Jackie Chan reflects on life's highs and lows in new book | Inquirer Lifestyle

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Jackie Chan
Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan. Image: AP

Jackie Chan reflects on life’s highs and lows in new book

Jackie Chan
Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan. AP FILE PHOTO

Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong martial artist and movie star, released a second autobiography on April 7, his 61st birthday.


The book, “Jackie Chan: Grown Old Before Grown Up”, sees Chan taking a look back at his 40 years in the movie business and sharing personal stories about family and friends.


His first English autobiography, “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action,” was published in 1999 and recounts his career development for a Western audience, who first discovered Chan in 1998, when he starred in his first Hollywood blockbuster, “Rush Hour.”


The new book in Chinese reads more like a heart-to-heart talk with Chan’s friends.


“When Chan Kong-sang (Chan’s birth name) became Jackie Chan is not important anymore,” says Chan in a promotional video for the new book.


“What’s important is that I’ve turned from a hot-blooded youngster to a man witnessing the bittersweetness of life, peacefully.”


Besides revealing the stories behind the many death-defying stunts he carried out in his movies, Chan recounts many of his early romances. The ambiguous relationship with the late Taiwan pop singer Teresa Teng around 1980 is probably one of the bittersweet memories that Chan savors the most.


It was during the shooting of “The Big Brawl” in the United States in 1979, that Chan first met Teng. At the time, Teng was experiencing a career low and had moved to California. Chan, though popular in Asia, was also lesser-known in Hollywood.


They got to know each other by chance, and later went out together frequently. “It was the happiest time that I spent during my first stay in the US. We studied English together, went for walks on the beach and dined in Chinese restaurants in China Town,” recalls Chan in the book. “Those days were a lot of fun, but I don’t know if that could be called a relationship.”


Although fate brought the two to meet again in Taiwan and Hong Kong, their different personalities finally set them apart.


“Maybe that’s the best decision,” writes Chan. “Because we have two very different personalities and both of us wouldn’t compromise for the other. In other words, she was too good for me.”


Chan was born in Hong Kong in 1954, where his father worked in the US consulate as a chef and his mother as a domestic helper. Chan was a playful child and failed school in his first grade. When he turned 7, his parents followed the diplomat to work in Australia, and left him alone to practice martial arts at the China Drama Academy in Hong Kong.


After 10 years of training, Chan started his movie career from the bottom, working as a stuntman and an extra on different sets, earning as little as HK$5 (64 cents) a day. His first relationship ended because of his humble job back then.


Growing up among poor people shaped his initial dislike of the wealthy. This attitude has also been reflected in his roles – a small, ordinary man with a kind heart.


“He has friends all over the world, and wherever he goes, he goes with a bunch of people, and talks of his adventures once he’s in good mood,” writes Zhu Mo, the former PR director of Huayi Brothers Media Group who co-authored the book. “In 2013, I asked him if I could write his stories down and make it a book. He answered right away, ‘You can give it a try’.”


For the rest of the year, Zhu followed Chan, listened to his stories and noted them down. Chan would then double-check the draft. But because of Chan’s tight schedule, and the fact Zhu moved to the UK in 2014, writing the book dragged on until January.


When Chan asked for recommendations for the book, more than 140 celebrities and stars responded warmly, including Chinese Nobel laureate Mo Yan, entrepreneur Jack Ma, former NBA star Yao Ming and world-acclaimed director Zhang Yimou.


“My life has always been boisterous… And at times I almost forgot who I am until Zhu started to write about me,” writes Chan in the back of the book. “As I told my stories to her, I came to realise that this is the man I am.”


“This man is not the one on the big screens, neither is he the one in the news. I want you to know him.”



Quotes from the book



On his life:


“Because my life is too colourful, sometimes I cannot see myself clearly. I cannot tell the difference between me and my character in the film, and which one of them is real.”


On his wife after his out-of-wedlock daughter became known 15 years ago:


“Amid the onslaught of media coverage, I wanted to call her (wife Lin Feng-jiao), but didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t explain, because it was a mistake that couldn’t be rectified by simply saying, ‘I am sorry’. I thought there was no remedy for it. Then I thought: ‘No need to explain, just to get a divorce. I’ve made such a big mistake, and being divorced will serve me right.'”


On his son, who was jailed for six months:


“I made mistakes when I was young, too. After you make a mistake, it’ll be OK if you can correct it. Then you should behave like a man, being strong and independent when you face whatever you’ll have to face.”


On wealth:


“Can you imagine an uneducated man finding himself 10 million dollars richer overnight? I just couldn’t wait to buy all that I wanted to buy in life within a week… From penniless to rich, from being profligate to doing charity work, I’ve come a long way. I don’t mind when people call me an uncultured upstart. I was like that. But now I know how to spend my money wisely.”


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