Behind the Scenes at the Cannes Film Festival: International Action Star Jackie Chan

Editor’s Note:  MOVIEGUIDE® Associate Editor Evy Baehr got a chance to attend the press conference with Jackie Chan, the beloved international action star from Hong Kong. His family moved to Australia when he was young, but at age 6 his parents sent him back to Hong Kong to attend the China Drama Academy, where he learned music, dance, and traditional martial arts. After a visiting film director gave him a stunt part, Jackie left the Academy and began his career in movies.

Jackie:  All my company and everybody calls ‘Jackie! Everybody say you’re retiring!’ Now, I want to correct. NOT retiring. I just do LESS dangerous stunts. I’m hurting. . . my body is telling me I have to stop. Weird dilemma. Really, weird dilemma.

Q:  So, not retiring, but working less?

Jackie:  Yeah. Actually as soon as we finish here, we start a movie. In July. Another one! And, also action movie! And right after, ANOTHER movie. My schedule’s already packed! Through 2014!

Q:  Does that mean you will be using stunt men from now on?

Jackie:  No, just new Jackie Chan things. Just like, uh, Clint Eastwood. ‘YOU – bang! Pow!’ (pretends to punch things) But not (using hands to mimic martial arts). No. . . no, just. . .  look at Clint Eastwood. So good. The movie. You know you say ‘action movie,’ but DRAMA! It’s good. Yeah.

Q:  Do you actually wish you were younger? Or are you happy getting old, being old?

Jackie:  Sometime I tell my friend, I give all my money to you to change you 30 years. Then I would be twenty years old! But, then I say, No. Then I’d continue to break my finger. . . . No, no, no, I’ll stay where I am!

Q:  If you could look back, would you change something in your life? Would you do the same career?

Jackie:  Yes.

Q:  Is this how you imagined your life when you were younger?

Jackie:  What? No. Never. Even today, when I am on the street, people yelling at me, somehow, I never think Jackie Chan would become [what I am] today. When I was young, nobody knew me, the Internet was not popular, I don’t know what’s going on anywhere. I only know Hong Kong. Just that. You know? I just making film. Just making the best film I can. Break my ankle, break my arm. For little money, I was a stuntman.  No money, but I still did my best. But now, today, I am so happy [with] what I’ve done.

Q:  You actually almost died a long time ago, in Zagreb (during the making of ARMOUR OF GOD [1986]).

Jackie:  Yes.

Q:  Did you delete that from your memory?

Jackie:  No, never. Never. Every time when I do some high fall now, I always think about Zagreb. Yes. Never again. Before. . . before I was too. . . I always think I am Superman. I never die. Whatever I do, I just do it. I never think, ‘Are the walls strong enough?’ So many times, I just try to jump. BOOM! – The wall had a big hole. Now, I’m more careful. More checking. Not even [for] myself. Because there’s so many stuntmen; my students on the set. I have to protect them. Then I make sure everything’s safe. But now, they make sure [I’m] safe! Yeah – sometimes, I get standing up, four people surround me! I go, No! I’m not that old! They protect me.

Q:  Do you ever think about death? Like how is it going to be like, what’s going to be afterwards, is there something afterwards?

Jackie:  I never think [it] will happen [to] me. I’m always very lucky. I don’t know why. Like, last week I was in a volcano – on top of volcano! Filming. And everyone [said] go! Rock coming! And I was standing there. . . everyone ran. . . and I said I don’t think the rock will [hit] me. I always want to try stuff.

Q:  Where was the volcano?

Jackie:  Vanuatu. 200,000 people stay in 82 islands. My island was only 15,000 people. Natives. So good, for a few days. The first time I sit down with 28 of my colleagues, everybody eating face-to-face, talking about life, talking about tomorrow – the shoot… you know why? No Internet. Most of the time, you sit down, everybody [is on their phone]! But I sit there, and I look. Wow! So good! No Internet, no telephone, no TV, so it was good for four days. Totally out! At night, you go out and you see the Milky Way. So beautiful.

Q:  Do you miss those good old days, without Internet and gadgets and mobile phones?

Jackie:  No.

[everyone laughs]

Jackie:  When you have it, you can’t live without it.

Q:  Do you like the new action films from Hollywood?

Jackie:  It’s different. I just admire, like, James Cameron – this kind of director. So clever. They can use a special effect and make everyone become a superhero. Superwomen. But, I don’t know this kind of technology. Even today, I have the money to buy the machine, but I don’t know how to control it. You must have this kind of talent to tell you I want this, I want that. I don’t. So that’s why I go back to Jackie traditional. Nobody knows. So easy.

First time I saw Steven Spielberg. . . Wow, wow I see Spielberg – what should I say? WOW.  He comes in, [he asks] Can I have some autograph for my son? I said whoa – oh okay. I’m signing, I think, ‘Should I say something nice?’ Okay. Then I turn around… I say, Wow, I see JURASSIC PARK – It was SO incredible! How can you make human being, mountain, dinosaur together? [Steven says] Jackie! So easy! You know, just – push button, push button. Then he ask me, How can you jump from there? I said, More easy! Action, Jump. Yeah – action, rolling, jump – then hospital.

Q:  In your new movie, what is it about the Zodiac that makes it a treasure?

Jackie:  Well it’s based on a true story. I just changed a little bit of the story. Everybody knows there are four bronze heads already in China, one in Macau, two in Paris, five of them are totally missing – nobody knows where. I base [the movie] on this story between bad and good treasure hunters. I [my character in the movie] do anything. I don’t like my family, I don’t like my life, I don’t like my wife, I don’t like friends. . . money. That’s my character.

Q:  Not you. But that’s not you.

Jackie:  But how can you be a good Jackie Chan? People, they don’t like to see it. I just wanna [be] little bit like Indiana Jones. A lot of sky fighting, volcano, and street, and action sequence, so many things. At the end, I finally come back, I miss my wife, I know my friends, it’s a totally happy ending.

In the movie, you can tell, there are so many messages inside. An education. I tell the children what’s wrong, what’s right. Like when we fight together. . . gentlemen fight one by one. Why I’m doing this [is] because I see [on the] Internet five young kids pick on one young kid. That’s wrong! That’s wrong. I don’t know if they get it or not, [but] at least from my heart I do some right things. All those years, I’m a bad boy becoming a good boy, from my fans, from the newspaper, from the media. They correct me. I’m the wild boy. [When I was] twenty years old, already a millionaire! Daytime, I crash a Porsche, afternoon I crash a Benz. Just spend all my money. But, from the movie, from the challenge, I learn so many things. I see credits – ah, so good, but so sad I cannot bring my children to go see it, because too nasty. Oh, okay – slowly, I don’t do these kind of things. So many years, I correct. Action movie, without violence. Comedy:  clean. No f-words. I know there’s so many children watching my movies. So I really thank you all, all my fans, all the credit on the news – when people don’t like me – you write bad things, I really thank you. Because I read it. Yes, I correct myself! That’s the way I correct myself. I hear so many good things! Jackie, you’re so handsome! Jackie, I love you! Jackie, so good! NO – Too many! Somebody say bad things, I collect. I put on my wall. I remind myself, because sometimes when you’re in THIS position, you don’t know anything. I always correct –don’t do this – don’t do that – don’t be snobbish – okay you have to be nice to people. I correct myself.

Q:  What do you think you’re going to be doing in 20 or 30 years?

Jackie:  Retiring. No – I’ll still be making movies! Don’t write I’m retired! Tell directors to hire me! (laughs)