CULTURE


Actor, director, producer Jackie Chan celebrates his birthday

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Baku, April 7, AZERTAC

Actor, director, producer Jackie Chan was born Chan Kong-sang on April 7, 1954, in Hong Kong, China. He began studying martial arts, drama, acrobatics, and singing at age seven. Once considered a likely successor of Bruce Lee in Hong Kong cinema, Chan instead developed his own style of martial arts blended with screwball physical comedy. He became a huge star throughout Asia and went on to have hits in the U.S. as well.

When his parents moved to Australia to find new jobs, the seven-year-old Chan was left behind to study at the Chinese Opera Research Institute, a Hong Kong boarding school. For the next 10 years, Chan studied martial arts, drama, acrobatics, and singing, and was subjected to stringent discipline, including corporal punishment for poor performance. He appeared in his first film, the Cantonese feature Big and Little Wong Tin Bar (1962), when he was only eight, and went on to appear in a number of musical films.

Upon his graduation in 1971, Chan found work as an acrobat and a movie stuntman, most notably in Fist of Fury (1972), starring Hong Kong's resident big-screen superstar, Bruce Lee. For that film, he reportedly completed the highest fall in the history of the Chinese film industry, earning the respectful notice of the formidable Lee, among others.

After Lee's tragic, unexpected death in 1973, Chan was singled out as a likely successor of his mantle as the king of Hong Kong cinema. To that end, he starred in a string of kung fu movies with Lo Wei, a producer and director who had worked with Lee. Most were unsuccessful, and the collaboration ended in the late 1970s. By that time, Chan had decided that he wanted to break out of the Lee mold and create his own image. A year after the release of his first bona fide hit, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow (1978), Chan took the Hong Kong film world by storm with his first so-called "kung fu comedy" the now-classic Drunken Master (1978). Subsequent hits such as The Fearless Hyena (1979), Half a Loaf of Kung Fu (1980), and The Young Master (1980) confirmed Chan's star status; the latter film marked his first with Golden Harvest, Lee's old production company and the leading film studio in Hong Kong. Before long, Chan had become the highest-paid actor in Hong Kong and a huge international star throughout Asia. He exerted total control over most of his films, often taking charge of duties ranging from producing to directing to performing the theme songs.

In the early 1980s, Chan tried his luck in Hollywood, with little success. He starred in the Golden Harvest-produced The Big Brawl (1980), which flopped; he also had a small supporting role opposite Burt Reynolds in the disappointing ensemble comedy Cannonball Run (1982) and its equally mediocre 1984 sequel.

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