Jackie Chan takes on new role in upcoming thriller The Foreigner

Jackie Chan takes on new role in upcoming thriller The Foreigner
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

The 63-year-old Hong Kong action star, known for his martial arts skills, shows a different side. Wang Kaihao reports.

After a long break, Jackie Chan has worked in a Hollywood production. However, this time he avoids the typical "Jackie Chan style", which blends comedy, action and martial arts.

Chan has a serious role in the upcoming thriller The Foreigner, which is co-produced by Los Angeles-based STX Entertainment, Beijing-based Sparkle Roll Media and Wanda Cinemas.

"I look really old and I was asked to hobble in the film," said the 63-year-old Hong Kong action star, known for his martial arts skills, at a recent promotion event of the film in Beijing.

"On the set, I sat for hours just to look sullen," he says.

In the film, he plays Quan, a low-profile Chinese restaurant owner in London whose teenage daughter is killed in a bomb blast.

Quan, a former member of the special forces and a Vietnam War veteran, then seeks revenge.

The Foreigner is to hit Chinese cinemas on Sept 30, and will be screened in North America from Oct 13.

Photo: China Daily/Asia News Network

It will also be the first Chan film to be released in the United States after he was bestowed an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement earlier this year.

Chan's opponent in the film is Irish actor Pierce Brosnan, who plays Hennessy, a British government official. This is the first time that these two icons are together on the big screen.

Recalling a scene in which Quan confronts Hennessy via telephone, Chan says: "He arrived at the set at 6 am just to help me with my lines. He had no scenes to shoot that day. That professional spirit should be learned by young actors today."

Chan also says that the duo had to deal with a tough director.

That man is Martin Campbell, the New Zealand filmmaker who worked with Brosnan in the James Bond film Golden Eye (1995).

Casino Royale (2006), the highest-grossing James Bond film in history, is also among Campbell's best-known works.

"He's very serious and stays in front of the camera for almost the whole day," says Chan.

"I've never seen a director as diligent as that.

"He also used to ask us to rehearse in front of him the night before, like we were newcomers to the film industry. But I admire this attitude."

But at the Beijing event Campbell jokes that he "stole" some scenes from a Chan movie when shooting his own productions like a scene of fencing training in The Mask of Zorro.

"I could not imagine someone better than Jackie to play this role," he says. "It's emotional. It's about loss and grief."

The Foreigner is based on a novel from 1993. The director says: "There's no comedy in the action. It's all very serious and has a slight military feel because of the character's background."

In contrast, the fighting scenes in Chan's previous films are full of kung fu.

The New Zealand director also attaches a lot of importance to location shooting.

"Green screens cannot create the Thames or the streets of London," he says.

Photo: China Daily/Asia News Network

Campbell took four months to get permission to shoot a scene on Lambeth Bridge in London, where the film's scene involves blowing up a doubledecker bus.

Residents in the area were given notice and paid to move into hotels on the day of the shooting.

And the crew had only four hours to complete shooting the scene, there was no time for a second take.

Still, the stunt caused alarm in London as not everyone could be informed in advance.

The cast of The Foreigner includes Chinese actress Liu Tao and Irish actress Charlie Murphy.

While some actors were making their action film debuts, Chan has a long resume of such films, starting with his 1980 debut in The Big Brawl.

After that, he played the leading role in nearly 20 Hollywood films, including Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon and Rumble in the Bronx.

After 2010's The Karate Kid, he switched his focus back to China.

"I was losing interest because what I did was repeating myself," he says.

"Hollywood filmmakers wanted me to play roles, like a Chinese police officer, but I wanted to try something different."

He turned down proposals, and was waiting for suitable screenplays.

Chan says China's huge film market allows him to try different genres.

In 2012, his Chinese Zodiac focused on the protection of cultural heritage and he used Dragon Blade in 2015 to recall the ancient Silk Road.

Railroad Tigers, which was released earlier this year, touched on the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

Chan's films have so far earned over $3 billion in total at the box office, making him the most bankable Chinese actor.

"At first I made films to earn money. Then, I wanted fame. Now, I think neither is important."

Chan says he has no particular commercial expectation from The Foreigner. "What really matters is public praise."

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