Author: Jackie Chan, Jeff Yang
Publisher: Balantine Books
He cracked his skull when a stunt in “Armour of God” went wrong. His arm was slashed by a sword while making “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow”. He melted the skin off of his hands and dislocated his pelvis (!) while doing the electric light the pole slide in “Police Story”. He was even accidentally smacked in the face with a nunchuk by the one and only Bruce Lee while working as a stuntman on “Enter the Dragon”. In the history of action films, martial arts cinema, and perhaps even show business as a whole, there may be no one who has subjected himself to so much agony as Jackie Chan. If that weren’t already clear from the outtakes appearing at the end of his films, it certainly will be after reading his autobiography, “I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action”.
After the brief introduction where he puts the reader in his shoes during a stunt in the film “Who Am I?”, Jackie introduces himself as Chan Kong-sang (“Born in Hong Kong”), the son Charles and Lee-lee Chan welcomed on April 7th, 1954. Seven years later, his impoverished parents placed him into the Peking Opera School, alongside some other children with oddly familiar sounding names such as Yuen Biao, Sammo Hung, and Corey Yuen. From that point, his childhood was the equivalent of serving in the Marines, a Dickensian life of rigorous training in martial arts, acrobatics, and other physical disciplines, schooled with an intensity that would send shivers up the spine of the average person. A decade later, he and his classmates began work as stuntmen in the Hong Kong film industry, crossing paths (and fists) with Bruce Lee on the set of “Enter the Dragon”. After struggling to break out in Hong Kong through one flop after another, the one-two punch of “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow” and “Drunken Master” made Jackie the undisputed king of action stars in Asia. By the time his autobiography was published, Jackie had all but conquered Hollywood, the final frontier on his quest to spread his brand of action across the globe, but as he makes clear in the book, it didn’t come without years of dedication, hard work, patience, and emergency room visits!
Even with more than a decade of further adventures on the silver screen since the book’s publication, “My Life in Action” is pure gold for anyone looking to see where it all started for Jackie, or wondering how he’s still breathing after what he’s endured over the course of his career. Indeed, he spends the epilogue of the book listing his personally favourite fights and stunts, along with the price his body has paid for it. Spend a moment or two glancing over his list: it’s hard not to respect Jackie for his work ethic, his dedication to his craft and extraordinarily high threshold for pain!
- “I’m standing in the sky on the roof of a glass and steel office tower in Rotterdam, Holland. There are twenty-one floors of air between me and the concrete pavement below. I am about to do what I do best. I am about to jump.”
- “I had started to see things change for me when Eagle’s Shadow was released; other actors knew my name, and sometimes people recognized me when I went out. But after Drunken Master, I had my first real taste of what it was like being a celebrity.”
- Hollywood has opened its doors to me and made me feel at home. But even if Hollywood turns me away in the future, I’ve already gone farther than I imagined, far beyond my dreams. I was a useless boy, a reckless teen, now – look who I am now!”
Book Rating: 8.5/10