- Stuart C. Wilson/Getty
Jackie Chan is known best in America as an international action star who does his own stunts and has comedic chops.
All of this has led him to be the second-highest paid actor in the world for 2015, according to Forbes. A striking achievement seeing he hasn’t had a hit in the US since the reboot of “The Karate Kid” in 2010.
But with China being the largest movie market behind the US an actor no longer has to be a viable name in Hollywood to find success.
This is evident with Chan’s latest movie, “Dragon Blade,” which is being released for the first time in the US this Friday after having played all over the world, including China where it’s one of the biggest hits of the year having grossed over $116 million.
“I’ve been very fortunate that my recent films have all been hits in China,” Chan told Business Insider via email. “Audiences are willing to take a risk on me, knowing that I’ll give them something different every time.”
“Dragon Blade” is a period action thriller set on the ancient “Silk Road” desert trade route. Chan plays a leader of a squad that protects the route who teams with an exiled Roman general (played by John Cusack) to go up against evil Roman legion leader Tiberius (Adrien Brody).
The action, big-name stars, and sequence not usually seen in the genre – like when Chan and Cusack sing an old Roman anthem with their troops – made the film number one at the box office in China when it opened in mid-February.
But the film took 7 years to get off the ground. In 2009, Chan met with rising Chinese director Daniel Lee who pitched the superstar actor the period film set on the Silk Road. They agreed that Lee would direct the movie and Chan would oversee the fight sequences as its “action director.” Lee is known in China for action films like “14 Blades.”
Chan takes the blame for the long delay; he says he had to find an opening in his schedule to take on “Dragon Blade.” But he points out that if it wasn’t for the delay, they likely wouldn’t have gotten Brody as his co-star.
“One day I got a message, out of the blue, from Adrien Brody asking if we will ever have the chance to work together,” Chan recalled. “I told him I was preparing to make this movie and that we could work together right away. I sent him the synopsis in the morning and got a call that night agreeing to work together. It was fate.”
Chan complimented Brody’s dedication to training for the fight sequences. The Oscar winner asked Chan for videos of sword fighting so he could practice the techniques with a broom before he arrived in China.
Cusack, however, needed a little more work.
“John is really good at kickboxing but not very experienced with weapons,” wrote Chan, who said he had to teach Cusack from scratch how to use the swords and knives his character handles in the film.
Though Chan added, “When it comes to acting, there isn’t anything I can teach him.”
Chan said the greatest challenge when making “Dragon Blade” was the setting. Shot in the Gobi Desert, the heat and sandstorms took a toll on everyone. “Just keeping your eyes open during the fighting scenes was painful,” said Chan, who during the sandstorms assisted in keeping the horses calm.
Though the US will see Chan in action mode once more with “Dragon Blade,” the 61-year-old says he wants to begin focusing on more dramatic roles going forward.
But don’t expect him leaving the action genre completely. He said another installment of “Rush Hour” is not out of the question- if he and co-star Chris Tucker can “find the right story that will satisfy the audience.” US audiences will also see him next in an action comedy opposite Johnny Knoxville titled “Skiptrace.“
“The genre is still important to me because it’s where I came from,” Chan said of action movies. “I will still continue to do [them].”
“Dragon Blade” opens September 4.
Watch the trailer: