The next few days consisted of the same routine in the hills. I was slowly starting to get used to the slow pace of movie life. It was nothing like what I had pictured. For some reason I pictured us up and about constantly moving and working for at least twelve hours a day! I mean watching a Jackie Chan movie just seemed like so much work! But then I thought about it, a standard movie of an hour and a half would take on average about three months to shoot. When you look at it that way that works out to twenty-four hours of work for one minute of movie! I guess there’s bound to be some down time with those statistics!
There really wasn’t anything for us to do aside from running pads to the actors which I was in charge of. Most of my day was spent eating and talking. Of course anytime Da Guh was around my concentration was intensely focused on him and what he was doing. But despite the slow, lackadaisical pace of set life I remained vigilant and alert at all times, always ready just in case anybody needed me for ANYTHING. I wasn’t going to become passive and slothful – which can happen very easily by the looks of the pot bellies on some of the Irish crew. I was working for JACKIE CHAN after all!!!
At one point in the day when we were on location waiting for the lighting, sound, and blocking to be set up, Brad was doing a handstand on the grass off to the side. He almost seemed like a statue and after what seemed like an eternity he finally slowly came down. Brad had such power, such control, I wondered if I’d ever be able to reach his level of athleticism. He turned to me and said, “You try,”
A little startled at his request I nervously said, “O-Okay…” Now my level of training paled in comparison to Brad’s. I had only trained gymnastics recreationally for about five years and holding handstands was not something I had placed much emphasis on learning. So I kicked up and was barely able to hold it for five seconds before coming down. I tried several times but each time was no longer than five seconds and once up I had to take a few steps to keep steady. I was ashamed. Then out of nowhere, Da Guh, who was sitting in a chair a few feet away from us stood up and motioned for Brad to go to him.
“Spot,” he said. He kicked up and held it for about thirty seconds then stepped down nonchalantly dusted off his hands and took his seat again.
“Better than you,” Brad said to me. I was quiet and didn’t respond. I was too embarrassed to say anything. I was amazed with Da Guh. He was forty-seven years old and still able to hold a handstand with ease. I could tell when he came down it wasn’t because his muscles were about to give out on him, it was because he simply chose to. It was a completely controlled and conscious choice. I didn’t think it was possible to idolize Da Guh any more than I already did but seeing that made me revere him! I looked forward to seeing this living legend in action!
(On a side note after the “handstand incident” I realized how important training “basics” were. In my youth and rush to learn skills I skipped the foundations and went right into learning power moves – a common problem I find with many young “tricksters” today. At their best their form is still sloppy whether it’s a bent leg or an improper position that limits their move. Since working with Jackie Chan I realized all of the shortcomings I had in my training and redoubled my efforts to building a solid foundation in both my gymnastics and martial arts. And to all aspiring stuntmen reading this I hope that you understand the importance of knowing the basics. They are the root from which all else stems. )
Throughout the day between takes I noticed that while Diana was helping Da Guh with his dialogue she would also massage his back. I knew that this obviously wasn’t something outlined in her job description as dialogue coach but something she did of her own accord. It was then I realized that being hired to do a specific job on set isn’t enough. If a person is lucky enough to land a job in this business, whether it’s in front of camera or behind, that person has to take the initiative to go above and beyond their call of duty. I guess that’s one of the reasons Da Guh liked Diana so much. She isn’t just a dialogue coach, she’s so much more. On several occasions I’ll see her get him a cup of tea, water, a snack, a massage and just in general stay well informed on people’s name and everything that’s going on so that if Da Guh ever wanted to know anything about anyone she’d be able to tell him right away. And if he ever asked her anything she didn’t know you can bet that she’d know it within the hour! As much as I respected Brad for his athleticism, I respected Diana for…well everything else she did! And again, I thought to myself, “Can I ever be like that?” I’ve always looked up to Jackie Chan as the best in the business, but I never for a second thought about the crew it takes to support “the best in the business.” Whether that’s his team of stuntmen, his agents, his personal assistants, his hair and make-up team, or his dialogue coach, every single person that Da Guh surrounds himself with IS the “best in the business” in their respective fields. I suddenly had a new appreciation for Dorothy and every other member of the Hong Kong crew that I met.