With a film career spanning over half a century, Jackie Chan has seen and done it all.
So, when it came to making his latest movie, Kung Fu Yoga, director Stanley Tong decided to make him do something he had never done – put him in a car with a real-life lion.
“I was scared! Really scared! but the most important thing is to make the audience happy, and I knew that children love animals,” said Chan, 62. “I don’t know why he (Tong) loves shooting with animals so much! In The Myth, he made me shoot with a tiger for seven days!”
The scene in Kung Fu Yoga is part of a high-speed car chase sequence in Dubai in which Chan’s character “borrows” a car to pursue the bad guys, only to realise later that there is a lion in the back seat.
According to Tong, it took about a week to shoot the scenes with the lion.
“We first shot it in a cave, then with a green screen, then in the car. It’s hard to put a lion in the car! And once we put the lion in the car, it was really hard to put Jackie in the car!” Tong said with a laugh.
Chan and Tong were speaking at a press conference at The Majestic Hotel Kuala Lumpur, where they were promoting the movie along with co-stars Bollywood actresses Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur, and Muqi Miya from China.
Distributed locally by GSC Movies, Kung Fu Yoga is a China-India collaboration that sees Chan reprising the role of archaeologist Jack Chan, whom he first played in The Myth in 2005.
Jack is approached by Kyra (Disha), a beautiful scientist from India, to go on a search for a lost treasure in Tibet. Tagging along are Jack’s research assistants Noumin (Miya Muqi) and Xiao Guang (Zhang Yixing), treasure hunter Jones (Aarif Rahman) and Kyra’s assistant Ashmita (Amyra Dastur). During the search, the team runs into the ruthless Randall (Sonu Sood), who will stop at nothing to get his hands on the treasure.
While it was not the first time Chan had worked with a Bollywood crew (he did so on The Myth), it was definitely a career high for Disha and Amyra to star alongside an international superstar.
Amyra recalled: “I didn’t believe my casting director at first – he gave us the script and it was in English and we usually do Hindi. He didn’t tell me anything else.
“One month later, I got a call, and was told I had auditioned for a Jackie Chan film and was selected, and now I have to go to China and train for it. I was like, ‘Wrong number, dude’.”
Disha was also equally surprised that she got the part. “I couldn’t believe I was shooting with Chan. The first day I was shooting with him, I was so star-struck – I was just staring at him!” she remembered.
According to Tong, making a Jackie Chan movie can be quite challenging because of the actor’s desire to come up with new and original ideas in every movie.
“It’s very difficult. Every movie, from Project A to Police Story … every single action sequence is different. He always has original ideas on how to do things,” said the director, who previously directed Chan in Police Story 3: Supercop (1992), Rumble In The Bronx (1995), Police Story 4: First Strike (1996) and The Myth.
“It’s not just about action – you have to put logic into the story. Why his character has to go to India, why they go to Iceland, why they have to swim underwater, why there is a car chase in Dubai … you need a reason for everything!” added Tong.
Speaking of filming in Iceland, co-star Aarif recently let slip in a Beijing press conference recently that Chan had to go for an emergency operation in London during the shoot after complaining of an excruciating pain in his abdomen.
A medical check-up revealed that he was suffering from rotten muscles and his intestines were out of alignment. After the operation, Chan immediately went back to Iceland to finish filming a scene in which he had to jump into a freezing lake.
It’s this sort of dedication to his work that was instrumental in Chan recently becoming the first Chinese actor to be awarded an honorary Oscar, which recognises his 56-year film career.
Chan said it was a great honour to be recognised that way. “The Oscar was not for what I did this year or last year … it’s for what I’ve done throughout the last 50-60 years. I’m what I call a ‘cheap action comedy star’, and actors like me would never get an Oscar! But I’ve risked my life to do my stunts, and to entertain my audiences all over the world,” he said.
According to Chan, his philosophy for making movies these days is to make those that can be enjoyed by fans of all ages, especially children.
“A long time ago, when I made movies like Drunken Master, Snake In The Eagle’s Shadow, we had a lot of nasty action moves and dirty jokes … because it was easy to make audiences laugh with dirty jokes!” he lamented.
He later realised that children were copying his actions; even in Africa, children were greeting him with the Drunken Master stance. His friends also started telling him that although they loved his movies, some of them were too violent, and that they would not let their children watch them.
“I knew I had to correct this, because so many children were learning from me. If I make a movie, I want my children to see it, and also other children as well. So I started to correct myself.
“In Drunken Master, I was fighting and drinking, so I had to make Drunken Master II to teach people NOT to drink and not to fight.”
He also started to make sure his writers, directors and producers practised the same philosophy.
“We have a responsibility to society and the world, because there are just so many violent things around, and that’s enough. So making family movies is very important to me.”