Action hero Jackie Chan debunks rumors of his demise

Actress Nicole Kidman, right,  and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan arrive at the 10th Huading Awards in Macau Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
Actress Nicole Kidman, right, and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan arrive at the 10th Huading Awards in Macau Monday, Oct. 7, 2013. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)
By Scott Sandell
Los Angeles Times via McClatchy Tribune

LOS ANGELES — Jackie Chan is not dead. And he’s not retiring.

“There are so many different rumors, I am getting used to it,” the 59-year-old actor-director says of online reports of his demise. “Don’t worry, before I die, I let you know.”

Chan may be looking to slow down on the action, but after more than 50 years and 100-plus movies, he seems unstoppable.

His latest film, “Chinese Zodiac,” which opened Friday in the U.S., still features him leaping from buildings, fighting in the air and rolling down a mountain in a full-body rollerskate suit. The movie, about a quest to recover pillaged relics, is one of China’s highest-grossing home-grown films ever, despite mixed reviews. Up next: another “Police Story” installment and the action-comedy “Skiptrace.”

Last week, the outspoken Chan came to the Los Angeles Times for a video chat in Mandarin and English about what he calls his “last big-action movie” (i.e., not his last action film), his career and the growing collaboration and competition between Hollywood and China. Edited highlights follow.

Q. What was the most difficult part about the stunts in “Chinese Zodiac”?
A. The age. I’m not like I used to be, young, anymore. But I still do my own things. It used to be Jackie Chan action is like Hollywood action. But now the whole Hollywood action…they combine with special effects, computer graphics. We cannot do that because the audience, they don’t like to see Jackie Chan flying around like a Superman, like a Batman. They want Jackie Chan to do the real thing. That’s the most difficult part.

Q. How long do you think you can keep doing stunts like this?
A. I don’t know. When I was 40, I already say, “Another five years, I’m going to retire.” Then 45. “Another five years, I’m going to retire.” Then 50. I said, “Another five years, I retire.” … I do it until I cannot do it.

Q. Would you ever consider being in a superhero movie like “Iron Man” or “Avengers”?
A. I want to. Please, all the directors, James Cameron: Hire me…I love to do this kind of movie. Blue background with all the wire, flying around, that’s more easy. But all the directors, they think about me: OK, “Rush Hour 4” and “Shanghai Noon.” You have to do your own stunt, Jackie. (I’d) rather do a drama, comedy drama, a love story, sing a song on the beach, running around, slow motion, with a girl, kissing. But nobody buys a ticket to see Jackie Chan in a theater kissing. No.

Q. You’re one of the few actors in the Chinese film industry who’s been successful in Hollywood. Why is it so hard to go between the two?
A. I think I choose the right way. My movies, even without dialogue you understand what’s going on — lots of action, but no violence and no dirty jokes, no F-word. My movie is not only for Hong Kong market or Chinese market (but) for the whole world. All those years, Jackie Chan is like a bank. I collect fans, and when they come to the Jackie Chan bank, they never go away.

Q. Are you going to do “Rush Hour 4”?
A. I don’t know! Yesterday, I met with Chris Tucker. … We sit down: “Jackie, let’s do something. ‘Rush Hour 4.’” Will we do something? Yeah, if we find a good script.

Q. Earlier this year on a Hong Kong talk show you mentioned something about America being the most corrupt in the world.
A. I said corrupt yes, the whole world, everybody corrupt. Biggest corrupt is in America. That’s the past. You have to go through these kinds of things. … Like the old days, America in Chicago, corrupt. … But now, OK. … It’s not like corrrrrrrrrrupt. My English not so very good. I need somebody really translate. And I hope the audience knows what I’m meaning.

Q. You’ve already made more than 100 films. What’s your favorite?
A. Maybe with “Rush Hour,” many people liked watching it, I made a lot of money, but it wasn’t the kind of movie I like to make. The movie I want to make, I still haven’t found. In the U.S., they always (say) action movie, action movie. When I’m filming in China, I can make “Rob-B-Hood” and I can make “Shinjuku Incident.” Drama, very dark. I’m tired of doing action thing, so this why I choose “Karate Kid” and “Tuxedo.” I try to let the audience know I’m not only an action star, I’m an actor. Because action star, the life is very short.

Q. You mentioned one time you want to be the Asian Robert De Niro.
A. Look at Robert De Niro or like Dustin Hoffman, they can do all kinds of things. That’s what I want to do.