Jackie Chan, a real-life baddie
Martial arts star Jackie Chan has admitted to womanising, gambling and violent behaviour in a shocking memoir
HE EARNED himself a phalanx of fans by rescuing damsels in distress and vanquishing villains with a dazzling display of martial arts and an infectious grin that made it impossible not to love him. But for decades Jackie Chan harboured dark secrets behind those twinkly eyes.
In an explosive memoir, first published in Chinese in 2015, the legendary actor makes shocking admissions that make him seem more like the on-screen baddies he battled.
In Never Grow Up the 64-year-old Hong Kong-born star admits to frequenting brothels, treating the women in his life like dirt and even hurling his toddler son across a room in a fit of rage.
He also regularly drove drunk and once crashed twice in a single day – first his Porsche in the morning and then his Mercedes-Benz that night – according to excerpts of the book published in the Daily Mail. He blew his earnings on gambling and prostitutes and mentions one woman he regularly bedded but knew only as “Number Nine”. He attributes his appalling behaviour to his work as a stuntman before he hit the big time with the 1978 films Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow and Drunken Master. He nearly died on the set of the 1986 film Armour of God when he had to jump from a ledge to a tall tree. He fell and a fragment of bone punctured his skull. “A lot of people say, ‘Did you break every bone [in your career]?’ I think not every bone but I can say every inch of my body got cut, burnt and twisted. But the most serious one was in Yugoslavia when I was making Armour of God. I almost died.”
Living in such a world caused him to be reckless, he writes.
“We all knew if something went wrong, we wouldn’t live to see the sun rise the next day.”
Of course, Jackie did – but he treated his loved ones badly.
He married Joan Lin (now 65), a Taiwanese actress he describes as the love of his life, because she was pregnant with their child, Jaycee.
In 2015 he put it quite bluntly in an interview, something he also acknowledges in his book. “It was an accident which conceived Jaycee,” he told China Press. “I’d never thought of getting married, but I felt it was akin to being forced to marry.”
He believed his friends who told him Joan was a gold-digger and had fallen pregnant on purpose.
As a result he “constantly thought of ways to keep money from her”.
Once, during a heated row with her, he grabbed toddler Jaycee (now 35) by one hand and flung the boy across the room.
“He’s just a child,” a terrified Joan said. “Why did you do that?”
Yet he still has a relationship with the
boy. In 2015 Jaycee was arrested on drug charges and spent six months in jail.
Neither of his parents visited him but he preferred it that way, he said while making a public apology in Beijing, China, after his release. “I don’t want my mistakes to affect my father. I must apologise for my own mistakes.”
JACKIE was born Chan Kong-sang to impoverished refugees from the Chinese Civil War. His parents, Charles and Lee-Lee Chan, were so desperate for money they almost sold their baby son to a wealthy British couple, Jackie says. Charles eventually found work as a chef and when Jackie was six, his parents immigrated to Australia – but they soon sent him away to the China Drama Academy boarding school.
It was here he learnt martial arts and acrobatics as well as acting, singing and performing in a rigorous schedule that saw students up at the crack of dawn after six hours of sleep.
While Jackie excelled at martial arts, he never learnt to read or write or do maths, which still fills him with shame.
To this day his black American Express card has no signature on the back because Jackie can’t even write his own name.
He made several films over the years but became a mainstream Hollywood hit when he starred opposite Chris Tucker in the popular Rush Hour movies.
It was around that time he released his first autobiography, I Am Jackie Chan: My Life in Action.
It spoke about the struggles he’d endured over the years and briefly touched on his arrogance – but was nowhere near as explosive as his new book.
As he skyrocketed to stardom and the bucks came rolling in with hits, Jackie couldn’t shake the “big chip” on his shoulder.
“I started to carry large amounts of cash at all times,” he says. “After you live in poverty cash gives you a sense of security. I like having lots of people around me and every meal was with a big gang.”
In one year the Rush Hour star spent an eye-watering $2 million (R28 million) paying for other people’s food.
He indulged himself too, buying everything his heart desired – including a pet tiger cub, although he got rid of it after it scratched his face.
But Jackie felt at odds with his fame and fortune.
He recalls dating “classier” Taiwanese actress Teresa Teng and acting out when she took him to a fancy French restaurant.
“She ordered red wine, I insisted on having beer. When our soup arrived she dipped her spoon elegantly into the bowl while I picked up my bowl and drank straight from it.”
When they left he told her, in no uncertain terms: “Never bring me to this sort of restaurant again.”
“I behaved so badly because of my deep insecurities. Ever since I was a little boy I’d been looked down on by rich kids.
“Any whiff of snobbishness or superiority set me on edge.”
THEN there was Jackie’s scandalous affair with former Miss Asia Elaine Ng Yi Lei, who was nearly 20 years his junior, while he was married to Joan.
The couple’s fling made headlines in 1999 – as did the later birth of their daughter, Etta Ng.
At a press conference he admitted to the affair and said he’d “made a mistake men around the world have made”.
In the book he recalls how he’d looked at himself in the mirror then and said: “You’re a real bastard.”
Despite the no-holds-barred, mea culpa approach of his book, Jackie makes no mention of his daughter Etta (19).
It seems for all his desire to clean up his act, he never made an effort to have a relationship with her.
Etta’s mom, Elaine, once said Jackie, who’s worth an estimated $370 million (R5,18 billion), has never contributed to their daughter’s upbringing financially.
“He’s not my dad,” Etta once said. “I have no feelings for him. He’s my biological father but he isn’t in my life.”
So different from the film hero so many people love.
ABOVE LEFT: A young Jackie Chan, born Chan Kong-sang, with his parents, Charles and Lee-Lee Chan. RIGHT: The martial arts and film star with his son Jaycee and his wife of 36 years, Joan Lin, who stuck by him through his scandalous affair in 1999. LEFT: Jackie rose to international fame with 1998’s Rush Hour alongside Chris Tucker. ABOVE: Jackie almost died after a stunt for 1986’s Armour of God went horribly wrong.
LEFT: His affair with Elaine Ng Yi Lei resulted in a daughter, Etta Ng. ABOVE: The teen has no relationship with her dad.