Jackie Chan close-up

As an actor and martial arts expert, Jackie Chan has proven that he’s someone who’s not afraid to do what it takes to be an inspirational figure in the industry, challenging outdated norms, attempting some unbelievable stunts, and experimenting with different genres in his films. As per Biography, Chan demonstrated an impressive aptitude for martial arts and acting when he was a child and chose to focus on improving his skills as he grew up. As he began to be noticed, many thought that he would be the next big thing in martial arts cinema, comparing him to respected icon Bruce Lee. Chan did his own thing, managing to earn appreciation for his versatility and combining genres in his movies, namely comedy and martial arts.

While Chan is pretty popular, even his fans might not know certain interesting details about his life. For example, he spent a major part of his childhood years in a boarding school in Hong Kong as his parents shifted base to Australia to find work. His childhood was rough, his family life was tragic, and his early years were full of hardship. Young Chan was resilient and didn’t let all these obstacles stop him from working as hard as he could in the strict school setting that he was raised in.

Jackie Chan’s life story is undeniably intriguing. Here’s a glimpse into some of the most interesting details from his life.

Jackie Chan had a rough childhood

Jackie Chan in 2001

According to The New Republic, Jackie Chan’s family wasn’t well-off: His parents worked as a cook and a maid, and he was subjected to insults such as being referred to as a "servant’s kid." Chan has previously written about what things were like for his family when he was a child. His parents worked at a consulate, but they didn’t have access to any privileges. Chan wrote, "Our home was run-down, small, and stuck in the back. The folks at the consulate treated us well, but from the very beginning, we existed in two different worlds."

As a young kid, Chan couldn’t help developing a crush on a girl in the premises, the French consul’s daughter. He even tried to protect her from those who teased her, ending up in a brawl with another kid. His dad was so scared of the possible consequences that he beat Chan mercilessly and forced him to offer his apologies to the boy he fought with. When Chan’s folks left for Australia, they basically abandoned their son at the China Drama Academy, where they’d recently sent him. Chan was forced to follow a stringent schedule at the boarding school and had to endure terrible living conditions. He didn’t have much in terms of support. Whenever Chan looks back, though, he sees tough times but also important experiences that defined him as a person.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.

His mother was a smuggler

Jackie Chan smiling

The fact that Jackie Chan’s folks chose to leave him and his siblings behind may be hard to understand for many, but it wasn’t unheard-of in China in those days. Filmmaker Mabel Cheung, who directed the film "Traces of the Dragon: Jackie Chan and His Lost Family," told The Guardian, "It was so commonplace in China. Life was cheap. It has always been cheap. It’s a very common thing to do, abandon your children."

During their research for the film, Cheung and her team figured out that Chan’s mom was into opium smuggling and gambling. She was a notorious figure in the underworld, something that even Chan himself was unaware of. Cheung said, "Everybody in Hong Kong knew that his mother was like a common housewife, very kind, very gentle."

This happened before Chan was born. In fact, his parents met when his dad tracked his mother down and arrested her on smuggling charges. At the time, she was struggling to get by and was supporting her kids on her own.

His dad was once a spy

Jackie Chan close-up

Jackie Chan’s parents didn’t live ordinary lives, and this was a revelation for the actor himself, who wasn’t aware of their intriguing backgrounds. As per The Guardian, Jackie Chan’s father had once been a spy. According to Screen Rant, his dad, Fang Daolang, acted as a spy in the 1930s and 1940s, working for Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist Party. He was also a "gangland boss" but eventually gave it all up for a quieter life.

By the time he’d decided to forge a new life with Jackie Chan’s mother and shifted base to Hong Kong, he’d let go of his past and was living under a different name like his wife. According to filmmaker Mabel Cheung, Chan’s dad wasn’t excited at the prospect of discussing his past and got very upset at some point during her interview with him. Cheung said, "We had to befriend him, sing karaokes with him, dance a little bit, before he was willing to talk again" (via The Guardian).

Jackie Chan was inspired by Bruce Lee

Jackie Chan close-up

Jackie Chan looked up to Bruce Lee and loved his style and his dedication to martial arts. As per Screen Rant, he had a close encounter with the superstar on the iconic film "Enter the Dragon." At that point, Chan was anonymous in comparison to Lee and was a part of an intense scene that involved a brawl with other stuntmen. According to Chan, Lee accidentally hit him with a stick while filming the fight. Lee realized what had happened and apologized to Chan right after they were done shooting.

Chan was over the moon because he loved Bruce Lee and was happy to be getting so much attention from the man he looked up to, to the point that he pretended to be more hurt than he really was. He later said that working with Bruce Lee influenced him in many ways and inspired him to attempt his own stunts just like Lee.

He has used stuntmen in the past

Jackie Chan striking a pose

While it may seem like Jackie Chan mostly sticks to doing his own stunts without any help, this is not always the case. According to The Guardian, he has admitted to working with stuntmen when he felt like it was needed. This might be surprising news to many, considering Chan’s reputation for taking risks with panache while working.

He was quoted as saying, "I will use stunt doubles if you ask me to ride an F-16 jet fighter, or to jump over a series of hurdles with a crazy horse, or to perform two 720-degree somersaults. But one somersault, I’ll do it myself." As per the Associated Press, Chan acknowledged that his fans do hold him in high regard and believe that he does his stunts without any assistance. He said, "I do my own stunts most of the time, that’s what audiences expect from me. I used doubles in a few shots but I do over 90 per cent of my stunts."

Also, according to Mental Floss, Chan definitely does not hesitate to let stuntmen take over when it’s a minor scene and requires his character to do something simple like walking or driving. Chan gets some much-needed rest during these shots.

Chan has dealt with health issues

Jackie Chan in 2021

For Jackie Chan, being a martial arts expert has meant that he has had to deal with many injuries and broken bones over the years (via The Guardian). The film "Armour of God" nearly cost him his life. Also, according to Today Online, in January 2021, he was spotted limping painfully at a public appearance, reportedly due to the flareup of an old back injury.

Jackie Chan once said something thought-provoking in an interview. He remarked, "When will one start to feel that they’re growing older? These few years, every time I receive news that a friend has passed on, I feel my age." Plus, he added that he had a far more hectic schedule when he was young which meant that he simply could not afford to slow down. This changed as Chan got older. He noted, "[I faced death everyday with my brothers,] today, they might break their arm, and tomorrow, I might break my leg. In those days, I didn’t have the time to get sentimental."

He doesn’t feel attracted to pretty women

Jackie Chan pointing

This may come as a bit of a surprise, but Jackie Chan has admitted that he is fairly indifferent to beautiful women. As per the Los Angeles Times, he always received plenty of attention from members of the opposite sex even when he wasn’t a celebrity. When he got into films and worked as a stuntman, he didn’t really have trouble getting attention from attractive women. Chan explained that things got even easier for him when he became a popular star. He recalled, "Girls would come to me like butterflies. Actually I’ve been numb after so many years. I have seen too many beautiful girls, Chinese or foreign. Now I don’t think anyone is particularly beautiful."

Also, according to CNN, the actor had been candid about one of his biggest regrets: indulging in an affair while being married to his wife, Joan Lin. Luckily for him, Lin chose to support him and didn’t leave despite the affair. He said that his wife is a far stronger person than him.

Chan has starred in an adult film

Jackie Chan at event

This isn’t fake news: Jackie Chan was once a part of an adult film. According to Mental Floss, this happened in the 1970s when the actor played a role in a movie called "All in the Family." It starred Chan and a well-known female adult star. While Chan didn’t do anything sexual onscreen, he did shed his clothes for his scenes in the film. He later explained, "I had to do anything I could to make a living 31 years ago, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. Even Marlon Brando used to be exposed in his movies."

Chan also said that the movie wasn’t scandalous and was "more conservative" than contemporary cinema. As per a report by China Daily, "All in the Family" was classified as a comedy and was made by filmmaker Zhu Mu. Suffice to say, the fact that Chan was a part of a film like this generated a bit of controversy when it was first reported in 2006.

Chan had a close brush with death

Jackie Chan close-up

Jackie Chan had already been hurt at least 70 times while working as a stuntman and actor when he reached the age of 50. According to Cinema Blend, some of these experiences were incredibly scary, such as the time Chan was badly injured while filming "Armour of God" in the 1980s. He still has a hole in his skull on account of that particular injury. Also, he almost drowned when he was working on the film "Vanguard."

As described by Mental Floss, doctors had to insert a metal plate into Chan’s head after his "Armour of God" accident. How did the mishap happen in the first place? The scene was simple enough: Chan was required to swing from a tree. In the process, though, Chan ended up hitting his head on a rock and needed immediate medical aid. According to Yahoo, a piece of Chan’s skull had pierced his brain. He said, "My whole body was numb." After his ear started bleeding, Chan was taken to the hospital, where he received surgery for his injuries. Chan knows he’s lucky to be alive.

He is a musical sensation in Asia

Jackie Chan sporting headphones

Jackie Chan is a man with many talents. According to Cinema Blend, he isn’t just perceived as a martial arts expert and a skilled actor in Asia — he’s also loved and admired as a singer. His work can’t be understated: Chan has worked on as many as 20 albums and created music in a plethora of languages for his fans. He’s not new to music and has been experimenting with it since the 1980s. Additionally, he has worked on songs for several films that he starred in, such as "Kung Fu Fighting Man," "Hero Story," and "The Young Master."

As illustrated by a Forbes piece, his singing experiments are a part of the larger Jackie Chan brand. He has managed to create what is undoubtedly a successful and robust business empire. Chan has found success as an entrepreneur and earns profit from a variety of items bearing his brand. He doesn’t intend to stop growing, either. As he once commented on his films, "Now, I’m not only the actor… I invest."

Chan stands by the Chinese Communist Party

Jackie Chan close-up

As a Hollywood celebrity and a prominent public figure, Jackie Chan hasn’t chosen to hide the fact that he’s a strong supporter of the Chinese government. As per Forbes, this has really helped Chan in terms of making sure that his films get showcased in China without facing hiccups from the local authorities. However, his attitude hasn’t gone done well with certain members of the public. In 2015, Emily Lau, chairperson of the Democratic Party in Hong Kong, commented that Chan possibly benefits professionally on account of the fact that he never goes against the government. She said, "If you are someone who’ll always do and say what the authorities want, maybe it’s easier for them to approve your ventures."

Chan isn’t a fan of such criticism. He responded with, "Should I not be close to [the] Chinese government? We are Chinese! … I think everybody should love your country." As per VICE, Hong Kong’s citizens don’t like Chan at all. They believe that his stance on communism is too problematic to ignore. He also hasn’t shied away from saying some truly controversial things. For example, in 2009, Chan publicly remarked, "I’m gradually beginning to feel that we Chinese need to be controlled. If we’re not being controlled, we’ll just do what we want." He was implying that freedom for Chinese citizens wasn’t the best idea.

Jackie Chan doesn’t get along with his son

Jackie Chan

Jackie Chan does not have a great relationship with his son, Jaycee Chan. As per the Los Angeles Times, Chan thought that being a good parent meant that it was necessary to physically discipline his children. He once picked his son up and threw him into a couch, after which both his wife and kid were very afraid of him. After that incident, Chan vowed not to hit his son again. However, he struggled to be around for his Jaycee on account of his hectic schedule and work commitments. He said, "I’m not a good dad, but I’m a responsible dad. I will be very strict in good times, support him to pull through in bad times when he is punished and aware of his mistakes."

In 2014, Jackie Chan stated that his son’s actions had caused him immense pain. Specifically, Jaycee had been arrested on drug charges, something that upset his father greatly. According to the New York Daily News, Jackie Chan wasn’t comfortable with his kid’s actions and said, "Regarding this issue with my son Jaycee, I feel very angry and very shocked. As a public figure, I’m very ashamed. As a father, I’m heartbroken." He also mentioned that he did hope that his son’s story would serve as a warning to others who may be tempted to turn to drugs.

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.