Published at: April 18, 2008, 6:27 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I was offered the chance to talk to Jackie Chan and I jumped at it. Why wouldn’t I? Like any self-respecting geek I have much love for his early work. I remember in my teenage years finding the subtitled bootlegs of DRUNKEN MASTER and THE BIG BRAWL and THE POLICE STORY films was exciting. There was an energy that never existed in American cinema until they brought over movies like RUMBLE IN THE BRONX and then became huge when THE MATRIX hit.
So, we did get to chat over the phone for a bit and he was as personable and honest as his reputation. I love how he keeps saying how much RUSH HOUR is hated in China, but I do disagree with a comment he makes towards the end about his older films… But I’ll let you read those as they come. Enjoy the interview!
Jackie Chan: Hello.
Quint: Hey, how are you doing today, sir?
Jackie Chan: Good, thank you.
Quint: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. I appreciate it. I saw the movie yesterday and I liked it. I think it’s going to act as kind of a gateway film to Hong Kong cinema.
Jackie Chan: [Laughs] Yes. Did you really like it?
Quint: Definitely. It reminded me a lot of a movie called THE NEVER ENDING STORY, which I grew up with.
Jackie Chan: I don’t know. You like it, but I don’t know about the younger generation. Do you think they will like or not?
Quint: I think, especially the really young kids, I think they are going to like it.
Jackie Chan: Really?
Quint: I think so, yeah.
Jackie Chan: OK, but I will tell you what, I really don’t know what the American audience is thinking, just like when I finished RUSH HOUR 1, I thought “Oh my career is finished… the movie is terrible. I don’t know the culture or what they are going to say, like ‘the action is horrible’,” and it was actually a big success in America. Then came RUSH HOUR 2, SHANGHAI NOON, and SHANGHAI KINGHTS and I still don’t understand, you know?
Jackie Chan: I’ve been directing myself for so long and it is a totally different culture, different schedule and… yeah, everything’s different.
Quint: It depends what the target audience is. Nobody really has a formula that can always tell. I think with the RUSH HOUR movies, it was your chemistry with Chris Tucker and I think that is definitely where a lot of the success on that came from.
Jackie Chan: But at the beginning, when I thought RUSH HOUR was going to be a success before I thought otherwise, I was right, but when Chris Tucker and the American producer… when they “this will be a success,” they are right. Why? Because he RUSH HOUR series was a success in America.
Jackie Chan: In Asia it was a flop. Nobody understand what Chris Tucker was saying. Nobody know the American humor. They don’t like Jackie Chan action, because the action compared to my old action is terrible, but in America (it was) a big success. Then I realized “Oh, that’s a different culture… different things!” Every time I come to America and do a big American film, then I would predict, “OK this movie would never be a success in Asia, but only for the American market…”
Quint: It could very well be with FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, because what I think its destiny is going to be is I think it’s going to take the younger kids and it’s going to introduce them to that Hong Kong style of film; with showing us the historical fantasy world and showing like the animal style martial arts and it’s a good introduction, being able to follow Michael [Angarano]’s character into this world.
Jackie Chan: I really hope it’s a success, because in Asia, especially in China, we have just opened up over the last twenty years to American… Every American culture or Western culture goes everywhere there, like HARRY POTTER, every history… and movies like 300… everything is just so famous, like SUPERMAN and BATMAN, but we have so many stories that in the West nobody knows!
Jackie Chan: A few years ago they made MULAN, because they made MULAN, then everybody knows MULAN… I really thank you and thank the American producers to bring the Chinese culture to the world.
Quint: Well, there’s definitely an audience for it. I know a lot of the readers of the site that I write for, they are very world cinema knowledgeable and they are so excited to see… At least the big draw for this film is seeing you and Jet Li team up.
Jackie Chan: (laughs) Okay? I hope that if the movie is a big success that there will be a FORBIDDEN KINGDOM PART TWO! [Laughs]
Quint: Why not? So why has it taken so long for you and Jet Li to partner up? Did you guys just happen to fall in and find the right project?
Jackie Chan: I think in the old days, well… we have known each other more than twenty years and when we weren’t with the same company, we agreed to make a movie and then I write the script and he agreed to do it. I agreed to do it, but the company had a problem with the distribution, like who owned the rights for the future. I was in Singapore and he was in Taiwan. That made Jet Li and me so depressed…
We wanted to do it, but “you guys always want to talk about money money money….” Somehow ten years ago when we were in the U.S, I met Jet Li in a hotel and we called up the two managers and I showed my script and the scriptwriter did not like the script. He did not like my script, but he wanted to write a new script, so then after they spent a million getting this new script, then I don’t like the story.
Jackie Chan: It was just too difficult and also, we don’t have a middle man. Every time I want to talk to Jet Li or Jet Li wants to talk to me, it’s like “Yeah, let’s do it!” We would sit down for two hours at lunch or dinner and then after that he would be busy and I would be busy. We needed a middle man, just like with FORBIDDEN KINGDOM. Casey Silver [the producer]: “are you going to do it?” “Yes!” “Is Jet Li going to do it?” “Yes.” Then we would go home and he would be busy and I would be busy, but Casey Silver would just continue working with the script, finding the director, then every seven or ten days call me “Now we find a director, but…” You know, just some one in the middle for that one year of nonstop chasing us. That worked; otherwise it just doesn’t work.
Quint: It seems like the group that got it together… The movie is very much a love letter to Hong Kong cinema and to martial arts films as a whole. The fact that your character fights with the “drunken fist” style and that’s such a throwback, at least for us and maybe not general audiences, but fans of your past work. I think that is a really nice touch.
Jackie Chan: I think the writer is a big fan of Hong Kong cinema and martial arts, so he tried to write everything he knew in his life with everything like DRUNKEN MASTER and “Monkey King” and the “Jade Emperor” and the elixir… For us and with Jet Li, the first time we read the script, it didn’t make sense, it was ridiculous, but somehow we knew it was a young kid dreaming like a fantasy and fairy tale type movie and so that’s OK.
Quint: Then it works, yeah. I really loved the “Monkey King” aspect of that as well, but I’ve always been a fan of the animal style martial art stuff. One of my favorite films of yours is SNAKE IN EAGLE’S SHADOW and so I was really happy…
Jackie Chan: How old are you?
Quint: I’m twenty-seven.
[Jackie Chan Laughs]
Quint: Thank God for revival cinemas and I saw that on the big screen here in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse, but yeah I’m a really big fan of it.
Jackie Chan: Thank you. Even now I’m looking at DRUNKEN MASTER and EAGLE’S SHADOW and the action is so slow…
Jackie Chan: So slow and like [makes slow popping noises like punches] and DRUNKEN MONKEY (an alternate name for DRUNKEN MASTER) maybe was a little bit better, a little bit faster. Did you see YOUNG MASTER?
Quint: I’m not sure. I might have.
Jackie Chan: I directed it. The beginning of the movie is [makes same slow punch noises] and the end of the movie totally changed, like street fighting. That time I decided to change the action style.
Quint: That’s cool; I’ll have to go seek it out then. Is there any particular kind of movie you’d like to do in the future?
Jackie Chan: Um… I’m looking for a love story.
Quint: You would like to do a love story now?
Jackie Chan: Yeah. I want to try, because right after FORBIDDEN KINGDOM, I just finished a movie called THE SHINUKU INCIDENT. It’s a very heavy drama filming in Japan and now I want to do some… just… what did I say?
Quint: Romantic movie?
Jackie Chan: Not only love stories… dramas without fighting and without action. That’s what I want to do.
Quint: So do you think that will be a career change or do you think that you will go back to action after a few films or can you even tell at this point?
Jackie Chan: I can not tell at this point. I just want to keep on changing… I want to be a real actor and the actor who can fight, not just an action star.
[The representative notifies Jackie that he has to cut it short]