I Have to Work Harder than Others
Throughout his career, entertainer Jaycee Chan has had to fight to step out from under the shadow of his superstar father, Jackie Chan. But with the tireless help of his Taiwanese mother Joan Lin, he has managed to come into his own.
I Have to Work Harder than OthersBy Monique Hou
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 470 )
"You don't work hard enough! Look at me – that's called working hard! Do you have a clue how hard I had to work in the past?" Jaycee Chan's manager Hung-yao ChuChen bellows at the young man.
Chan fires back: "You didn't have a choice, but I'm still willing to give it my best. If your father was Jackie Chan, would you still be ready to work so hard?"
"When I saw him the first time, I couldn't stand him. I thought he was a spoiled brat," ChuChen recalls.
Lighting technician Hung-ren Chu was also biased against the fledgling actor. "In the very beginning I thought he was just a rich kid, like those other children of movie stars. Dad has money, so they fool around doing whatever they like."
Chan's talkative, mischievous personality also rubbed Hung-ren Chu the wrong way when they worked on film sets together. "When we shot a movie in the mountains of Hualian, the lights attracted a lot of insects. He sprayed them with a cosmetic adhesive spray, so that the wall was covered with dead bugs."
Being the son of Jackie Chan, Jaycee's own efforts were ignored for a long time.
"I put myself out there, so I have to live with it. Because I have to live up not only to my own name, but also to the name of my family," Jaycee observes. But he sees his personal background in a positive light. "I definitely have to work harder than others. Only then will people realize that I have what it takes," he explains.
In 2007 Chan's efforts finally began to pay off.
That year two movies in which he played a leading role hit the screen around the same time: Chinese director Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises and what has been called Hong Kong's toughest-ever action movie, Invisible Target. Jiang was impressed with Chan's work attitude and talent.
"When this kid was in my film, he was able to take a real beating. But when I saw him in Invisible Target, I really sat up and took notice. He's good at both dramatic and action roles, and versatile enough to act in many different kinds of films. He has the potential to outshine his dad," Jiang enthused.
I Could Take Even More
In The Sun Also Rises, Jaycee Chan portrays a young peasant concerned for the fate of his mentally ill mother. While making the movie Chan spent half a year in the thin air of the Tibetan plateau. For a sequence of four and a half minutes, in which the son runs furiously, Chan repeated the run seven days in a row. He ran "until my feet and my brain separated. Because there was no oxygen, I needed to inhale bottled oxygen after each run," Chan recalls. "In that scene I had to run like mad for fear that something could happen to my mother, and then I had to jump from a really high hill. One time my feet went numb, because I'd been running too long. When I jumped, my legs gave in, and I fell to my knees. I was so angry that I punched the dirt in a rage. I was mad at myself for letting the director down. Because I was so eager to make it, but couldn't."
"But I didn't feel like I was suffering much. I knew I could take even more. The hardest part is being a second-generation performer. Even though I'm working really hard, just like everyone else, you all say I'm relying on my father, and call me a rich kid. That's the most difficult part mentally," he says.
"What was even harder was that I didn't see my mom for half a year," Chan relates, pouting in a childlike manner. "I didn't even get a chance to use my credit card, so I saved a whole lot of money, which made my mom very happy."
When The Sun Also Rises was nominated for the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2007, Chan was all of a sudden in the same league with high caliber movie stars such as Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu Wai and Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt, whose films were also nominated. "That basically made all the movie industry people shut up. That was a great feeling."
"The actors usually regard us technicians as blue collar workers, but Jaycee doesn't. Also, he's one of the few people I've met in the acting community who's stayed the same from beginning to end," Hung-ren Chu observes. "Some of the difficult scenes, with martial arts fighting, running, rolling, jumping – he does them all himself. He doesn't use a stand-in. That makes him different from other second-generation actors, or actors who have already achieved fame," he explains.
Chan likes to talk about his mother. "When we curse at him in Taiwanese, he'll say, ‘Don't think I don't understand, because my mom always speaks Taiwanese when she scolds me.' It's pretty obvious that his mother had a profound influence on him," observes one member of the film production crew. "His mother demanded that he take hardship, be responsible and polite. That's very different from Hong Kong-style education. I have worked with many Hong Kong people. They won't take responsibility. But Chan asks when he doesn't understand, admits when he hasn't done a good job, and wants to be given a second chance."
Jackie Chan returned home to see his wife and son six times in as many years. His mother Joan Lin relates that her son had a lonely childhood, and the two of them have always relied on each other to get through life.
"My mother is very strict," says Jaycee Chan. "She was firm when it came to building character, not grades."
Because Chan was very naughty as a kid, he often got spanked by his mom. "I was very mischievous and liked to have fun. It was like I had downed ten thousand bottles of Red Bull. It was the same every day. Nowadays, when I see a badly behaved kid, I'll say, ‘Huh, this kid's really annoying.' Then my mom will reply, ‘He's only half as bad as you were.' Wow, I must have been really terrible. I'm grateful that my mom didn't beat me to death."
"One day I got down under the table, and my mom kicked me. She kicked me so hard that I flew out from under the table. I still remember that very well, because she kicked me really hard. It was a beautiful kick coming right from the hip," Chan recalls. "In the future I also want to discipline my kids that way. After all, I grew into a well-rounded person, which proves that this approach works."
Chan cares a lot about his mother. "The greatest pride in my life is when I've done a good job, so good that my mom has nothing to complain about," he says.
Chan's greatest desire is to take both his parents on a trip, and to foot the bill himself. "You know, we wouldn't need to do anything, just be together as a family," he muses. Aside from occasional visits on film sets, the three have never spent a longer time together.
Exclusive Interview with Joan Lin
We're All Each Other Have
Joan Lin was a respected movie actress before meeting Jackie Chan. She ended her ten-year career in the film industry after marrying Chan and giving birth to their son in 1982. Since then she has rarely appeared in public and up to now has never given media interviews. Following are highlights from an exclusive interview with CommonWealth Magazine:
Q: What have you demanded most of your son from childhood on?
A: To be honest with others and humble toward your friends. That's what I demand of him.
Aside from demanding that he behave politely in public, I also didn't want to see him spoiled because he is a celebrity kid. When he went to school in the United States, I remember one day when I was cleaning the kitchen, while he was standing outside. Facing me he said: "Ms. Chan, does the wife of Sylvester Stallone clean her kitchen all by herself like you?" I told him very sternly, other people are other people, but I'm myself. Most of the time I do everything on my own. I don't rely on servants.
During our six years in the States he drove a Japanese car, a Mitsubishi, because I didn't want others to view him as a spoiled brat.
Q: How would you describe your son's upbringing in a single sentence?
A: He had a lonely childhood. He and I are all each other have.
Q: While growing up, when did he give you the most trouble? What did he do?
A: He didn't. He never gave me any reason for concern, because we're like friends. We can talk about anything. We kept no secrets from each other. Whether I was happy or not, I shared my feelings with him. Sometimes he acted like a little adult, helping me to think up a solution or even consoling me, and I felt that was very sweet.
Q: What was the sweetest thing he ever did for you?
A: The sweetest thing that I remember is when he came home for the first time with money he'd earned on his own, and he asked me very happily: "Mom, what do you want? I'll buy it for you." Never before in my life had anyone asked me that question. I'll always remember what he said.
Q: Did he ever go astray while growing up?
A: No, he didn't.
Q: What are your hopes and expectations for your son?
A: He should depend on his own efforts and carve out his own niche. I surely don't want to see him haunted all his life by the comment, "It's because you're Jackie Chan's son."
Q: Have you heard how other people judge your son?
A: Everyone I meet tells me, "Your son is a real gentleman!"
Q: If you were to describe yourself as a mother in just one sentence, what would you say?
A: You should ask Jaycee this question. I would also like to know how he describes me.
(Jaycee's response to this question was: My father and I must have done a lot of good deeds in our previous lives. That's why I have such a good mother.)
Translated from the Chinese by Susanne Ganz