By Tom Snyder, Editor
Jackie Chan, the nimble Hong Kong action star and comedic genius, is almost exactly what you expect in person as he is on the silver screen – a man full of boundless energy and enthusiasm.
MOVIEGUIDE® recently had a chance to interview him about his latest movie, an action comedy for families titled THE SPY NEXT DOOR.
What you might not expect, however, is Jackie Chan’s concern for children.
In fact, the effects of his movies on children are a major concern for him, says the star of such classic action movies and comedies as POLICE STORY I, II and III, OPERATION: CONDOR, the RUSH HOUR series, and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS.
For instance, when he did his first DRUNKEN MASTER movie in 1978, Chan said the movie made getting drunk and doing Kung Fu look like fun, but for the 1994 sequel, he tried to show the consequences of getting drunk.
“There was a long time [ago] when I realized,” he said, “that the children do these kinds of things - they learn from me. I said to myself, ‘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 [have done] some dirty movement, but now I don’t do this. Slowly, all those years changed to today.
“Now I’ve grown up. . . I correct myself.”
Chan said he doesn’t have as much control over his American movies as he does those he makes in China. Even so, THE SPY NEXT DOOR includes several scenes where Chan’s character gently instructs the children he watches in the movie.
Working with the children in the movie in such a way is an “extension of his personality that he hasn’t had a chance to show in films,” Director Brian Levant said.
“When I’m making a Chinese movie, you can tell there’s so much philosophy inside,” Chan added. “I give the children education; I believe that’s my responsibility. So, that’s why I’m happy with what I’m doing right now.”
“We weren’t going for violence,” Levant explained. “We wanted comic action.”
He added, “Jackie makes the set special. He has a giant personality on and off the screen. And, his energy and enthusiasm are really infectious.”
“Jackie is amazing,” agreed co-star Amber Valletta. “His humor and his charisma translates [across] any language barrier. He’s so incredibly talented. Jackie loves the kids. He was so great with them!”
Chan’s concern for children extends beyond his movie career in China and Hollywood.
For example, his philanthropic group, Dragon’s Heart Foundation, has opened 24 schools for children in China, including providing books, fees, and uniforms. The Foundation also gives aid to the elderly.
THE SPY NEXT DOOR is a fun, family-friendly action comedy with some nice, heartwarming emotional payoffs.