First Strike: About The Filmmakers

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JACKIE CHAN had to fight to impose his inimitable style, as he has had to fight throughout a life that began, like the lives of his silent-era mentors, in the school of hard knocks.

Indentured at age seven to the Chinese Opera Research School, he learned through 10 years of 19-hour days -- punctuated with the traditional canings -- the rigorous discipline of the Peking Opera, which encompasses acting, singing, dance, mime acrobatics and a variety of martial arts.

Upon graduation at age 17, he went to work as an extra and eventually as a stuntman in the Shaw Brothers studios. Two years later, his training and determination paid off with a promotion to stunt coordinator, which led to a Busby Berkley-style discovery scene: watching Chan direct stuntmen in the finer points of fighting and dying, a producer spotted his talent and gave him his first role as an adult performer in Little Tiger from Canton (1971).

After five years of films which afforded little scope for his real abilities, the fledgling actor began to develop his craft in earnest working for producer Lo Wei, a former Bruce Lee collaborator for whom he made nine pictures over the next three years.

Taking advantage of a contract director's inexperience with martial arts, Chan began making suggestions about how action scenes should be played, and soon was allowed to be stunt coordinator on his own films. The films, however, remained mired in the traditions of high-flying swordplay and blood-and-thunder intensity which he was trying to escape.

A martial arts parody, Half a Loaf of Kung Fu, tossed off in 1978 (and withheld from release for two years) gave the first inklings of the direction his career would take. But it was only when Lo Wei loaned him to independent producer Ng See Yuen for two pictures that same year, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, that Chan was given the freedom to create the genre of kung fu comedy, which transformed the Hong Kong film industry.

The films made money and by the time he made his last film for Lo Wei, The Fearless Hyena (1979), Chan was able to give full rein to his creativity, creating a chopsticks food-fighting sequence that became an instant classic.

In 1980 Jackie Chan directed his first film, The Young Master, quickly demonstrating the perfectionism that would drive him to transform the standards of Hong Kong filmmaking in a sequence which demanded a record 329 takes to get one trick right.

That film also inaugurated his long association with producer Raymond Chow, who made all of Chan's subsequent films. After the runaway success of The Young Master, Chow brought Chan to the U.S. to star in The Big Brawl, and as a guest star opposite the likes of Burt Reynolds, Roger Moore and Farrah Fawcett in The Cannonball Run.

With limited success in America, Chan returned home determined to improve Hong Kong filmmaking. "I knew Kung Fu was dead," he later told writer David Chute, "and about that time I saw a lot of Buster Keaton's films. He gave me a lot of new ideas, new things I could do that were physical, and funny, but were not fighting."

The first film to show his new comic shift was the Chan-directed Project A (1983), a period action-comedy which ends with Chan's high-risk reenactment of Harold Lloyd's clock-face finale in Safety Last.

Chan returned to the U.S. twice as an actor in Cannonball Run 2 and The Protector before the actor-director was honored by the New York Film Festival's selection of his 1986 Police Story. The film featured one of his most dangerous stunts, a slide down a pole decorated with live Christmas lights.

Chan's direction of the sequels to Project A, Police Story and 1986's lavish The Armour of God was acclaimed by American critics increasingly enamored of Hong Kong cinema. Noting his assurance as a director, Time described Miracles (1989) as "a kind of remake of Frank Capra's Lady for a Day (which) revels in supple tracking shots, elegant montages and a witty use of the wide screen."

The conquest of America by Hong Kong's action cinema, led by Chan and gifted colleagues like John Woo and Tsui Hark, was now in full swing. Police Story 3: Supercop, his first collaboration with Stanley Tong, prompted the L.A. Times' Kevin Thomas to observe: "Chan, director Stanley Tong and their cast and crew recall what Hollywood has largely forgotten: how to make pure escapist entertainment that's fast, light, topical, but unpretentious."

The same could be said of Crime Story (1993), a police melodrama directed by Kirk Wong which reveals Chan's talent as a serious actor. Based on an actual extortion case, Crime Story deftly exposes the entrepreneurial excesses of Hong Kong in the Eighties and sketches the complex relations between Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Mainland as the 1997 end of the British Protectorate approaches.

Ever concerned to put Chinese-language cinema in the forefront of world film production, Jackie Chan through his company Golden Way Films has produced two highly acclaimed and award-winning films by Stanley Kwan, Rouge and Actress. He is also the president of the Hong Kong equivalent of the Directors' Guild.

He has been vocal and active in his opposition to organized crime's infiltration of the entertainment industry. His unique position in the Hong Kong movie industry, according to a recent New Yorker article, gives him the independence which has enabled him to take an outspoken and courageous stance on these issues.

Tirelessly involved in a number of charities, he founded the Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1987 to provide a continuing source of funding for a wide range of projects from hospitals to scholarships. Among his philanthropic contributions, he had a facility built in San Francisco to help Alzheimer's patients and the elderly to care for themselves.

Since completing Rumble in the Bronx, Chan has starred in Thunderbolt, a film about car-racing which focuses on an auto mechanic who must rescue his kidnapped sisters; Jackie Chan's First Strike; and Super Chef, which is currently in post-production, and centers on the host of a television cooking series who discovers a videotape which incriminates a group of thugs. He is currently in production on An Alan Smithee Film.


Stanley Tong Kwai-Li was born in Hong Kong. When he was 12-years-old he studied the martial arts of Hung Boxing, Tai Chi and free-sparring Kick Boxing. He represented his high school in Hong Kong Interschool Competitions as team leader in all sports, including gymnastics, basketball, soccer and track and field, in which he set records and won regularly. At age 17, he began studies in Canada, taught martial arts on the side and got interested in fast cars and precision driving.

In 1979, Tong returned to Hong Kong to help with his family's business. He was introduced to the film industry by his brother-in-law as a part-time stuntman for the Shaw Brothers Studios. Wanting to be a movie star like his idols Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, both of whom started their careers as stuntmen, Tong was anxious to get started.

Over the next three years, he performed hundreds of stunts, doubling for actors such as Leslie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat, Brandon Lee, Ti-Lung, Dick Wei, Maggie Cheung, Cherie Chung, and Michelle Khan just to name a few. But after he broke his shoulder, leg and knees, cracked his ribs and skull, and sustained various injuries to his back, he realized the career of a stuntman is a short one.

In 1983, he changed course and became an assistant director, working hard to learn about the various aspects of filmmaking from pre-production to post-production to distribution. As this knowledge enabled him to design and perform stunts more effectively, he was promoted to assistant stunt coordinator, a post he kept for six films -- and one which got him involved in production managing and screenwriting. In 1987 he co-directed and stunt coordinated for Angel 2 and Angel 3, and began also to perform car stunts.

He stunt coordinated four more films before forming his own company, Golden Gate, in 1989. He executive-produced, wrote, directed and stunt coordinated Stone Age Warriors, the first commercial film permitted to shoot among the aborigine head-hunters in New Guinea.

That film caught the attention of Golden Harvest, who in 1992 commissioned him to direct and stunt direct Jackie Chan in Super Cop. He directed and stunt directed Once A Cop in 1993, also for Golden Harvest.

In his 15 years in the industry, Tong has been involved in various capacities in over 50 films and television series. He has performed more than 1,500 stunts, including everything from jumping off buildings to car stunts and explosions.

Prior to Jackie Chan's First Strike, Tong directed Rumble in the Bronx.


Executive producer Raymond Chow was born in Hong Kong. He graduated from St. John's University in 1949 with a bachelor of arts degree and a major in journalism.

Returning to Hong Kong, Chow began his professional life as a reporter for one of the city's English language newspapers, The Hong Kong Standard. In 1951 he joined the Voice of America office in Hong Kong.

In 1959 the Shaw Brothers film studio was expanding its activities in Hong Kong, where Chow saw an opportunity to join the film industry. He was initially employed as publicity manager, but was soon made head of production -- a position he held for the next 10 years.

Television was having a drastic effect on the film industry worldwide in the sixties, especially in the United States. The major studios were heavily cutting back on production. Rather than follow suit, Chow reasoned that this was an opportunity to increase production allowing Chinese pictures to benefit from the shortage of product.

Staking the future on his convictions, he resigned and set up Golden Harvest in 1970. The new company produced eight features in its first year of operation. Raymond Chow quickly developed the company's distribution activities in Hong Kong and throughout Asia.

With a strong regional base firmly established, Chow was ready to increase production to the level of 12 to 14 pictures a year. But increased production required full-time access to studio facilities. To this end, with the aid of the Cathay Organization, Golden Harvest took over the Hammer Hill production complex, which is still the home base for the Golden Harvest Group.

Among the first Golden Harvest pictures to be produced from the new studios was The Big Boss, which launched the producer's highly successful association with Bruce Lee. Apart from the huge local and regional success of the Bruce Lee films, they were significant in that they introduced Hong Kong productions and a new film genre to general audiences all over the world. Variety listed Enter The Dragon among the top-50 box office successes of all time.

Against this backdrop, Chow began developing his film distribution operation on a worldwide scale while increasing the number of films produced specifically for this new international market.

Before the close of the group's first 10 years, Chow had made eight such films including Amsterdam Kill, starring Robert Mitchum, and The Boys in Company C, directed by Sidney J. Furie.

In 1980, the company celebrated 10 years of operation with the opening of The Cannonball Run. Among the host of major stars heading the cast were Burt Reynolds, Roger More, Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Fonda and Bianca Jagger, along with Hong Kong's Jackie Chan and Michael Hui.

The Cannonball Run went on to accumulate a worldwide box office of over $120 million. That same year the National Association of Theatre Owners helped make it a truly "golden year" for Chow by naming him the first recipient of the newly created International Showman of the Year Award, recognizing his contribution to the American motion picture industry. The same year the Prime Minister of Taiwan awarded Chow the Golden Horse Award as most outstanding international producer.

All this expansion into U.S. and international markets in no way meant that local and regional audiences were being ignored. Golden Harvest's films with Michael Hui were the vanguard of the re-introduction of Hong Kong films into the vast Japanese market. Those of Jackie Chan, Samo Hung and others followed, their popularity eclipsing top stars from the United States.

Almost exactly 10 years after the landmark success of The Cannonball Run, Chow greenlit a project that would go on to become the most successful independent film ever made: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. That film and its two sequels marked the beginning of Golden Harvest's association with New Line Cinema.

Despite the enormous success of Golden Harvest, Chow shuns the extravagant lifestyle often associated with movie moguls. What little time his workload permits for private life, Chow prefers to spend it with his wife, Felicia, son Felix and daughter Roberta. Any spare time he has is likely to be devoted to a round of golf with friends. He was honored with the Order of the British Empire in 1987.

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