Jackie Chan was sick and tired of trying to cross over into American movies. The martial arts wonder and ex-Bruce Lee stuntman was a superstar in his native China, but his attempts at going Hollywood in films like Big Brawl (1980), The Cannonball Run (1981), and The Protector (1985) barely registered with stateside audiences. “Nobody knew who this little Chinese guy was that spoke no English,” Chan told Yahoo Entertainment during a recent Role Recall interview (watch clip above). “I was disappointed [and thought], ‘No more American market.’”
In the late 1990s, his manager pleaded with him to make one more go at it: There was this project called Rush Hour, in which Chan would play a Hong Kong police inspector who teams up with a wise-cracking LAPD detective (Chris Tucker) to rescue a Chinese politician’s kidnapped daughter. Chan agreed to do the Brett Ratner-directed 1998 action comedy in large part because it allowed him to speak in broken English.
After Chan wrapped Rush Hour, he told his manager he would never do another film like it again. “That’s a terrible movie,” Chan recounted saying. “They don’t allow me to do my own style [of action]. The English, I’m not good. Chris Tucker’s English, I don’t understand. Terrible movie!” He sat there dumbfounded as moviegoers laughed through the premiere. “Why are they laughing, I just don’t understand,” he thought.
So Chan, now 63, returned to Asia to work once again in his home region, when he got the call: Rush Hour was a massive hit. Released in Sept. 1998, it earned $141 million at the U.S. box office and $244 million worldwide.
It also lead to two sequels… and two more hits: 2001’s Rush Hour 2, Chan’s highest grossing of all time ($226 million in the U.S., $347m worldwide) and 2007’s Rush Hour 3 ($140 million in the U.S., $258m worldwide).
“Slowly, slowly, they’re [brought] me to Hollywood again,” Chan said. “Now slowly [I’ve been understanding] American culture. [I’ll] try to stay as long as possible.”
Jackie Chan can currently be seen in The Foreigner, in theaters now.
Watch our full Role Recall interview with Jackie Chan:
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