Jet Li From 1 to 55 Years Old
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Jet Li is a champion martial artist and Chinese film actor. He starred in the Once Upon a Time in China film series and in the critically-praised, international hit Hero.
Born in Beijing, China, on April 26, 1963, Jet Li is an actor and martial artist. At the age of 11, Li won his first national championship in wushu. Li retired from the sport when he was 17 and made his film debut in Shaolin Temple, making him a star in his home country. Since 1994, he has gone back and forth between Chinese and English-language films, starring in Hollywood’s Romeo Must Die, Kiss of the Dragon and The Forbidden Kingdom.
In 1998, Li landed his first English-language role, playing a bad guy in Lethal Weapon 4 with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. He relocated to Los Angeles for the film, where he underwent intensive language training to prepare for his role as a Chinese crime boss. This action film, especially the scenes with Li, delighted movie audiences.
Li teamed up with rapper DMX and singer Aaliyah for Romeo Must Die (2000) a hip-hop-meets-martial-arts take on the classic tale of young love, Romeo and Juliet. Li and Aaliyah played star-crossed lovers from two warring crime families. The film scored big at the box office, earning roughly $100 million. In 2001, Li co-starred with Bridget Fonda in Kiss of the Dragon directed by Luc Besson.
He helped develop the story for the film, which tells the tale of a wronged intelligence officer out to clear his name with the help of a prostitute (played by Fonda). A critic for The New York Times praised parts of the film, writing “his action sequences are like an oil fire, spilling from one room into the next and lighting the interiors with heat and wreckage. Mr. Li and his fisticuffs choreographer, Corey Yuen, have set a new standard for action here.”
That same year, Li starred in the convoluted science fiction tale, The One. He played the two main characters, an unsuspecting California sheriff and a ruthless killer who travels through parallel worlds to eliminate the other versions of himself. The film was panned by critics for its confusing plot and weak acting.
Next, he worked with director Yimou Zhang on the Chinese historical drama Hero, in which Li played a warrior in 3rd century China. The movie was released in China in 2002, and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. He then reunited with DMX for 2003’s crime thriller Cradle 2 the Grave, which received poor reviews and a lukewarm response from movie-goers.
The following year, Jet Li was on vacation in the Maldives when a tsunami hit. It was widely reported that he had died during the disaster. However, he only suffered a minor foot injury while guiding his 4-year-old daughter to safety.