When he was little, a boy called Chan Kong-sang couldn’t have dared to imagine the kind of future that lay ahead of him.
Today, the name is Jackie Chan and he’s one of a kind – cinema’s great veteran and legendary martial artist who created an undying culture for millions. His superstar status remains unparalleled; icons like him are almost impossible to find.
Jackie proves the theory that no man or woman ever became great without a struggle. We’re all destined to endure the suffering of our share before we can be the best, most accomplished versions of ourselves.
And Jackie Chan has seen more than his fair share, a fact that only drove him closer to world-conquering success. He was too strong to be a victim.
Born in April 1954, he was a hyperactive and happy child. He hated academics and failed a year at school, forcing his refugee parents to pull him out. His dad was a chef and moved to Australia for a new job. His mother joined him for a while. The young boy was on his own.
On the other hand, Chan was sent to China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera School run by Master Yu Jim-yuen. He took his new discipline’s underutilised talent and started honing it. Chan trained vigorously for the next 10 years and became proficient in acrobatics and martial arts.
He was now a thoroughly disciplined young man working day and night to break through. But he had a long way to go. He earned a black belt and perfected other styles such as karate, judo and taekwondo. Chan had been doing small movie roles on and off as a child actor.
At 17, he worked was a stuntman in Bruce Lee films like Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. He even did a couple of adult films with the only sex scenes of his career.
After a series of commercial failures, Chan moved to be with his parents in Canberra and had a brief stint as construction labourer. This is where he got the nickname ‘Jackie’; one that was destined for international stardom.
Now Jackie Chan’s crucial days were about to begin.
He got a call that began a long partnership with Lo Wei, a famous Hong Kong producer/director. Unfortunately, their films pretty much failed. This is when Chan decided to stop following trends and create a signature style of his own.
He got the opportunity with his breakthrough film, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow. The director gave Chan
complete creative freedom to choreograph his own stunts. The athletic star insisted on doing them all on his own, taking risks with his life to push himself. His energy was always at its epitome.
He even performed a jump stunt that had never been attempted ever before in one of Bruce Lee’s productions – it was reportedly the highest fall in Chinese cinema history. He set awe-inspiring records with his never-say-die attitude.
As said by Chan himself, he has probably broken every bone in his body at least once. He once fractured his skull while shooting for Armour of God. But he wasn’t going to let broken bones change to broken dreams. Imagine!
It was all those years of practice and formal learning that gave birth to Jackie Chan’s iconic comedic Kung Fu genre, a fresh hybrid of humour and action that turned him into an overnight sensation. His slapstick-meets-macho image would carry on for many, many years to come.
He had become an undisputed celebrity. His hit formula kept working miracles with audiences. Blockbusters such as Drunken Master and Fearless Hyena followed. Soon, his popularity was spreading over the globe. He was Asia’s biggest star.
The world sat up and took notice. With movies like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon, Chan established a diehard following in the West after an initial lukewarm response.
Action movies started imitating his unique style. Generations looked up to Chan as their hero. He went beyond being just an entertainer for the masses; he was an innovator, a true original who had fused two fields to make history. Heck, he even gained attention as a singer!
Now, after 56 year-long-career spanning more than 200 films and countless awards and honours, Jackie Chan is focusing on his biggest passion – eradicating poverty in his homeland. He is a devoted philanthropist and regularly donates to other charitable causes as well.
Jackie Chan has so much to offer. He’s a comic king and martial arts maestro but a humanitarian as much. He might have money to buy a private jet today but there were days when he was hand-to-mouth. He might have degrees now but he still struggles with reading and writing, as he never really got an education.
He remembers it all. He wants to give as much as he can and that’s why he pledged all his money.
Jackie Chan gave his heart and soul to the profession he chose and marked his name in the realm of arts forever. He fought as a rebel and led as a visionary. He was always more than the guy with the high kicks and perfect timing.
His legacy will be celebrated by several generations to come. And he earned every single bit of it.