When Jackie Chan Rejected To Fight Same As Bruce Lee
While making kung fu movies in the 1970s, Jackie Chan was expected by filmmakers to fight like Bruce Lee, but the actor was opposed. Here’s why.
Jackie Chan refused to use Bruce Lee’s fighting style while making kung fu movies in the 1970s. After Lee’s death in 1973, the Hong Kong movie industry tried tirelessly to find a new actor who could fill the void left by the martial arts legend. During that time, Jackie Chan was among the many actors identified as candidates to become the next Bruce Lee.
Efforts to turn Chan into a Bruce Lee replacement called for him to do more than just act like Lee in his movies. Chan was also supposed to fight like the late actor. In his autobiography, Never Grow Up, Chan said that he was instructed by filmmakers to emulate Lee through his movements and expressions. Not only did Chan feel that Lee was someone “no one could ever surpass,” but he also felt that Lee’s fighting style as a whole didn’t work for him.
One example of this provided in the book is the claim that Lee had a tendency to execute high kicks, whereas Chan preferred to kick low to the ground. Before shooting Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, Lee convinced film producer Ng See-Yuen to let him walk down “an entirely different path.”Admittedly, Chan and Lee have a few things in common when it comes to their martial arts backgrounds.
Lee grew up learning Wing Chun, a style of kung fu designed for counterattacking. Chan also learned Wing Chun, but his foundation primarily came from his training in Northern and Southern Shaolin kung fu. And like Lee, Chan eventually employed a diverse approach to fighting that encompasses multiple martial arts styles. Both are known for using kung fu, but were also willing to incorporate stances and movies tied to Western boxing, hapkido, and more.
While there are similarities, their movies make it clear that Lee and Chan are totally different as martial artists. Lee focused on speed, power, and execution. Chan, on the other hand, was significantly more acrobatic in his approach, as his kung fu training and natural talents had turned him into an incredibly agile fighter. All of this ultimately translated to the big screen as well, with their respective skills lending to the images that they developed as martial arts stars. In Chan’s own words in Never Grow Up, Lee came across as “superhuman” and defeated his opponents in quick succession.
In contrast to Lee, Chan engaged in longer fights and often relied on acrobatics and improvised fights to win.When Chan was still being groomed to become the next Bruce Lee, he starred in a string of movies that included New Fist of Fury (a sequel to Bruce Lee’s Fist of Fury), Shaolin Wooden Men, To Kill with Intrigue, and more. As Chan acknowledged in his book, they bombed at the box office because viewers were unimpressed with his performance.
And after getting a chance to make a movie his own way with Snake in The Eagle’s Shadow, Jackie Chan’s career took a turn for the best. It was discovered that when the actor was allowed to do comedy and his own brand of fighting, audiences had a much better response to his movies.