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Kung Fu Gets Dressy: A Conversation with “The Tuxedo” Star Jackie Chan

‘I truly believe there is not another actor on the face of the earth who could have done this role, and certainly not to his level of expertise,’ claims director Kevin Donovan of Jackie Chan in the upcoming film The Tuxedo, which opens September 27, 2002. ‘I don’t think anyone else has that kind of physical dexterity. The man is amazing.’

Previously an award-winning commercial director, Kevin Donovan makes his feature film directorial debut with The Tuxedo. ‘Anytime we got into something that involved Jackie’s physicality, he was the boss,’ Donovan continues. ‘It would be ludicrous for me to think I would have any sense of what works best for him.’

International superstar Jackie Chan humbly disagrees with Donovan’s praise. ‘I just do the best I can,’ he says modestly. He does, however, agree with the legendary James Brown, who recognizes Chan as one of the hardest working actors in showbiz. ‘For the past fifteen years, I’ve gone almost nonstop,’ explains Chan. ‘As soon as I finish one movie, they start filming the next. Sometimes they give me one week’s holiday. Then I’m flying back to Hong Kong to start talking about my next film.’

By producing so many films, Chan feels that he’s making a contribution to society. ‘Making movies is my job,’ he says. ‘That makes me successful. By making a movie, I am helping people. If it’s good for the society, I’ll do it.’

Jackie Chan, who recently conquered the worldwide box office in both Rush Hour films and Shanghai Noon, consistently makes an incredible impact on American and Asian entertainment industries. Keeping up with worldwide stardom, however, demands a tremendous amount of hard work. ‘Now I have to make two movies a year,’ Chan explains, ‘one for the American market, and one for the Asian market.’

Although Jackie loves making movies, he doesn’t enjoy the time-consuming world of publicity. He appreciates how Asia already knows his style and isn’t as demanding as the American market. ‘In Asia, I’m already on the top…I never do promotions,’ declares Jackie. ‘But I’m new in America. I still have to travel and do promotions to introduce my movies. I hate promotions.’

Despite the long hours of hard work, Chan intends to continue functioning at the rigorous pace for as long as possible. ‘I’m very lucky,’ he proclaims. ‘I’ve been in the film business successfully for 20 years, and I’m still on top. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and say, ‘Jackie, you’re really lucky.”

The Tuxedo stands apart from anything Chan has done in the past. For the first time, he plays a character completely unfamiliar with his trademark physical feats. He stars as Jimmy Tong, a chauffeur for playboy millionaire Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs), who forbids Tong to touch a certain prized tuxedo. When an explosive ‘accident’ puts Devlin temporarily out of commission, Jimmy curiously tries on the tux and discovers it gives him extraordinary powers.

Chan jumped at the chance to play a role different from his usual onscreen persona. ‘It’s the kind of part I’ve never done before, and that is what made me want to do the movie,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t playing a policeman, just an ordinary person, a taxi driver who becomes a kind of super spy because of a tuxedo that lets him do all kinds of special things.’

Jackie says he wanted to surprise audiences, not impress them with his usual action sequences. ‘I didn’t want [the movie] to be about fighting,’ he continues. ‘The audience already knows that when I wear the tuxedo, I can fight. I wanted them to think ‘what’s next?”

Some of those surprises allowed Chan to work with special effects, something relatively new to him. ‘That’s something I really want to learn about is special effects. I want to change my image… I love my own style, but I also want to accept some other styles. An action star’s life is so short; an actor is forever.’

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