known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts, the Hong Kong actor, director, producer, and martial artist Jackie Chan, SBS, MBE was born on this day 7th April in 1954. He is also action choreographer, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer and also performs all his own stunts.
I have long been a fan of Jackie Chan since I collected the Hong Kong Legends series of DVDs some years ago and really enjoy the mixture of comedy and action together with breathtaking stunts, innovative fighting style and use of whatever implements happen to be at hand to defeat the baddies. Chan has been acting since the 1960s and has appeared in over 100 films among them are First Strike, Drunken Master, Police Story Fearless Hyena and Project A He has also received stars on the Hong Kong Avenue of Stars and the Hollywood Walk of Fame. As a cultural icon, Chan has been referenced in various pop songs, cartoons, and video games. An operatically trained vocalist, Chan is also a Cantopop and Mandopop star, having released a number of albums and sung many of the theme songs for the films in which he has starred.
In 1976, Jackie Chan received a telegram from Willie Chan, a film producer in the Hong Kong film industry who had been impressed with Jackie’s stuntwork. Willie Chan offered him an acting role in a film directed by Lo Wei. Lo had seen Chan’s performance in the John Woo film Hand of Death and planned to model him after Bruce Lee with the film New Fist of Fury. His stage name was changed to Sing Lung, also transcribed as Cheng Long literally “become the dragon”) to emphasise his similarity to Bruce Lee, whose stage name was Lei Siu-lung meaning “Little Dragon”). The film was unsuccessful because Chan was not accustomed to Lee’s martial arts style. Despite the film’s failure, Lo Wei continued producing films with similar themes, resulting in little improvement at the box office. Chan’s first major breakthrough was the 1978 film Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, shot while he was loaned to Seasonal Film Corporation under a two-picture deal. Under director Yuen Woo-ping, Chan was allowed complete freedom over his stunt work. The film established the comedic kung fu genre, and proved to be a breath of fresh air for the Hong Kong audience. Chan then starred in Drunken Master, which finally propelled him to mainstream success. Upon Chan’s return to Lo Wei’s studio, Lo tried to replicate the comedic approach of Drunken Master, producing Half a Loaf of Kung Fu and Spiritual Kung Fu and also gave Chan the opportunity to co-direct The Fearless Hyena with Kenneth Tsang.
Jackie’s personal manager and firm friend Willie Chan was instrumental in launching Chan’s international career, beginning with his first forays into the American film industry in the 1980s. His first Hollywood film was Battle Creek Brawl in 1980. Chan then played a minor role in the 1981 film The Cannonball Run, which grossed US$100 million worldwide. Despite being largely ignored by audiences in favour of established American actors like Burt Reynolds, Chan was impressed by the outtakes shown at the closing credits, inspiring him to include the same device in his future films. After the commercial failure of The Protector in 1985, Chan temporarily abandoned his attempts to break into the US market, returning his focus to Hong Kong films. Back in Hong Kong, Chan’s films began to reach a larger audience in East Asia, with early successes in the lucrative Japanese market including The Young Master and Dragon Lord. The Young Master went on to beat previous box office records set by Bruce Lee and established Chan as Hong Kong cinema’s top star. With Dragon Lord, he began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences, including a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes 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. Chan produced a number of action comedy films with his opera school friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. The three co-starred together for the first time in 1983 in Project A, which introduced a dangerous stunt-driven style of martial arts that won it the Best Action Design Award at the third annual Hong Kong Film Awards. Over the following two years, the “Three Brothers” appeared in Wheels on Meals and the original Lucky Stars trilogy. In 1985, Chan made the first Police Story film, a US-influenced action comedy in which Chan performed a number of dangerous stunts. It was named the “Best Film” at the 1986 Hong Kong Film Awards. In 1987, Chan played “Asian Hawk,” an Indiana Jones-esque character, in the film Armour of God. The film was Chan’s biggest domestic box office success up to that point, grossing over HK $35 million
In 1988 Chan starred alongside Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao for the last time to date, in the film Dragons Forever. Hung co-directed with Corey Yuen, and the villain in the film was played by Yuen Wah, both of whom were fellow graduates of the China Drama Academy. In the late 1980s and early 90s, Chan starred in a number of successful sequels beginning with Police Story 2, which won the award for Best Action Choreography at the 1989 Hong Kong Film Awards. This was followed by Armour of God II: Operation Condor, and Police Story 3: Super Cop, for which Chan won the Best Actor Award at the 1993 Golden Horse Film Festival. In 1994, Chan reprised his role as Wong Fei-hung in Drunken Master II, which was listed in Time Magazine’s All-Time 100 Movies. Another sequel, Police Story 4: First Strike, brought more awards and domestic box office success for Chan, but did not fare as well in foreign markets. Jackie Chan rekindled his Hollywood ambitions in the 1990s, but refused early offers to play villains in Hollywood films to avoid being typecast in future roles. For example, Sylvester Stallone offered him the role of Simon Phoenix, a criminal in the futuristic film Demolition Man. Chan declined and the role was taken by Wesley Snipes. Chan finally succeeded in establishing a foothold in the North American market in 1995 with a worldwide release of Rumble in the Bronx, attaining a cult following in the United States that was rare for Hong Kong movie stars. The success of Rumble in the Bronx led to a 1996 release of Police Story 3: Super Cop in the United States under the title Supercop, which grossed a total of US $16,270,600. Jackie’s first huge blockbuster success came when he co-starred with Chris Tucker in the 1998 buddy cop action comedy Rush Hour, grossing US$130 million in the United States alone. This film made a star of Jackie Chan, in Hollywood. As a publicity stunt, Jackie also wrote his autobiography in collaboration with Jeff Yang entitled I Am Jackie Chan.
In 1998, Chan released his final film for Golden Harvest, Who Am I? After leaving Golden Harvest in 1999, he produced and starred alongside Shu Qi in Gorgeous a romantic comedy that focused on personal relationships and featured only a few martial arts sequences. Chan then helped create a PlayStation game in 2000 called Jackie Chan Stuntmaster, to which he lent his voice and performed the motion capture. He continued his Hollywood success in 2000 when he teamed up with Owen Wilson in the Western action comedy Shanghai Noon which was also a box office success and spawned the sequel Shanghai Knights. He reunited with Chris Tucker for Rush Hour 2 which was an even bigger success than the original and experimented with special effects with The Tuxedo and The Medallion. Despite the success of these films Chan became frustrated with Hollywood over the limited range of roles and lack of control over the film-making process. In response to Golden Harvest’s withdrawal from the film industry in 2003, Chan started his own film production company, JCE Movies Limited (Jackie Chan Emperor Movies Limited) in association with Emperor Multimedia Group His films have since featured an increasing number of dramatic scenes while continuing to succeed at the box office; examples include New Police Story, The Myth and the hit film Rob-B-Hood. Chan’s next release was the third installment in the Rush Hour series: Rush Hour 3 in August 2007. It grossed US$255 million. However, it was a disappointment in Hong Kong, grossing only HK$3.5 million during its opening weekend. To this day Jackie Chan continues to work in the film industry as an actor, director, producer, and martial artist and he remains as popular as ever.
Best known as the waiter “Manuel” in the classic 70’s comedy Fawlty Towers, co-starring John Cleese, Prunella Sacales and Connie Booth, the actor Andrew Sachs was born on this day 7th April in 1930
widely acclaimed as one of Hollywood’s most innovative and influential film directors, American film director, producer and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola was born this date April 7th in 1939. He epitomized the group of filmmakers known as the New Hollywood, that includes Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, Woody Allen, William Friedkin, Peter Bogdanovich, and Brian De Palma who emerged in the early 1970s with unconventional ideas that challenged contemporary film-making.
He co-wrote the script for Patton (1970), which won an Academy Award for Original Screenplay. His directorial fame escalated with the release of The Godfather (1972), a film which revolutionized movie-making in the gangster genre, earning praise from critics and public alike. It won three Academy Awards, including his second, for Best Adapted Screenplay, and was instrumental in cementing his position as a prominent American film director. Coppola followed it with a critically successful sequel, The Godfather Part II (1974), which became the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The film was highly praised and won him three Academy Awards—for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Director and Best Picture. The Conversation, which Coppola directed, produced and wrote, was released that same year, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1974 Cannes Film Festival. He next directed Apocalypse Now (1979); notorious for its overlong and strenuous production, but critically acclaimed for its vivid and stark depiction of the Vietnam War, winning the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival.
To this day, Coppola is one of only six filmmakers to win two Palme d’Or awards, and is the only filmmaker to win both in the same decade. Many of Coppola’s ventures in the 1980s and 1990s were also critically lauded, but he has never quite achieved the same success as he did in the 1970s