A previously unpublished interview with action star Jackie Chan from 1997 revealed just how much he looked up to martial arts icon Bruce Lee.
The king of martial arts: The interview, conducted by journalist Richard James Havis, shed light on the actor’s early days as a stunt choreographer when he witnessed Lee’s rise to global fame, reported South China Morning Post.
- In the interview, Chan looked back at his experience working as a stunt man in the 1972 Hong Kong film “Fist of Fury,” which was Lee’s second major starring role.
- According to Chan, he took the job since he did not have enough clients as a choreographer and he had to find “a way to make a living.”
- He observed how Lee was often surrounded by a group of 30 or 40 people who “treated him like a king or a god” and said “yes” to him all the time.
- Chan noted that while he considers Lee to be a great influence on him, he feels that he could never be like “the king of martial arts.”
- “The way he talked, the way he punched, even the way he spoke was impressive,” Chan said. “Everyone liked him, he was very good to us, very good to the low-class people, and he didn’t really care that much about the big bosses.”
- Chan also shared Lee’s generosity toward him: “Bruce was great because he got me even more money by telling the stunt coordinator it was a dangerous stunt – but it wasn’t a dangerous stunt. He was just trying to help me get paid more, and that made me so happy.”
Not a fan of Jeet Kune Do: Chan’s high regard for Lee, however, did not match his opinion of the hybrid martial art style Jeet Kune Do, which Lee developed based on his experiences in unarmed fighting and self-defense.
- The Hong Kong actor found the style to be “normal,” noting that Lee merely put together some techniques he learned.
- “That’s what I do, too,” Chan was quoted as saying. “If I opened a school, and taught students, I could say that I was teaching ‘Jackie do,’ I could call it that. It’s the same thing.”
- Chan acknowledged that while the foundations of his style were similar to others, Lee’s combination of these styles made it different.
- “Bruce Lee was mainly Wing Chun, combined with Muhammad Ali-style boxing,” Chan said. “It was all in the way he moved – the way he moved made him famous. He was also the first to do some things on film.”
- Chan lamented how Lee’s superstardom led to his early death as he “was under so much pressure to be a superhero.”
- “I remember that people at first were saying he could punch at 100lbs, then straight after that they were saying he could punch at 700lbs. And he would do one kick, and everyone would say later that he actually did three kicks, not one,” Chan added.
On being a star himself: Chan explained how the magic of movies can make people perceive that martial artists are the best at a certain technique.
- “If you put something in a movie and you do it first, it becomes your thing,” he said. “That’s because when you watch one of my films, you are focused on me!”
- When Chan watched “Fist of Fury” in theaters, he realized that he wanted to try acting because he saw how stunt doubles made actors look better.
- “From then on, I wanted to let people know it was me on the screen,” he said. “I didn’t want to be a double. When you look at a Jackie Chan movie, you can see it’s me. Sometimes I don’t do the stunt perfectly but it’s still me.”