6 questions we had after reading Jackie Chan’s memoir

Who is his guardian angel? Does Fann Wong know her ‘Shanghai Knights’ casting was a mistake?

6 questions we had after reading Jackie Chan’s memoir
6 questions we had after reading Jackie Chan’s memoir
31 Jan 2019

6 questions we had after reading Jackie Chan’s memoir

In a way, Jackie Chan’s autobiography Never Grow Up (which was recently translated into English by Jeremy Tiang from its original Chinese text published in 2015) is like the blooper reel at the end of his films: it shows the blood, sweat, tears and not-so-glamorous behind-the-scenes side of a sleek and polished final product.

The opening of the memoir reflects that comparison as the 64-year-old martial arts superstar reminisces about the night he finally received an honorary Oscar at the Governors Awards in 2016. After that, he begins his retrospective on his childhood, teenhood, early years in the biz, and beyond - with impressively great detail too, we might add.

The 333-page book is loaded with lesser-known tales from Jackie’s life and his many, many past works (whether they were beloved or box office bombs), as well as amusing little anecdotes and funny fun facts (such as why he doesn’t simply order fried rice and the thought process behind his son’s name, Jaycee), and of course, insights into his notorious stunts that have left him with so many injuries that he literally can’t keep track of all of them.

After getting our hands on the book and enjoying all kinds of tales such as the time he made Maggie Cheung cry on the set of Project A Part II, and when he had to take “the worst s***” in his life while filming Who Am I? in an African wilderness, here are six major questions we came up with…

Photos: Facebook/Jackie Chan

What the heck kind of school did he go to?
What the heck kind of school did he go to?
31 Jan 2019

What the heck kind of school did he go to?

Jackie was such an utter terror and failure in his first year of primary school that his parents decided to take him out and enroll him in Master Yu Jim Yuen’s China Drama Academy, one of the Peking Opera Schools where martial arts, singing, and dancing were taught.

Sounds fun, right? HA! Jackie literally named the chapter recalling his 10 years there A Decade of Darkness, and after reading it, we can see why: his daily routine comprised of waking up at 5am for breakfast, then practising kung fu all the way until 11pm with meal breaks and all sorts of brutal punishments - that left him “bleeding and in tears” - for even the slightest misdemeanours in between.

For example, letting a single grain of rice fall on the table earned them a good hard slap. Sometimes, they didn’t even need to do anything wrong in order to get it from their master: when Jackie was about nine, he got a fever, but instead of feeling sympathy for him and letting him take a break, his master made him do 100 leg thrusts. “From then on,” he wrote. “Every single kid in the school didn’t dare get sick.”

Despite these unthinkable circumstances, Jackie emphasised that those 10 years are what made him who he is today. When Master Yu passed away in 1997, Jackie and all his former classmates - including fellow famous folks like Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao - dropped everything to attend the funeral in Los Angeles.

“As I’ve often said, Chan Chi Ping is the father of Chan Kong Sang [Ed’s note: that’s Jackie’s birth name], but Yu Jim Yuen was Jackie Chan’s father.”

Photos: Facebook/Jackie Chan

What happened to all the mystery women he mentions?
What happened to all the mystery women he mentions?
31 Jan 2019

What happened to all the mystery women he mentions?

Before Joan Lin (pictured with Jackie above), his wife and the mother of his child Jaycee, came along, Jackie had a number of other women in his life.

The first girl who called him her “boyfriend” was the daughter of the French consul, his parents’ boss, whom he referred to as “Sophie” in the book. They played together and he even got into fights to defend her - and that was before he had even entered primary school.

In the chapter First Love, a 15-year-old Jackie started dating a “well-known opera performer”, whom he called “Chang”, until the relationship started falling apart as he moved up in the movie industry, and they eventually broke up. She cut off contact with him completely after the birth of Jaycee and refused his numerous attempts to try and reconnect. “To this day, I still miss her”, Jackie wrote. “I hope we will see each other again someday.”

While he made a passing mention about his 1999 affair with Elaine Ng that resulted in the birth of their illegitimate daughter Etta (without naming them, however), he only focused on how he and his family dealt with the saga, and never brought either of them up again throughout the entire book.

The Fling is dedicated to the late singer Teresa Teng, but unfortunately, things didn’t exactly end well between them, and they never properly reconciled before her untimely death in 1995 from a severe asthma attack.

Photos: Weibo/Jackie Chan

What is he made of?
What is he made of?
31 Jan 2019

What is he made of?

The brief list of injuries Jackie has suffered over the years takes up almost three whole pages in the book, which isn’t exactly that big of a surprise given the fact that he does all his insane stunts himself.

But they aren’t exactly flesh wounds: from a torn upper lip (which he said he super-glued back together before continuing to film) to countless broken bones (is there a single one that hasn’t been snapped?) to a head trauma that required him to go for brain surgery and left him with permanent hearing damage in one ear (arguably the worst injury of all), Jackie’s body has been through it all.

Thankfully, he stated in the book that he no longer takes on such death-defying acts. If they have to do a stunt, they’ll put the safest and most advanced equipment and safety precautions in place, and ensure that all the performers are fully trained before attempting anything.

​​​​​​​Photos: Facebook/Jackie Chan

Who is his guardian angel (and where do we get one)?
Who is his guardian angel (and where do we get one)?
31 Jan 2019

Who is his guardian angel (and where do we get one)?

Jackie went into further detail about the aforementioned worst injury he’s ever sustained on set in the chapter titled So What if I Die?, namely, falling from a tree and bashing his noggin on a rock while filming for 1986’s Armour of God. Ouch.

It’s a famous story that’s been discussed a number of times, but what we didn’t know was how utterly fortunate Jackie was (aside from the fact that pieces of his skull had broken off and were moving around inside his head).

After he arrived at the hospital, a doctor told him that if he didn’t have brain surgery right away, he would be in grave danger. “Ideally, I’d be operated on by the best brain surgeon in the world, a Swiss man, but I couldn’t wait for them to find him and get him there.”

Here’s where Lady Luck beamed a full-on Cheshire cat smile down at him: this “best brain surgeon in the world” happened to be speaking at a university in the very same country Jackie was in, and arrived at the hospital just as he was brought into the operating room. “For him to appear just in the nick of time like that was nothing short of a miracle.”

​​​​​​​Photos: Facebook/Jackie Chan

What’s it like being as loaded as him?
What’s it like being as loaded as him?
31 Jan 2019

What’s it like being as loaded as him?

When you find out that Jackie’s net worth is approximately US$350 million (about S$471 million), the stories about his extreme spending become a bit more believable, although no less jaw-dropping.

“If I like something, I buy in bulk.” That, to us, is an extreme understatement: he once bought US$6,000 (about S$8,076) worth of flashlights in one go, and he described his typical shopping habit as such: “I’d say to the salespeople, ‘Those bags on the wall - not this one, not this one, and I’ll take the rest. These glasses - not these three, and I’ll take the rest.” He was basically cleaning out designer stores on a whim.

But he was also extremely generous to his friends and members of his stunt team. “Around 10 years ago, I spent US$16 million (about S$21.5 million) in one year paying for other people’s meals.” (What did they eat!?) While filming 1997’s Mr. Nice Guy in Australia, he blew US$580,000 (about S$780,000) in 30 minutes on US$20,000 (about S$26,900) watches for each guy on his stunt team. “Seeing them so excited made me happy, too.” (Where do we find a boss like that!?)

Jackie clearly has a thing for time-telling arm candy. In an earlier chapter, he recalled visiting Emperor Group head honcho Albert Yeung’s watch emporium (with US$500,000, or about S$673,000, in cold hard cash, by the way), where he picked up seven of “the most expensive” timepieces “with the most diamonds” - one for each day of the week, because why not.

These days, however, he finds more joy in giving than receiving, as evidenced by his countless charitable works over the years. “Money isn’t important, but doing and leaving something good behind in the world is”, he wrote at the ends of the chapter simply yet aptly titled Give.

Photos: Facebook/Jackie Chan

Does Fann Wong know she was cast in ‘Shanghai Knights’ by mistake?
Does Fann Wong know she was cast in ‘Shanghai Knights’ by mistake?
31 Jan 2019

Does Fann Wong know she was cast in ‘Shanghai Knights’ by mistake?

You read that right, folks. Zhu Mo, a longtime friend of Jackie’s who adds little “behind the scenes” blurbs from her perspective in the memoir every now and then, shared that Jackie originally wanted Faye Wong to star opposite him in 2003’s Shanghai Knights.

However, the assistant director, a foreigner who wasn’t familiar with the diva, hired Singapore’s very own Fann Wong instead, a mistake that was apparently due to their similar-sounding names. Oops.

She still kept the part, obviously. “Jackie just can’t say no to anyone”, wrote Zhu Mo. Thankfully, Fann did a great job (yay, Ah Jie!), although we wonder if she knows the true story behind her casting, and if she does, how she feels about it.

Oh well, what’s past is past, and what matters is that she still became the first Singaporean actress to break into Hollywood and got to make a movie with Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Although this begs yet another question: does Faye know she missed out on the part due to someone’s blunder?

Photo: Getty Images

Jackie Chan’s ‘Never Grow Up’ is now available.

Related:
Jackie Chan releases tell-all memoir with no mention of illegitimate daughter
Jackie Chan splurged on prostitutes
Jackie Chan: I’m a responsible father

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