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The Art of Stunt Work: A Conversation with Jackie Chan

Chinese Zodiac
20 August 2014

Get ready for a whirlwind adventure! Chinese Zodiac, the blockbuster produced, written, directed by and starring the world’s last true action hero; Jackie Chan, out now on Blu-ray™ and DVD from Universal Pictures (UK). 

During China’s Second Opium War, the famous Old Summer Palace was looted and destroyed by foreign soldiers and many precious artefacts were lost, including twelve bronze statues that depict the creatures featured in the Chinese zodiac. Now worth millions of dollars each, treasure hunter Asian Hawk (Jackie Chan; Rush Hour, Shanghai Knights) is tasked by the mysterious MP Corporation with recovering the statues from the furthest corners of the earth.

Following orders, Asian Hawk and his team are quickly caught up in a in a web of intrigue, kidnapping and international fraud that sees them battle island natives, pirates and thugs in a race to recover all twelve artefacts before their corrupt nemesis, the unscrupulous dealer known as ‘Vulture’.

The long awaited conclusion to the Armour of God trilogy, Chinese Zodiac is the very last of Jackie Chan’s films in which the legendary actor performs his own death-defying stunts. Featuring an ensemble cast including Oliver Platt (X-Men First Class, 2012) and Qi Shu (The Transporter), Chinese Zodiac is a film sure to entertain families and enthral martial arts enthusiasts of all ages! 



Jackie, what is Chinese Zodiac and who do you play?

The Zodiac belongs to China’s summer palace, its fountain. Each head [from an animal in the Chinese zodiac] comes from the mouth of a bronze head which make up the twelve zodiac signs.

I’m the thief who steals all of the bronze heads and sell them around the world. At the end I find out that I’ve done something wrong. Without money, I risk my life to return the dragon head back. I almost die, but my opponent respects me.


I understand you’re in the Guinness Book of World Records for this film for the most credits in a single movie? How many credits do you have in Chinese Zodiac and what are they?

You know, that’s really a coincidence. I wrote the script six years ago and I’m also the producer, I’m the director, I’m the actor, I’m the stunt coordinator and also I’m the [stunt] double. Because the cameraman doesn’t really know how to shoot some shots, I picked up the camera and I shot [too]. The lighting guy would put the lighting up and I’d say no, it takes too long; I just need two lights so I would just put the lights where I needed them. 

Because I’m the director I know what I want; nobody knows [better than me] more than me what I require. It’s the same with props; if I’m not happy, I find another guy and in the end, I ended up making my own props!

I’m involved in everything because the film is my baby. It’s my movie, it belongs to me. 


What kind of stunts will we see in this film?

Just normal stunts that normal human beings do, well no- Some human beings can do it. You see Jackie doing different kinds of stunts. Nothing too spectacular, but exciting like the beginning of the movie, I’m wearing a skate suit whilst being chased by a car. At the end [of the movie] we are tumbling down the side of a volcano, and fighting in the sky.  A lot of movies have sky-diving, but we dive with kicking and punching in the sky- it took a month to get that sequence. 



Why do you do the stunts yourself?

Because I don’t have James Cameron or Steven Spielberg’s talent. I don’t have this kind of talent to deal with special effects. I don’t know. I use the traditional stupid way. You know, do the real things, and that’s what the audience likes to see. I’ve tried to do some computer graphics, but the audience, they don’t like it. All these years, they just want to see Jackie Chan do his own thing. 


What goes through your mind before you do a stunt? What are you thinking?

Different age, different thinking. When I was 16, 20, whatever I saw, I would just do it. I see it. Ok, put the camera there. “Rolling…” Boom, boom, boom.  Then when I was 30, 40… “Can I do it?” You start thinking… Now, these days, I say, “I definitely cannot do it” (Laughs).. 


What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

I think they will take away the message of respecting the culture [of others].  We’re not only talking about Chinese Zodiac with the bronze heads, we’re talking about respecting treasures from Egypt, Cambodia, India and so forth.

I put a message inside the film and  I hope the children after seeing the movie, one day when they’re faced with joining a group bullying somebody they will think, “Oh Jackie Chan said before, ‘that’s a cowardly thing to do, I don’t want to be a coward.” 

There are so many messages inside. It’s not just an action comedy- that’s what I want to share with the audience. 



Chinese Zodiac Film Page