Most of you will probably be aware of why I was so pleased to meet Jackie Chan – he is after all well known all over the globe – and you may have seen some of his films, but you may not know much of the history of Jackie Chan. So, here is a little introduction to the man, and although won’t give you much of an insight into quite what he represented to me when I was growing up, it should show you more of why the man is a legend.

Jackie’s Chinese name is Chan Kong-Sang although he soon gained the nick name Paopao, meaning cannonball, for his speedyness (a quality he has never lost). His parents had fled mainland China in 1949 after the Communists won the brutal civil war that had raged for more than 20 years. China in the 30s and 40s was extremely tough, far riskier than any of Jackie’s later stunts or any high stakes game of, but their luck was in and they managed to make it to a better life in Hong Kong. There Jackie’s parents Charles and Lee-Lee Chan worked for the French Consul, but when he was six his father got a job at the American embassy in Australia, this proved to be a turning point in his life.

It meant that Jackie was sent to boarding school at the China Drama Academy. This was one of a series of schools around China that train boys for the Peking Opera. Jackie had already learnt Kung Fu from his father, but at the academy he expanded his repertoire to include acrobatics, singing and acting. The life was one of firm discipline, but left Jackie with formidable inner strength and a remarkable ability in both martial arts and acting.
Performance came easily to Jackie and he got is first small role in a small film in 1962. Three more small parts followed before Jackie got is first adult role (aged only 17) as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee movies Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon in 1972. Success appeared to follow quickly when Jackie was offered his first starring role in a movie, Little Tiger of Canton in 1973. However the film didn’t do too well and Jackie after a brief foray in to adult film, in 1976 Jackie moved to Canberra, Australia to be with his parents. It was there that he acquired the name ‘Jackie’, after a fellow builder who was working on the same construction job.
It was in 1976 that Jackie received a phone call from Hong Kong movie producer Willie Chan who had liked his stunt work and invited him back to star in a movie. It took a couple more years for success to arrive in the form of Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow in 1978. For the first time, the director allowed Jackie to do his stunt work in his own inimitable style, thus martial arts with a smile (aka comedy martial arts) was born.
It was Drunken Master that became Jackie’s breakout movie and films and hits kept on coming, usually produced by the man who had first called him back to Hong Kong in ’76 – Willie Chan. A first effort to break in to the American industry with Battle Creek Brawl and the Cannonball Run in 1980 didn’t quite turn out as expected, but his fame began to grow across East Asia. Police Story in 1985 was probably his biggest Hong Kong film. But it was undoubtedly Rumble in the Bronx in 1995 that broke him in the US. Three years later he went interstallar with Rush Hour (1998) made with Chris Tucker.
Since then Jackie has been working on more mainstream Hollywood films but also keeping his oar in with a solid output of great martial arts movies too. He famously does almost all his own stunts and is in the Guiness Book of Records for the Most Stunts By A Living Actor. The lessons Jackie learned at the China Drama Academy have stayed with him throughout his career, especially his indomitable spirit, but also a love of song and singing. In 1988 he founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation which helps a wide variety of noble causes. I’m sure you’ll agree the guy is a legend.