Jackie Chan: Blood, sweat and tears in the making of Dragon Blade

Chinese blockbuster Dragon Blade  is a historical epic based on a true story and took seven years in the making

Dragon Blade cast L-R: Choi Siwon, Mika Wang, John Cusack, Jackie Chan, Lin Peng, and Adrien Brody.

Photos: Louis Teo

Jackie Chan’s latest Chinese film, Dragon Blade, is a historical epic based on a true story and took seven years in the making. Also said to be one of the most expensive Chinese film productions to date at US$65 million, the movie boasts an international cast lineup consisting of Hollywood actors Adrien Brody, John Cusack, Hallyu star Choi Siwon and Chinese actors Mika Wang, Lin Peng and Jackie himself.

Dragon Blade is a film which, in Jackie’s words, aims to promote the message of “peace”, especially in today's troubled times, The movie’s production value is bound to impress too, promised co-actor John, as he compared it to the Roland Emmerich-directed disaster film 2012. “When I came on the set of this movie, the design, the set, was as good as everything Hollywood has ever done. This is very competitive to anything Hollywood puts out,” he said.

Bearing that in mind, Jackie, a traditional man at heart, maintains that this movie will feature basic and old school martial arts moves (“a very stupid filming style” too, he quipped) with “as little CGI as possible”. Thankfully, his two lead co-stars John, 48, and Adrien, 41, are both martial arts buffs, with John learning the sport at the age of 21.

Said John, “For me to able to get to this stage and work with Jackie, it’s like I’ve worked my whole life to get here.”

Super Junior member Siwon, who had to hang up his dancing shoes (temporarily) and wield a sword in this movie, chipped in: “Honestly, both (activities) are different and difficult too since they’re both moving (activities). But if I can dance, I can do martial arts and other movie things.”

He later added, “Next time I’d love to dance [in a movie] (laughs).”

Blood, sweat and tears in the making of Dragon Blade

A production involving 350 crew, 800 extras, 200 horses, and more

What originally started off as a plan to build and film a “small city” morphed into a massive set that involved 350 crew, 800 extras and 200 horses. Notwithstanding of other drinks like coffee, tea and carbonated drinks, Jackie shared that a total of 2,000 bottles of water were consumed in a span of five days when they were filming in the Gobi desert.

“You can’t imagine it!” he exclaimed, giving most of the credit behind the successful production to his movie crew. Apart from taking 10-hour-long plane ride to their location, said Jackie, the crew would have morning call times at 2.30am every day.

“We’d reach the place and have breakfast and start shooting our first frame at 11am. After everyone settles down and the extras from different countries have been briefed using their native languages, it’s time for lunch,” he said.

“After lunch, we’re back to film our second frame at 3pm, thankfully, it’s still daylight at 9pm and we’d shoot till the sun sets. When we’re back to the hotel its 11pm or 12am at night, and the cycle continues for the next day. The actors have it easier with call-times at 7 or 8am.”

And the cycle continues. Apart from their gruelling filming schedule, the crew and cast had to film in adverse conditions like sandstorms too.

“When we’re having lunch, we’ll be eating sand particles too. That is the perfect place for women [to be at], you’ll get to exfoliate your skin there,” he chuckled, “I promise you’ll return looking much prettier after spending a month there.”

The cast of Dragon Blade at the photo call session during the press conference

On Jaycee Chan’s release from jail in two days’ time

Having invested so much blood, sweat and tears in this movie, Jackie, who will be celebrating his 54th year in the movie industry in two months, said that the promotional tour for Dragon Blade takes precedence over his son Jaycee Chan’s release from prison on Feb 14, after having served a six-month term.

“I don’t have anything to say to him. I’m sure he’d have deeply reflected over it for the past six months and would lead his life with positivity. I believe he has received his punishment; I don’t want to hurt him again by punishing him [when he is out]. I’m sure he understands, he’s no longer a child,” he shared.

When asked to clarify reports that he’d help his son make a comeback, Jackie said, “Seven songs (for my upcoming album) have been recorded in 2013. He went to jail and the project stalled. When he is released, the only thing [we can do] is to record the remaining five songs. I’ve enlisted the help of top music producers write songs for me too. So I will get him to help me complete this album when he is out.”

Jackie Chan: People tend to get more emotional with age

Jackie gets in touch with his emotional side in Dragon Blade

Jackie plays a Silk Road “peacekeeper” (Huo An) who, together with his troops, maintains harmony between 36 countries. Like his Dragon Blade character, Jackie called it his “duty” to promote peace, and hopes this movie will speak out to war ravaged countries. He maintains that his movies today no longer revolve around one singular theme: the fight or action sequences, and have a deeper symbolism to it.

Speaking extensively about this change in mentality and attributing it to his age, the movie star also shared that he finds it easier to cry these days, especially in the desert where they were filming. “Once you think of the situation and having experienced so much in recent years, especially [when I think of] my parents’ past (his dad and mum have both passed away) and at that time, [my son] Jaycee hasn’t entered jailed yet… When the director played the music, you feel like you’re in the middle of the warzone.”

“I got really emotional in one scene where John’s character said: ‘Take me home!’ At that moment, after I turned around, I started crying uncontrollably and the director had to tell me to get a grip on myself. It was really hard to suppress it!” he chortled.

“I find it harder to cry in the past but now I’m easily moved to tears. If you tell me a touching story now, I’d cry easily. [I think it’s because] people tend to get more emotional with age… “

Dragon Blade opens in Singapore on Feb 19. The movie is rated PG13+.

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