Jackie Chan

Around The World In 80 Days

Interviewed by Stella Papamichael

“Now when I work in American films, the young generation all really respect me. They know I know what I'm doing ”

When Hollywood shouts "Action!", there's one man it turns to: Hong Kong legend Jackie Chan. Although the Rush Hour and Shanghai Knights franchises have proved his box office worth in the West, he still finds his native land's movie industry a hard habit to break - unlike his bones. In family-friendly adventure yarn Around The World In 80 Days, he plays Passepartout to Steve Coogan's Phileas Fogg.

Did you break any more bones on Around The World In 80 Days?

No, not for a long time! When I'm making an American film, it's more safe because there are so many people on the set to watch me. Whatever I do, they say, "What are you doing!? Tell me first!" There are so many restrictions. Before I do a stunt, I have to make sure it is safe. Being a stunt coordinator, I have to take care not only of myself but I have to make sure everyone is safe. Bruises and cuts? Yes, but not broken bones. When you see me crash into that statue, it hurt. Bang! And "Again, again!", the stupid director says, but he doesn't know because he's 20 miles away watching on a monitor!

There's a very elaborate sequence involving two teams of fighters - the Tigers and the Scorpions. How complicated was that to choreograph?

I've choreographed all of my movies. It's my daily job. Of course this scene was difficult because there are so many people involved. There are so many of my friends - stars in Asia - who were willing to do one day or two days for this. The difficult part for me was how to combine the choreography with Cecile [De France, who plays Monique] and Steven Coogan [Phileas Fogg]. I'm sometimes proud of myself not only for fighting but fighting with drama, and fighting with story. It's not just fight, fight, fight. I have to think, How can I put in the comedy? For this I made Steve a little bit clumsy. Of course nothing is easy, but this is the fun part for me.

There's another sequence where you're handcuffed to Ewen Bremner. How difficult was that, given that he's famously unfit?

Yeah, it was difficult because he has a shoulder problem. Before we did the sequence he said to me, "I have a shoulder problem." I said, "OK. I have a shoulder problem too. I have a problem all over my body!" But when I pushed him to the wall, I saw his shoulder bounce out and I realised it was really serious. So most of the time, I used a double. It was easy because his face was so dirty.

Looking at your movies, it's as if you have two careers: one in the East where you're an action star, and one in the West where you're much more family friendly. Are you happy about the way you're perceived on this side of the world?

Oh yes. That is why I've been doing it for so many years. From 15 years ago, I tried to turn to more family movies, but I'm still an action hero. But I plan all of my action sequences so carefully now - from violent, heavy action to comedy action. I really care about children and how they learn from me, so that is why I started [cartoon series] Jackie Chan Adventures, then I started the Jackie Chan Foundation to help children. That's my plan - to have both careers. But I never want to forget my Asian audience. That's why right after 80 Days I went back to make an Asian film, a police story. Then there was a Rush Hour 3 delay, so I started another Asian movie right away. You know, with Rush Hour 3 there are two years of meetings, but when I start a movie in Asia it's two days.

You enjoy quite a unique position in Hollywood now, where you're allowed to part-direct all of your films. Do you feel privileged in that way?

It is very lucky for me right now - not like the old days when working on American films and nobody listened to me. I had to listen to the director when he says: "Do what I tell you to do." Now when I work in American films, the young generation all really respect me. They know I know what I'm doing. Like with the director of Shanghai Knights, David Dobkin, and Frank Coraci - they always like me to do whatever I like to do, because I've been directing my own movies for over 20 years. Also when I choose a script I like to make it a little bit about Asia too, my own culture, so I can help my friends. You know, I put Sammo [Hung] in the film and Daniel Wu. I'm really happy with things.

There were so many cameo appearances in the film. Was there anyone you couldn't get?

No, actually. We didn't call many people but everybody agreed to do it. When I called Stallone to be an Irish boxer, he said yes. And when I called Chris Tucker, he said, "Yes. When? Let me know." But we had so many cameos and the movie was just too long. It became three hours and then we had to cut, cut, cut.

How did you find sharing a bathtub with Arnold Schwarzenegger?

I've known him for a long time, from being partners in Planet Hollywood. I met him at a party and we talked but not really deep talking, always just [doing Arnold Schwarzenegger impression!] "Hi, Jackie. Nice to meet you", and then we sit down and talk about the business. The next time I saw him again, we were sitting in the bathtub and he said some jokes, but I didn't understand what he was talking about. And probably when I say something he doesn't understand. He's a pretty nice guy.

How did you cope with singing in French?

Cecile really helped, but the singing for me is easy. Even though I'm not a professional I am a pretty good singer. I have an amazing voice!

Did you learn anything from working with Steve Coogan?

Yeah, I learned the word "horizon". And "reciprocate" - that one is difficult.