Hong Kong-based Hollywood actor Jackie Chan has gained recognition for his impressive body of work as an action star.
However, what sets him apart from other notable action stars is his other extensive work in the field of stunt performance that he himself does. Chan’s earliest foray in the entertainment industry may have been working as an extra, but stunt work ultimately became his specialty.
Some of his earliest stunt work involved working with the legendary Bruce Lee in his movies Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973). Chan garnered mainstream recognition following the success of his film The Drunken Master in 1978.
As an actor, he is widely recognized for his acrobatic fighting style and comic timing. And, he also gained worldwide recognition for introducing improvised weapons and innovative stunts, which he typically performs himself.
Currently holding the Guinness Book of World Records for the Most Stunts done by a living actor, Chan also holds the title for the most number of injuries acquired during filming. Given the dangerous nature of his stunt performances, there is no doubt that the actor experienced extensive injuries, some of which he was lucky to get out alive from.
Here are the top death defying stunts that nearly killed this beloved action star, who recently turned 61 years old:
This 1992 movie is the third installment in the Police Story franchise and revolves around the story of police officer Chan Ka Kui, as he infiltrates a drug cartel by going undercover as a Chinese prisoner. There he earns the trust of Panther, a member of the drug cartel and with the help of an Interpol agent who is also under cover, earns the trust of the gang leader.
Things take a turn for the worse when Kui’s girlfriend accidentally reveals his identity.
The particular stunt that nearly took Chan’s life in this movie is the helicopter stunt. The scene reveals Chan jumping from the roof and clinging for dear life on a rope ladder swinging from the helicopter. If that was not dangerous enough, Chan had to remain swinging from the ladder as the helicopter sped across the city at high speed, narrowly missing run-ins with high rise buildings.
However lucky it may sound, Chan only dislocated his cheek bone during the stunt.
This 1978 movie is credited for bringing Chan into mainstream success. The Drunken Master tells the story of the young Wong Fei Hung. Unable to see eye to eye with his father and completely broke, he grudgingly becomes a pupil of Su Hua Chi, a martial arts master who has earned the reputation for being notoriously drunk. Wong eventually becomes adept at the techniques of drunken boxing.
His new found skills are immediately put to the test when his father becomes the target of a deadly assassin named Thunderleg, who is reputed for having never lost a fight.
One particular scene in this film had the potential of burning Chan alive. The actor had to crab walk across a bed of hot burning coals during the movie’s final fight sequence. Not only did the actor injure his eyebrow bone this time, he nearly became blind because of the injury.
This 2004 film is reboot of the previous Police Story movie and heavily featured a new kind of drama and action not present in the preceding Police Story movies.
The story’s plot focuses on Inspector Chan Kwok Wing, who was once the shining star of the Hong Kong police force, but whose life was turned upside down after all the members of his unit were mercilessly slaughtered by bank robbers. The policeman turned to alcohol to drown his sorrows.
He eventually rose from his misery, when together with his new partner Frank Cheng, he redeemed his reputation by hunting down the people responsible for the death of his unit.
This particular movie is widely recognized as one of Chan’s most action packed films. However, the moving bus scene in the movie nearly caused the actor his life.
This particular stunt featured Chan on top of a high speeding bus. The actor had to swiftly maneuver himself across the roof of the vehicle to avoid billboards, narrowly missing his death.
If you think Harrison Ford had it bad doing his own stunts while playing the role of Indiana Jones, then you certainly have not watched Chan’s 1986 film, Armour of God.
The Armour of God is an Indiana Jones style movie that features a wild combination of Chan’s comedic chops, kung fu skills and his amazing stunts. The film’s story revolves around an adventurer and his friend who comes to the aid of a woman who is kidnapped by cultists seeking an ancient armour fabled to be equipped with mystical powers.
This film featured one particular stunt that nearly killed Chan. The actor even admitted that this was the closest he has ever been to death.
The stunt featured Chan walking across a wall and jumping onto a tree branch below it. The actor missed his mark and fell head first onto the ground, cracking his skull in the process. Chan was rushed to the emergency room and underwent a stat brain surgery.
Who am I follows the story of a group of CIA operatives trailing a new potential energy source in South Africa. The mission becomes a failure after the agents were double crossed by a corrupt agent named Morgan who causes the helicopter’s crash.
Chan’s character, the sole survivor of the crash, suffered severe amnesia only to be nursed back by a kind African tribe. From there, with the help of a reporter, he slowly unravels the pieces of his past and tracks down the double crossing agent and his criminal cohorts.
One stunt that certainly made an impression on the audiences during the movie featured Chan walking down the side of a skyscraper. During a fist fight on the top of a 21 story sky scraper in Rotterdam, Chan’s character drops an important disk off the roof.
And of course, the quickest way to retrieve it is to run the full length of the skyscraper, free of any harness, resulting to an ankle injury for Chan.
Project A tells the story of Dragon Ma, a lieutenant of the Hong Kong marines. Pirates have been terrorizing their local waters and Ma is determined to defeat the evil pirate clan that is led by Sanpao. After his plan backfires, he teams up with a navy admiral, a police captain and a crafty thief to bring down Sanpao and his pirates.
Set during the 1800’s, the film is widely recognized for its unique blend of comedy and spectacular stunts. Perhaps its most memorable features were the film’s set pieces and stunts, reminiscent of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, America’s legendary forerunners in the craft of stunt performance.
Project A featured one stunt that paid homage to a Harold Lloyd sequence during the 1923 film Safety Last!. It featured Chan pursuing a crook, which he did by dangling on the face of a clock before falling three stories high on his face.
This was the second time Chan broke his nose. He suffered the first injury while filming the 1980 film Young Master.
Police Story is the first film in the Police Story franchise that revolves around the story of police officer Chan Ka Kui. In the movie, he goes undercover with his fellow agents to capture the crime lord Chu Tao. Their operation proved to be successful, however, due to some tampering made on the evidence, Tao was released on bail.
Tao exacts his revenge on Kui by framing him for the death of his fellow police officer. Kui finds himself hunting down Tao and his men in order to clear his name.
Several of the movie’s final fight scenes were done at the mall. Aside from crashing through store displays and fighting bad guys on moving escalators, one particular stunt in the film certainly left the audience in a nail-biting frenzy.
In order to catch up with the bad guys, Chan slid four stories down from a metal pole festooned with bright Christmas lights and crashes on a large pane of glass as he lands. Aside from suffering second degree burns after being electrocuted by the Christmas lights, the actor injured his back and dislocated his pelvis while performing this stunt.
Stunt performances are integral parts of a movie. They add additional thrill to a movie’s overall projection. Several key figures in the entertainment industry have been credited for establishing stunt performing as an art in films. But, none of them have achieved the reputation and status that Jackie Chan holds.
To many his death defying stunts may seem too impossible to be real, but for Jackie, it is all in a day’s work.