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Friday, 25 August, 2000, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Chan's Hollywood horseplay
Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan takes his energetic acrobatics to the Wild West
By BBC News Online's Rebecca Thomas

There's almost nothing martial arts maestro Jackie Chan wouldn't do to make a movie shine.

His latest project Shanghai Noon sees him confronting one of his greatest fears.


When I was a kid I just saw the 'bang, bang, pow, pow' fighting in the cowboy movies - I loved it

Jackie Chan

With more than 100 films over 36 years under his belt - not to mention countless broken bones - Chan's commitment to his art is clear.

But the 46-year-old had to overcome a fear of horses for Shanghai Noon.

Jackie Chan
Chan is proud that he conquered his fear of horses
"Stunts like jumping from the train were easy but getting on the horse was scary - I've had some bad experiences with horses," he explains.

"When I was a young stuntman in Hong Kong, actors were wanted to do stunts on horses, I rushed to be one of them.

"Everyone rode off at great speed, and came back - except me. I realised horses are difficult to handle and can be dangerous and I have grown scared of kicking them in case they get mad."

This time, after arduous coaching, Chan managed to drag himself into the saddle, stay in it - and make the horse move.

Chan is proud of his achievement.

Wilson is more often a hindrance than a help as sidekick Roy

But more satisfying still is that he came to make Shanghai Noon after years of cartoonesque combat movies such as What's My Name? and Twin Dragons.

These cheesy Asian movies made Chan a cult hero in the East, where action takes precedence over script and plot.

But they also relegated him to the back row as far as making it in Hollywood was concerned.

Hollywood

Chan feels Shanghai Noon is a step in the right direction.

"It's about time I showed the audience I'm not only an action man. In Hong Kong the whole movie is just about fighting, fighting, fighting," he says.


This is a good market for me and in America they tell me I am still a young boy - 'Look at Clint Eastwood,' they say

Jackie Chan

"In America, they concentrate on script, drama, people relationships, comedy - quality.

"This is a good market for me and in America they tell me I am still a young boy - 'Look at Clint Eastwood,' they say."

The movie tells the story of a kidnapped Chinese princess - played by Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu - who is held to ransom in America's Wild West.

Chan plays Chon Wang - a brave but bumbling imperial guard who sets out to rescue her with the help of the sidekick he picks up on the way, played by Owen Wilson.

Rush Hour
Rush Hour opened doors for Chan

Shanghai Noon is no Oscar-winner and the tone is, as is usual with Chan's movies, firmly tongue-in-cheek. But in terms of plot, camera work and locations, it is a light years away from Chan's usual fare.

Chan lays the blame for the grainy, creaking production on most of his Asian films on a painful lack of funds.

An East-meets-West movie like Shangai Noon was his long held dream but he only raised the 60m in US finance after the success of his 1998 film Rush Hour.

"I've been sitting on the script for 15 years," explains Chan.

"But I could never get the funding and we just don't have the kind of money in the East."

Dreams

Making Shanghai Noon has also allowed Chan to fulfil his childhood fantasy.

"When I was a kid I just saw the 'bang, bang, pow, pow' fighting in the cowboy movies - I loved it.

"I had a cowboy suit and hat by the time I was five," he squeals, jumping in his seat.

"I liked the way cowboys lived - spitting tobacco, lying down in the desert and cooking coffee and beans - I thought that looked yummy."

Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu i
Ally McBeal star Lucy Liu is saved by Chan's infatuated Chon Wang

Working in rich Hollywood came as a huge culture shock to Chan.

"In the East, when I make Jackie Chan films, the production company is like my family," he explains.

"Sometimes I pick up the camera and I choreograph all the fighting scenes. I don't have my own chair. We all sit together and after filming I always make sure we clean up.

"But when I go to America I am given a limousine and I am not allowed to even move tables.

"I am told: 'Don't move that, you are not part of the union.' I am treated too well. I'm not used to it."

Pace

Despite his reservations, Chan is happy to grin and bear Hollywood luxury for the foreseeable future - especially if it means getting better parts.

Jackie Chan
Chan has no intention of slowing down

He is currently lined up to star in a remake of The Bellboy and, despite warnings from the doctor, Chan says he has no intention of slowing down.

"A few years ago, I looked at the great movies like Speed and wondered how I could possibly compete if I carried on with my own stupid thing - and almost killing myself in the process.

"So I thought I had better retire - but I haven't. I have hardly taken more than six months off in my career. The truth is that I just cannot stop."

Shanghai Noon opens across the UK on 25 August.

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Jackie Chan
"I've had some bad experiences with horses"
Jackie Chan
"I had a cowboy suit and hat by the time I was five"
Jackie Chan
"Making movies in the East is very different from Hollywood"
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