Saturday, December 24, 2005
From the Vault: Jackie Chan
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED FEB. 23, 1996
Legally, Americans shouldn't have been able to see any of Jackie Chan's Hong Kong films.
"Everybody says I'm the biggest star in the world. I say, 'No.' ... If you say the biggest star in Asia, yes. ... I think Michael Jackson, Stallone — they are bigger stars in the world."
The supposed lack of video availability wasn't a problem for a lot of U.S. viewers, including writer-director Quentin Tarantino who became fascinated with the man and his movies. Tarantino even presented Chan, 41, with a lifetime achievement award at 1995's MTV Movie Awards.
"At that time, I didn't know who (Tarantino) was. He learn a lot of things from Hong Kong movies, but I learned a lot from American movies."
Now, after a failed attempt to conquer the United States market in the early '80s, Chan is returning to these shores with Rumble in the Bronx. When Chan tried to cross the Pacific before with The Big Brawl and The Protector, the experiment didn't take.
U.S. studios couldn't understand the appeal of his action, where fights take a long time and the hero doesn't prove his power with one, quick punch. When the American projects came up originally, Chan moved to Los Angeles, bought a house and began to learn English.
The films failed to catch on and Chan found himself losing out on his Asian audience without gaining an American one. Hoping to harness his comic style, Chan was even inserted into the two Cannonball Run films, but those didn't help his stature here.
"American market is too difficult. I know that if I go into American market, I have to speak very perfect English, but that's my problem."
Chan went back to Hong Kong to regain his Asian audience and to exert the absolute power he'd gained over his films' content. For one thing, he'd be able to continue performing his own dangerous stunts, something no American studio would allow.
While American productions began to increase their prominence in Asian markets, where the higher production values made audiences anxious to get more for their money, Chan still prevailed at the box office. He says it's because he was viewed as a foreigner in Asia since he doesn't film in Hong Kong anymore.
Production costs brought Chan to Vancouver, British Columbia, to film Rumble in the Bronx, though the city isn't a completely convincing double with its mountains.
"Later on, (we thought) forget about Rumble in the Bronx, how about Rumble in Vancouver. Too late because all the dialogue, the graffiti, we do already."
Again, Chan wasn't thinking of the United States and they let the inconsistencies slide. Then New Line approached him about bringing Rumble to America.
"I don't think Asian people know the Bronx. Mostly North American people. In China, nobody knows. I never think this movie can come to America. Totally a dream. If I'd known, no mountains."