Moviegoers who think Jackie Chan isn't at his daredevil best in his new film can take heart. Chan feels your pain. He, too, is disappointed that he didn't get many chances to hurt himself while making The Tuxedo.
The action-comedy, opening today, showcases Chan in an unusually safe light, leaving most of the death-defying stunts that made him a movie star to computer-image artists and fly-wire technicians. Sharp-eyed viewers can occasionally see Chan's stunt double in a car chase or a rooftop plunge. The traditional Chan movie outtakes that usually show Chan flubbing stunts during production are mostly Chan and co-star Jennifer Love Hewitt giggling about blown dialogue.
In a telephone interview, the 48-year-old Hong Kong import made it clear in his accented English that the lack of his trademark personal risk-taking wasn't his idea.
"Working in America (is) different than Asia," he said. "In Asia I do whatever I like to do. In America I just cannot do these kinds of things ... You have to deal with a producer (who does) nothing more than produce. We have six producers on the set.
"They let me slide down 120-foot silo. They don't let me drive the car. I tell them I'm stunt driver. I love to drive. Otherwise, I'm on the set (with) nothing to do."
"They say: "We don't care about you; we care about the whole production. If you have something wrong, the whole production (is) shut down, like Rumble in the Bronx, when you broke your ankle and you changed the script. In America, we cannot change the script, and in America, you have to stay (off the set) until you take off the cast.' I say, "Okay, okay.' I have to deal with so many things."
Chan's most recent injuries include a hamstring injury ("my leg was all blood") on the set of The Tuxedo and a fly-wire that snapped near his eyes while filming Highbinders, due in 2003. "Those (are) the big things I remember," he said. "The small things, like oww, ooh, oww, those things I'm not counting. That you get used to."
But those mishaps are taking their toll. Chan sees an end to his extremely physical action ("I think maybe five more years") and is seeking scripts that can gracefully ease him into another acting stage.
"Action, kicking, punch, flip over, doing this stuff for me is my daily routine," he said. "I just want to do something like Robert De Niro . . . the bad guy, good guy.
"I think the best way for the actor is, like: Today, Tuxedo. Three months later, release a movie called Kramer vs. Kramer starring Jackie Chan. Then make Rush Hour 3. Wow, comedy-action. Then next movie coming (is) like Spy Game. Wow, Jackie doing a spy. All the thinking-mind drama. Then the next Shanghai Noon. Wow, comedy-drama. Then going to, like, something else."
But won't fans miss the old laugh-in-the-face-of-death Jackie Chan?
"You like it. I'm tired," he said. "I might make the movie the audience likes to see, but I'm not happy. I'm tired of doing, like, Rumble in the Bronx. I'm tiring. I want people (to) treat me not (as an) action star anymore. I want to do something like Officer and a Gentleman."
"If I'm the actor, I can do it up to (age) 60, 70, 80, like Sean Connery, like Clint Eastwood. That's my goal. I've been fighting 30 years. Enough."