Jackie Chan has consistently said at interviews how much he hates making the Rush Hour films, but here he is again, this time in Paris for the third film, and once again, Jackie is more than happy to talk about what’s wrong with Hollywood. He discussed such issues with Paul Fischer.
Question: Let’s start with a controversial question.
Chan: Yes, go ahead.
Question: You always say you hate Rush Hour.
Chan: Yes. Still.
Question: So you still hated doing this one?
Chan: Not hate. In the beginning, like Rush Hour 1, I hate to do- how should I say? Not hate, I’d lost confidence in the American market. I don’t know what American audiences like. My manager begged me to do it until I proved the audience don’t like these kinds of movies or they don’t like you. Then I make Rush Hour 1. I wasn’t lying. I hate the American system. I cannot move the table, I cannot move the dolly. I’m the stunt coordinator, I cannot put my camera angle because that’s the DP. The DP controls it. The DP is not the action director! How can he know my angle? I want more days. No, cut. Dialogue, five days. Action, one day. That doesn’t make sense. I hate the movie. By the time we finish, suddenly the director says, “Let’s act a scene, you say Hey, ho, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” I don’t know the song. “Chris will teach you.” I said, “Are you going to sing the song?” Yeah. Chris sings in his normal life, “What is it good for?” I hate that, the whole thing, I hate it, even the movement [head bobbing]. Then after editing I see the movie. I think, “That’s it, my career is finished.” I go back to Asia, I tell all my friends how I hate the American system and I hate Rush Hour. Boom, I get a phone call, big success. I said, “What? I don’t understand.” But when I’m in the theater, when I sing, “What is it good for? Absolutely nothing.” Wow, the audience, whenever I traveled around the world, the children, “What is it good for? Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?” Everybody. Then I’m like, “Wow, that’s how good is Brett Ratner, the director and the writers too.” Because for me, I don’t know the dialogue. I don’t know what’s the fun. The action, compared to my own movies, my Hong Kong movies, it’s nothing. When I’m making an action film in Asia, three months for a five minute fight scene. Dialogue, one day. It’s totally different.
Question: Everyone is still impressed by the money slot stunt in Rush Hour 2.
Chan: It hurt.
Question: But you’re still able to do amazing things in these movies?
Chan: Yeah, because we are not like Superman, Spider-Man, [mimics super powers]. The audience coming to see Rush Hour, they see Jackie, Chris, how they do the action. They see Jackie doing a stunt. They see Chris Tucker say all the funny things. That is Rush Hour and I say, “Oh yeah, lucky, lucky.” Rush Hour 2, $20 million? Yes, wow, let’s do it. Rush Hour 2 for the money. Rush Hour 3 is not for the money. It’s for the audience. When I travel, everybody [asks], “When is Rush Hour 3? When is Rush Hour 3?” Now I slowly understand American culture. Oh, that’s the way. Not like Hong Kong. Hong Kong is stunt, action, comedy, script, quality. America is quality, script, relationship, comedy, then action. So it’s totally different. Then because the audience keeps, wherever I go, “When, when, when?” I said, “Let’s do it.”
Question: Was this last one easier for you?
Chan: Easier to do on the set but very hard to get we three together for six years.
Question: That was Chris’s fault?
Chan: Yeah. I’m calling him, “What are you doing?” “Oh, I’m laying on the beach. I’m still tired from Rush Hour 1.” “What? We’re doing right now 2, 3!” “Yeah, from the one I’m still retired.” I keep calling him, he comes to Hong Kong to see me. Then I come to America to see him. We sit down, have a conversation, where should we go? Russia, he didn’t like it. I said, go to Hawaii? I don’t like it. Bangkok, Africa. Okay, okay, okay. “I wait for your call, okay?” “Yes, let’s do it, go.” I said okay, then I go back to Hong Kong to make a film. Three years later, nobody called me. “What’s going on?” “No, Jackie, come in, come in.” “Where are you?” “I’ve been traveling ???, wild, fun.” Okay, okay. Two years later, “What’s happening? Five years now?”
Question: What was the hardest stunt for you to do on this movie?
Chan: Actually, you can say every stunt or you can say none because I choreograph all the stunts myself. I know how far I can go, how high I can jump. Mostly, we are not doing special effects, [makes sound effects], those kinds of things. I just do the basic, basic things with the things around me, table, chair, same thing actually. Nothing really special. I think the audience right now just sees, “Wow, Jackie still can do something, eh?” Not like the old days, “Wow, look at the amazing stunts. Amazing movements. So quick.” Now they say, “Wow, Jackie still can move.” Different thought.
Question: Your Hong Kong movies still have amazing scenes. How hard is it to think of set pieces like that?
Chan: Very hard. Really, really hard to think. In the old days, I travel a lot to watch so many things. When I see the balcony, I write it down, “Hmm, balcony.” I see a double decker bus, “double deck bus, oh.” TV, okay, recorder, hot water. I write it down. Then suddenly I have an office fight or a hotel fight, the hot water, the table, wow. But now nothing. I’ve fought everything already. An airplane, I did it before. ??? None, none. So this movie is good with the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower helps me to do the stunts. It’s not I created the stunt. You take the Eiffel Tower away, all the movement, kicking, punching, the same. Nothing different from 20 years ago. The Same. I just put the Eiffel Tower. Then combined with the story, comedy, then wow, new movement. Nothing new. Old. Honestly, if you do human things, what can you do? Just that much. I cannot turn my punch. It’s always just- –
Question: Your next projects are very different though, right?
Chan: I’m looking for some different roles. Right after Rush Hour 2 I go back to start my company. Immediately I start New Police Story. In America, nobody would hire me to make this kind of movie. I’m the sad policeman, I’m crying the whole movie. I lost my confidence. Then boom, the movie comes out, big success, and I got best actor in China. Then the second one The Myth, more fantasy, flying around, I’m the archeologist. I want to be like Indiana Jones, archeologist, then I’m [can’t understand but he’s a dual character, also a queen’s bodyguard]. Then Rob-B-Hood. Then Rush Hour 3, right after Rush Hour 3, now Forbidden Kingdom. Forbidden Kingdom is kind of like the Chinese Lord of the Rings. Jet Li and me, New York, Ching Dynasty and ??? I’m the old monk and I’m the immortal. All kinds of fighting, a lot of special effects. Then October I start Shinjuku Story. Very little fighting. Heavy drama in Japan based on true story. Next year, April the 1st, I start a new movie, I direct, I write my own script. It’s called Operation Condor 3: Chinese Zodiac. Big action. So I don’t want action, action, action. I want some fantasy, flying around with all the wirework, then Shinjuku Story, tough, just tough, I don’t want to give more information.
Question: How often do you work out? How do you stay in shape?
Chan: When I’m on the set every day, I don’t need to work out. If I’m not, like a holiday or a Sunday, Saturday, Sunday, I’ve got to jog. Jogging one hour, then punch kicking with all my JC team. At least one hour but three hours is normal.
Question: Is Forbidden City meant to be a trilogy?
Chan: One picture. One picture. I think the director is from Lion King.
Question: Rob Minkoff.
Chan: Yeah. The writer I cannot remember. The writer, I think he loves Chinese culture. He tried to write everything into the movie. There’s a Ching Dynasty, there’s a monkey, there’s an immortal.
Question: Is it a big budget?
Chan: I think the budget $80 million but in China, 80 compared to US, 200 million.
Question: What’s it like working with working with Jet Li?
Chan: Good. I’ve known Jet Li for 15 years, 20 years. We’re good friends. Just like with Chris Tucker, we didn’t work, the first time on the set with Jet Li, just like wow, finally we work together. The first time we fight, spar, wow, good feeling.
Question: How about Rush Hour 4?
Chan: Rush Hour 4, I will wait for them to call me. I will never call them.
Question: How long did it take you to understand the words coming out of Chris’s mouth?
Chan: It takes a couple months. Rush Hour 1.
Question: Did you need to get back up to speed again?
Chan: No, now I got it. If he speaks perfect English, not the slang. Sometimes he says something, “Huh, what is that?” The slang things, I don’t know.
Question: What can we expect from Operation Condor 3?
Chan: You’ll see. You’ll really see. I haven’t been directing for more than 10 years, even though I’m helping all my directors on the set. But now this time I’m totally in control. I write my own script. You’ll see what happens.
Question: Do you love directing?
Chan: Directing you can do a lot of things. I can put all my messages inside, I can put all my ideas inside. It’s the feeling I create something.
Question: What response did you get to the soda commercial and why did you choose it?
Chan: No, they chose me.
Question: But when it was presented to you?
Chan: I like the idea so that’s why. They presented to me a few ideas but I think that’s a good idea. I just finished a Visa commercial in China. It’s a big, huge one expected for the 2008 Olympics.
Question: Have your attitudes towards Hollywood changed since Rush Hour?
Chan: No, it’s the same. I’m more comfortable coming to Hollywood now. Not like before, no confidence, come here, my English is no good. Then slowly realized wow, there’s a new generation, even Stallone or Spielberg, everybody watches my movies. Oh. Then slowly my confidence comes out and then the audience gives me confidence. How many people, when I’m working in America, the lighting group, the camera group knock on my door, bow. I open the door, “We’re just so honored to work with you. Thank you.” Then the lighting group bows. Wow. [They do that all the time?] No, [for] nobody [we] do that, just only you. Then I realized those young kids, they watched my movies growing up. Not like the old days, I tell the old director, nobody listens to me. I say, “Can you do this?” “No, follow my rule.” No, I say, “You’re wrong. You use the wrong speed.” They never listen. The stunt coordinator teaching me how to punch. “How many years have you [done this job]?” “Two years.” “Two years, you’re teaching me how to punch?” “Yeah.” What can I do. I have to follow them. I’ve been working 40-some years, you’re teaching me how to punch? Okay. But now, I’m more comfortable on the set. I’m more in control. Camera, put the camera here. Then I use the camera, yeah, action. I can use the camera, I use the dolly. Now everybody respects, they know who I am. Before, Jackie who? Jackie Chan. “Oh okay, another Bruce Lee.” I say, “You have to do this.” “No, no, no.” “Speed’s wrong. Not 25, 22.” “No, we use the 25.” It makes me so slow, so dumb in all the action. That changed.
Question: It’s been 10 years since Hong Kong went back to Chinese control. Has that changed the HK film industry?
Chan: You know what? Really strange. Before, British government, before 1997, they never support Hong Kong film. We had to hide the camera on the street, one, two, three, go! Roll. Bang, bang, bang, the real police come, “Don’t move!” “Filming, filming.” We had to hide and they never close the road for us. At that time, we make 400 movies a year. It’s a small country but third to America and India. [We’re the second largest for the world???] Now, 1997 the handover, the China government, they support. Now we can block the road, we can do whatever we do. Police come to help. No triads come to take money from the street. The movie, we make less than 40 movies a year. Most is low budget. Big budget, two, three, that’s all. I don’t know. The piracy, I don’t know why. The movies just died. I try to help, that’s why I go back to Hong Kong, start the company. The first governor, “Jackie, come back. Don’t only stay in America. Help.” I said yes so I start the company to make The Myth, Rob B Hood, New Police Story but it just doesn’t help. The first day the movie comes out, the second day there’s piracy all over. 50 cents all over the place.
Question: How can they do something about it?
Chan: China government already now does a lot of things. The Hong Kong government does. But too big. The money is too big. They don’t care. If you close it here, they open it here. All the people want quick money. The China government, where do you catch? You close one down, the second one comes up. And also, when we don’t have the money, the money getting less, less, how can we make good quality movies? Now everybody makes- – before in Hong Kong, you could see a lot of different kinds of movies. Now it’s all triad, triad, triad, triad, triad. Gangster movie, gangster movie, all gangster. Then the whole world’s thinking, “Huh, Hong Kong, so many gang films.” But nobody makes action movie. Action movie, at least you need 10 million to make. Otherwise, small budget, under 300,000 or 400,000 to make local film. They count it, okay, half million, I can get 200,000 for the video and 200,000 for the DVD. These kinds of things. Okay, I can earn 20,000. Now, not like before. When we start the movie, Korea, Singapore, the money keeps coming, buyers. Now, “Show me the film first, we buy it.” We don’t have money to film. Not like me, I’m the lucky one. When I start, the bank comes. Okay, then I can make a big project. I’m two years to make one movie or one year to make one Hong Kong film. It’s not looking good but China is getting bigger. China, theater getting better, we’re building more theaters. The China government supports new talent. I just started a company in China. I make 10 movies for 10 directors, all new from school. New directors, new writer, new cameraman, everything new. Everything around half million, 300,000 U.S. Then I got t he money from the bank, then I support them to make a film in China. Government supports me. China’s getting better and better.
Question: How about a Drunken Master 3 after Operation Condor?
Chan: Ah, three is difficult. I run out of ideas.