Jackie Chan: 'I'm an actor first, action star second'

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Most filmgoers in the world would agree that Hong Kong actor Jackie Chan is multi-talented. He knows how to sing, direct and write film scripts on top of being a stunt performer.

His latest film, "Chinese Zodiac," will convince anyone with doubts about Chan's abilities. It's an action film about looted Chinese artifacts, written, co-produced, directed by and starring Chan, which has grossed over $135 million at the Chinese box office since last year.

"It took me seven years to make this film," said Chan during a press conference in Seoul on Monday, promoting the film ahead of its Korean release. "I've heard many people saying, 'Hey, Jackie Chan's now old. We can't expect him to star in action movies anymore.' Well, I kept telling myself, 'just wait and see until I finish this movie.'"

The film is about China's Old Summer Palace, which was looted by the British during the second opium war in the 1800s. Chan plays a man named JC, who is tasked with finding the bronze heads of the 12 Chinese Zodiac animals - which are among the looted treasures from the palace - and eventually return them to China.

"We talk about world peace and living in the 'global village,' but there are still looted artifacts, such as Pharaoh's beards from Egypt and the statues of Buddha from Angkor Wat, Cambodia, being exhibited in European museums and even sold through auctions," said Chan.

"I am also aware of the case where an individual obtained one of the bronze heads in real life and donated it to the Chinese government. The individual would not share how he purchased the artifact with the public ... I (also) wanted to do something about this issue, and chose to make a movie about it - because that is what I do."

The 100 billion won ($92.4 million) film, which was shot in five different countries including France and Vanuatu, also includes a scene where Japan returns ancient looted Korean texts to the Korean government.

"This movie offers a lot of humor and epic stunts," said Chan. "But I really hope the viewers would also pay attention to the message that it tries to give (about the looted relics). The film also deals with today's environmental issues as well as family."

Chan, who started acting in the 1960s, has appeared in over 150 films. He said "Chinese Zodiac" would be his last "big-scale" action film, although he hopes to perform stunts for as long as possible.

"A lot of action stars enjoy popularity and then just disappear from the sight of the public," said Chan. "I've been thinking that I could always disappear as well. That is why I wanted to be an actor first and action star second."

"I've been playing many different roles in the past 10 years, all with their distinctive characters, in an attempt to prove my ability as an actor. I want to be an actor who can also pull off stunts, not an action star who does acting on the side."

Popular local actor Kwon Sang-woo, who was supposed to attend the press conference alongside Chan, did not show up due to a scheduling conflict. Kwon stars as Chan's partner in their joint mission to retrieve the looted relics.

A Lotte Entertainment release, "Chinese Zodiac" opens on Feb. 28.

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