As one of the most likeable actors and martial arts masters in all of cinema, Jackie Chan has enjoyed a lengthy career spanning over 60 years, starring in the likes of such action classics as Police Story, Who Am I? and Rush Hour. Becoming a worldwide icon of cinema, Chan rose to prominence in the 1970s before his career flourished throughout the remaining 20th century, holding a cult fandom in contemporary cinema.
Jackie Chan’s cinematic counterpart was no doubt Bruce Lee, a martial artist who also enjoyed considerable success as an icon of ‘70s pop culture and a strong, albeit short film career that included the likes of Enter the Dragon and The Green Hornet. Whilst Bruce Lee became an influential figure western figure, Jackie Chan was often left in the field of relative obscurity, known only for making low-budget Hong Kong thrillers.
Despite this, Jackie Chan’s impressive film career and endearing personality have led him to become a popular figure in modern culture, appearing in multiple contemporary films including The Lego Ninjago Movie and Kung-Fu Panda 3, with the possibility of Rush Hour 4 in the pipeline.
Speaking about the influence of the actor to Criterion, director of Shaun of the Dead and purveyor of cinema, Edgar Wright stated: “No matter how many people try and rip off Jackie Chan movies, there’s something which they can’t rip off which is Jackie Chan himself”.
Comparing the kung-fu action star to his counterpart, Bruce Lee, Wright interestingly noted: “Jackie Chan, especially at that time was kind of an anomaly because, especially in the Western world, most people’s idea of a kung-fu fighter would be Bruce Lee”.
Elaborating, Edgar Wright continued, commenting, “Bruce Lee’s signature move is like this, ‘come on’, kind of like an aggressive ‘come on’. Whereas when I think of Jackie Chan, the first thing I imagine Jackie Chan doing is defending himself because Jackie Chan’s signature move is like ‘blocking, blocking, blocking’ getting kicked, he’s in pain”.
As such, as Edgar Wright points out, Jackie Chan is an “everyman”, a vulnerable action star who has been forced into violent situations against his will. Throughout the likes of Police Story and Who Am I?, Chan consistently appears as an everyday hero, a casually dressed street fighter, with all the wit and expressive performance of one of Hollywood’s finest action stars.
Discussing how this has led the actor to attract such a considerable cult following, Wright adds: “Most other action heroes, especially at that time, were like super cool, or like tough guys. Stallone and Clint Eastwood, or Schwarzenegger, then you’ve got Jackie who can whip any of their arses but who is also like a goofball at the same time and loveable and handsome in a way that all the girls love Jackie Chan because he’s kind of cute”.
Watch the full clip of Edgar Wright talking about the influence of Jackie Chan, a “pin-up and comedy star and action badass”, below.