Why on Earth is JIM KELLY Not Kicking Ass on Screen Today'
Published at: Sept. 29, 2003, 4:26 a.m. CST by staff
Hey folks, Harry here... And I just spent a wondrous evening with Jim Kelly at the Alamo Drafthouse!!! Now, this might not seem like a big deal to some of you out there, but here's the honest to goodness lowdown. Jim Kelly hasn't made an appearance with one of his films in over 20 years. TWENTY YEARS, yet tonight and last night in Houston, he decided to grace the Alamo!
So - We've all heard the rumors about Jim Kelly... the legends... Everything from rampant drug addiction and hatred for the films he starred in. We've heard about his fury over the decline of his career and the rumors he was bitter somewhere... angry at the world. UNTRUE. Turns out the truth is he's been on a series of covert missions fighting evil everywhere. Ok, that's not true either... What has the man who captured the imaginations of generations through his work in seventies film... what has he been up to?
His film career dried up in the late seventies, much like all the other "blaxploitation" stars when the NAACP targeted "Black Hollywood" as being negative role-models for "Black America." This is a story that we've seen in many documentaries regarding the Black Stars of the Seventies. HOWEVER -- Jim Kelly continued teaching Karate at his schools till he got tired of that scene, though he's about to do more of that again. He got into Real Estate and Tennis - Having his own Tennis Club. In terms of Martial Arts, he's continued to study other styles. When we knew him as a bad ass in film, he was mainly a Karate expert, since then he's been studying Brazilian Grappling, American Boxing and some other forms... Creating his own Hybrid Style of Martial Arts that he's going to be teaching soon!
What about his film career? Well, his pursuits as a Tennis Pro and in Real Estate have afforded him the luxury to do something that few actors do. It has allowed him to be exceptionally picky. Jim says that on average he gets offered 4-5 films a year to take part in and/or star, but that he just doesn't like the scripts... that they aren't really what he's looking for. Usually they're terribly written, texturing him as a bit too much like a cartoon. Seems most people that want to put Jim Kelly in the film, assume that he's still the big afro wearing guy from the ghetto that so many just assume he is. The parts have him speaking in the worst style of Ebonics around, and he's just not interested in doing that sort of thing. He's also not really looking to "make fun of" the image he had in the seventies. You see, unlike many, Jim Kelly takes his martial arts seriously, as Bruce Lee did. You want Jim Kelly to be in your film, write a smart part that takes the Martial Arts serious and with respect. And try to have the part treat him as a human being and not some grotesque caricature of an era long past.
Does that mean he doesn't like his old films? Quite the contrary, he's very proud of them. Tonight he went on and on about what it was like working with Bruce Lee. How Bruce and he were going to do a film after GAME OF DEATH, then how he and Brandon Lee were going to do a film after THE CROW, but... tragedy interrupted. He loves the train fight in BLACK BELT JONES, is fond of his old one liners and is amazed at how thoroughly the audience knew his work, both on-screen and as a professional Martial Artist.
Currently, he's up for a role, that is currently going between him and Steven Seagal, he's supposed to find out this week, but he likes the part apparently. Let's hope it works out, because folks... I'm here to tell ya... all the rumors about Jim Kelly being an ass, are like a zillion ways to Sunday untrue. Tonight he sat at the Alamo Drafthouse talking to fans, signing their memoribilia, pink Black Belt Jones panties and taking pictures... All the time as cordial and warm and intelligent as you would hope for.
It's so nice when one of your heroes... I mean, since the age of 3 I've thought Jim Kelly was as cool as they come. Hell, last year I was challenged to find a print of GOLDEN NEEDLES for some one close to me to see, and in 2 weeks I got that sucker and was absolutely delighted by the film. Like Robert Forester or Pam Grier or David Carradine... JIM KELLY is waiting to have someone out there in Hollywood to open their eyes and stop casting the people off of some list, and give him a part worth playing. Meanwhile, he'll continue with his life... Working on his own hybrid martial art that he's waiting to debut, pursuing his interests in Tennis and Real Estate and perhaps... perhaps gracing a screen near you or me.
Want to hear a story you might not know about ENTER THE DRAGON... Originally, the Jim Kelly WILLIAMS character was supposed to survive the film, it was John Saxon's ROPER that was supposed to die. However, Jim Kelly was on his second film that time out, and John Saxon's career was quite a bit more substantial. Saxon's agent did a "If you want John Saxon in this movie, then that Jim Kelly guy... you're gonna have to kill him instead!" So, there ya go. Now, dream of how badass the Jim Kelly vs Bolo Yeung fight would have been. Imagine, Jim Kelly looking up at Bruce at the end and giving the thumbs up... In a parallel dimension... it happened!