looking at his set, I was like a kid in kindergarten," says Chan modestly. "If you gave me all those cameras and technology, I wouldn't know how to use it. That's why I film the basic things. Two cameras. Simple."
At an age when other action stars move on to more sedentary movie roles, Chan is still kicking it in the action genre.
"Movies, stunts, fighting - it makes me young," he says. "It makes me continue to go."
His philosophy: "If you do anything today, you can do it tomorrow."
Chan works with a team of stunt people who help him come up with interesting new ways to entertain. In "The Spy Next Door," they conceived ways of using household items - a microwave, a refrigerator, a pool skimmer and more - as props in fighting the bad guys.
Director Brian Levant ("Snow Dogs," "Are We There Yet?") says he had to work quickly to accommodate Chan's limited availability. A 38-day shooting schedule in Albuquerque meant everyone had to show up prepared. No one arrived as prepared as Chan did, the filmmaker says.
"He's like Michael Jordan," says the veteran family comedy filmmaker. "As he gets older, he changes his process so he can do what he is capable of doing."
Since completing "The Spy Next Door," Chan has shot and produced two more films in China and is in pre-production on another one. He also stars in the upcoming remake of "The Karate Kid," in which he will play a kung fu master to Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son).
"It is more for adults," he says of the drama. "I like to mix it up - comedy, drama, action, then for children again. I want audiences to know me as an actor that can fight, not a fighter who can act."
Having more than 100 films to his credit, Chan says one role has eluded him - firefighter. After seeing "Backdraft," he wanted to make a firefighting movie in Hong Kong, but fire officials there wouldn't allow it, fearing it would be too dangerous in the overcrowded city.
These days, Chan makes his home in Beijing.
"I have nothing to shoot in Hong Kong anymore," he says with a shrug. "All the locations I've already done. In China, I have a new location, new facilities. We have the biggest studio in Asia, which is really helpful."
Jackie Chan Aims At Families With "Spy Next Door"
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - There's an old saying in Hollywood: never work with kids or animals. Jackie Chan is okay with kids. Animals are another story.
"When a turtle bites you, it really hurts!" he told Reuters. "And the pig never listens. And the cat scratches."
Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan swaps all-out action for adventurous family fun in his new movie, "The Spy Next Door," following in the footsteps of other big-name Hollywood heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger ("Kindergarten Cop") and Vin Diesel ("The Pacifier").
In The Spy Next Door, which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, 55-year-old Chan plays Bob Ho, a man who secretly works as a spy and whose single-mom girlfriend (Amber Valletta) thinks is a pen salesman.
Her three children can't stand him, but when he is charged to take care of them for a few days, they end up learning his secret and help Chan fight the bad guys.
While Russian terrorists are his nemesis, off set, the kids' pets gave Chan the most trouble in making "Spy Next Door." Like the cat who just wouldn't stop pawing at his arm.
"I said to the animal trainer, 'I'm fine,' and he said, 'Look at your arm, it's not fine' and all this blood is coming down," said Chan.
Despite pesky cats and biting turtles, Chan said he enjoyed the switch from martial arts films to family action and adventure, and he thinks that sort of diversity has been a key to his longevity and success in Hollywood, which reached it's height with the box office smash "Rush Hour" movies.
"I don't want to be doing Rush Hour One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven," he said.
"That's tiring. I'd like to do a vampire movie, or something like 'Avatar.' I can do everything -- scary movies, police films. I really want to try and play a bad guy, a villain."
BOX OFFICE HEAVYWEIGHT
Chan has accomplished plenty already in Hollywood. He dabbled in movies in the 1960s before going full tilt in the '70s. He is known for his own stunt work and choreography, in addition to writing, directing and producing his own material.
Chan reached stardom in his native Hong Kong in the '80s and early '90s with the "Police Story" films and "Drunken Master II." among others.
He found success in the United States with "Rumble in the Bronx" and became a major star with the "Rush Hour" and "Shanghai Noon" franchises.
According to box office data website The Numbers, Chan's movies -- beginning with 1973's "Enter the Dragon" -- have had a worldwide gross of $2.1 billion.
But despite the action genre that made him famous, Chan said he has "been trying to do a children's movie a long time," because he has for years been passionate about educating and helping kids.
He founded Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1988 to offer scholarships and medical aid to Hong Kong's youth. In 2005, he created The Dragon's Heart Foundation to help provide educational opportunities for needy children.
The actor also was the subject of his own animated kids' series, "The Jackie Chan Adventures", from 2000 to 2005.
"I just produced another cartoon, another Jackie Chan Adventure in Beijing," he said. "I've cared about children for a long time. They mean everything and they learn from us. (This new show) is about education, about protecting the Earth."
The desire to educate youngsters prompted Chan to sign on to Columbia Pictures' reboot of "The Karate Kid" franchise produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and starring their son, Jaden. The film is slated for a June release.
"It's a very serious movie because we're talking about philosophy, about the secret of the martial arts and about respect," said Chan.
"Right now, young children have no respect and I teach (Smith) how to respect his parents, how to respect the world."