Jackie Chan flexes dramatic muscle for The Foreigner
Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan, 63, seeks transformation in four-decade career
After nearly four decades as an actor, producer, director, singer and, of course, martial artist and stuntman, Jackie Chan was finally awarded an honorary Oscar last November for his achievements in film.
But his best work may be yet to come.
With an eye on career longevity, the Hong Kong superstar is trying his hand at serious drama in Hollywood, though the action hasn't been left behind.
His new movie The Foreigner has received critical notice. Directed by Martin Campbell of the Bond movies Casino Royale and GoldenEye, it is currently showing here.
This is a 63-year-old's action movie, and Chan is not a superhero any more.
Instead, he is a grieving father bent on taking revenge on a rogue cell of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) for the death of his daughter in a bomb blast in London.
Chan plays Quan Ngoc Minh, a restaurant owner and a quiet, dignified man. When he doesn't get adequate answers about the bombing from the police and Irish Deputy Minister Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), a politician with a dark past as a former IRA member, he snaps.
Taking matters into his hands, Quan calls on his experience as a soldier to seek justice for his loss.
For Chan, receiving the Oscar gave him validation.
"It means to me, all those years I did the right thing," he said at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.
"I never thought I could get an Oscar. I just keep making cheap movies, and I am a comedy action star. Oscars and other awards were too far away.
"Tom Hanks or Robert De Niro, those kinds of stars get Oscars, not me."
"Nobody said Rush Hour is good," he added with a laugh, referring to his 1998 Hollywood breakout hit.
"Making The Foreigner, I wanted change, that's all. Then when I got an Oscar, I was just so happy.
"What I did all those years was make movies from the heart, it was not just for money.
"I make these movies that are good for children and good for adults and good for the world and peace."
In person, the bespectacled Chan - who also voices Master Wu in the animated flick The Lego Ninjago Movie - looks way younger than 63.
It is obvious that his sense of humour, which transcends any language barrier, is a key part of his likeability and a huge factor in his global success.
There is really no one Chan cannot charm.
Why did you sign up for The Foreigner?
I've always wanted a change (but) it's so hard to get decent scripts.
They're always about secret police from China and Hong Kong. It doesn't work.
And nobody sent me La La Land or those kinds of scripts.
And finally, this one came. I've tried singing and (voice work in animations) such as the Mandarin versions of Beauty And The Beast, Mulan, Kung Fu Panda and The Nut Job 2 and Jackie Chan Adventures.
I want to be a multi-talented actor - I can do dubbing, drama, comedy. I can do so many different things.
How did you work on the dramatic scenes in the movie?
When I speak and the tears are coming down, those are real tears and not eye drops.
It's challenging for me, especially the English. And Pierce, he speaks English (that) I don't understand (laughs).
It's difficult. I have to concentrate with a dialogue coach, and I have to speak the English from my heart.
When I go home and everybody sleeps, I have to practise my English and the dialogue, and I want to speak from the heart and not just like (in a monotone) 'You killed my family'.
Actually, I think I did a pretty good job. The tears came down and the throat was tight.
Of course, there are fight scenes in the movie too.
Quan is not Superman. We had to take into account that he's an older gentleman and had to adjust the fight sequences.
At first, the small space made it difficult, but my team handled it.
They can handle anything. We had to focus more on military techniques and hand-to-hand combat.
Do you have a dream role you want to play?
I really want to be in a film where the whole movie is just drama, and not one punch.
But I am really scared the audience (may not) really like it. I am not there yet. Step by step, I'll let the audience know I am not an action star any more, I am an actor.
So I make New Police Story, Shinjuku Incident and now The Foreigner.
But between them, of course, I have Chinese Zodiac, Dragon Blade and Kung Fu Yoga.
Of course, if a director hired me to do La La Land - Part 2, yes, I am going to do it (laughs).
I am not a good singer, but I have a good voice.
This year, I have another new record coming out, a beautiful song and the lyrics are good... about friendship, my family, my son, the world.
I hope we can translate (it) into English so everybody can understand the meaning.
You are going to make Rush Hour 4 right?
It has meaning inside and I agreed to make it, otherwise it's just 'ha ha'.
I don't need those kinds of things any more. I need good movies that have meaning. That's what I want.
As someone who keeps so young and appears so happy, do you really have nothing to worry about?
The only worry is that I cannot find a good script. In the old days, I worry about the box office. But these days, no more.
You cannot worry if this movie makes 100 or 200 million. And sometimes it's like gambling.
You just don't know if this movie is good or bad. I just know that every movie I make, I do the best I can till it's finished.
Next year, we'll have Rush Hour 4, so I did The Foreigner.
And then after Rush Hour 4, I can't do Rush Hour 5, I've to change, maybe to another drama. I am already planning.
So I am just happy-go-lucky, treating people well, eating whatever I want, training more and if I want more ice cream, okay, 20 more minutes running (laughs).
One more steak? Okay, 100 yards. Then after that, I really am happy.