Chan has performed most of his own stunts throughout his film career, which are choreographed by the Jackie Chan Stunt Team. He has stated in interviews that the primary inspiration for his more comedic stunts were films such as The General, directed by and starring Buster Keaton who was also known to perform his own stunts. The team was established in 1983, and Chan has used them in all his subsequent films to make choreographing easier, given his understanding of each member’s abilities. Chan and his team undertake many of the stunts performed by other characters in his films, shooting the scenes so that their faces are obscured.

In 1982, Jackie Chan began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences in Dragon Lord, which featured a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes required for a single scene, with 2900 takes, and the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground. In 1983, Project A saw the official formation of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team and added elaborate, dangerous stunts to the fights and typical slapstick humor (at one point, Chan falls from the top of a clock tower through a series of fabric canopies).

Police Story (1985) contained many large-scale action scenes, including an opening sequence featuring a car chase through a shanty town, Chan stopping a double-decker bus with his service revolver and a climactic fight scene in a shopping mall. This final scene earned the film the nickname “Glass Story” by the crew, due to the huge number of panes of sugar glass that were broken. During a stunt in this last scene, in which Chan slides down a pole from several stories up, the lights covering the pole had heated it considerably, resulting in Chan suffering second-degree burns, particularly to his hands, as well as a back injury and dislocation of his pelvis upon landing. Chan performed similarly elaborate stunts in numerous other films, such as several Police Story sequels, Project A Part II, the Armor of God series, Dragons Forever, Drunken Master II, Rumble in the Bronx, and the Rush Hour series, among others.

The dangerous nature of his stunts makes it difficult to get insurance, especially in the United States where his stunt work is contractually limited. Chan holds the Guinness World Record for “Most Stunts by a Living Actor”, which emphasizes that “no insurance company will underwrite Chan’s productions in which he performs all his own stunts”.

Chan has been injured frequently when attempting stunts; many of them have been shown as outtakes or as bloopers during the closing credits of his films. He came closest to death filming Armour of God when he fell from a tree and fractured his skull. Over the years, he has dislocated his pelvis and also broken numerous parts of his body, including his fingers, toes, nose, both cheekbones, hips, sternum, neck, ankle, and ribs. Promotional materials for Rumble in the Bronx emphasized that he performed all of the stunts, and one version of the movie poster even diagrammed his many injuries.

Chan created his screen persona as a response to the late Bruce Lee and the numerous imitators who appeared before and after Lee’s death. Lee’s characters were typically stern, morally upright heroes. In contrast, Chan plays well-meaning, slightly foolish regular men, often at the mercy of their friends, girlfriends, or families, who always triumph in the end despite the odds. Additionally, he has stated that he deliberately styles his movement to be the opposite of Lee’s: where Lee held his arms wide, Chan holds his tight to the body; where Lee was loose and flowing, Chan is tight and choppy. Despite the success of the Rush Hour series, Chan has stated that he is not a fan of it, since he neither appreciates the action scenes in the movie nor understands American humor.

In the 2000s, the ageing Chan grew tired of being typecast as an action hero, prompting him to act with more emotion in his latest films. In New Police Story, he portrayed a character suffering from alcoholism and mourning his murdered colleagues. To further shed the image of a “nice guy”, Chan played an anti-hero for the first time in Rob-B-Hood starring as Thongs, a burglar with gambling problems. He plays a low-level gangster in 2009’s Shinjuku Incident, a serious drama set in Tokyo about unsavory characters.

The transcript below is from the video “10 Times Jackie Chan ALMOST DIED Doing His Own Stunts!” by Fame Focus.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

Jackie Chan is well-known for doing most of his own stunts, while this is ideal for filming action scenes it also puts the actor’s life in danger. So, with that in mind, here are 10 Times Jackie Chan almost died whilst doing his own stunts.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

1. Drunken Master, 1978

Whilst filming a fight scene with Hwang Jang-lee known as, ‘The King of the Leg Fighters’, one of Jang-lee’s kicks connected with Jackie’s eyebrow, fracturing a piece of bone which caused Jackie to nearly lose an eye.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

2. Project A, 1983

In this scene Jackie’s character “Ma” clings to a six-story clock tower and falls through two awnings to the ground. The awnings were supposed to break his fall but instead they turned him in the air causing him to land on his head and injure his spine.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

3. Police Story, 1985

Here Jackie had to jump to the pole, slide down, breaking the lights and fall through a fake glass roof to the floor. Unfortunately, the bulbs had heated the pole causing him to burn his hands and the landing dislocated his pelvis and damaged two vertebrae.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

4. Armour of God, 1986

This was supposedly an easy stunt. Jackie had to jump from a slope to a tree but a slight error in calculation caused him to fall to the rocks below, cracking his skull and a piece of it lodged in his brain. He had to have surgery and still has a metal plate on his skull.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

5. Armour of God 2, 1991

This again was supposedly a simple stunt, jumping from a banner to a hanging chain but somehow Jackie lost his grip and fell to the ground, dislocating his sternum. A second take was impossible, so it had to be cleverly edited out.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

6. Crime Story, 1992

In this scene Jackie jumps to safety whilst narrowly avoiding getting crushed between two cars. Although there are no outtakes, Jackie says his legs were crushed between them in an earlier take, but luckily no serious damage was done.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

7. Police Story 3: Super Cop, 1992

Here Jackie had to hold onto a rotating standpipe, whilst avoiding a helicopter as it landed on a train. but the pipe didn’t rotate causing him to be hit by the helicopter, cracking a cheekbone and damaging his shoulder muscles.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

8. The Legend of Drunken Master, 1994

In the final fight scene Jackie has to fall backwards onto a bed of coals then scramble and roll off it whilst avoiding kicks. Although he sustained no serious injuries, he had to do two takes as the first one didn’t ‘have the right feel’.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

9. Who Am I? 1998

Possibly Jackie’s most dangerous stunt was sliding down the glass facade of the 24 story Willemswerf. Apparently, it took Jackie two weeks to build up the courage to do the stunt and he escaped with only a slight ankle injury.

Fame Focus (How All Those Hollywood Delicious VFX Come To Life):

10. New Police Story, 2004

In this scene Jackie jumps from a bridge to a lamppost, from a lamppost to a roof of a moving bus, then dodges signs, jumps in through the bus window, ducks down as the buses roof gets ripped off and manages to stop the bus before it falls into the sea. Nearly dying ten times in one scene.

Which stunt do you think was worth the risk?

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