Jet Li

Jet Li in The Mummy 3

Jet Li in “The Mummy 3”

Combining charm and humility while delivering lightning-fast moves that could break bones on impact, Jet Li is the most entertaining martial arts star since the late Bruce Lee. Forget what people say about Jackie Chan, because Jet Li is the real deal when it comes to fighting and he isn’t that bad of an actor either. Born in Beijing, China in 1963, Jet Li was raised by a single mother who was so strictly overprotective of her son’s actions that his childhood personality was of extreme fear and caution. To help remedy this, Jet’s mother enrolled him in an amateur sports school that taught the ancient martial art of wushu where he quickly became the most talented student in the class. It was because of the incredible speed of his movements that he was nicknamed “Jet.” At age eleven, Jet won the all-around National Wushu Champions and was praised as a child prodigy in the field of martial arts. He followed his instant success with three more championships, was also awarded the Gold Champion at the Chinese National Martial Arts Competition in 1979 and performed for President Nixon.

In 1981, after much anticipation, Jet Li made his jump to the silver screen in “Shaolin Temple.” The film was a major hit and Jet became such a celebrated star that any project starring the young actor scored big at the box-office. Soon Jet’s stock in the entertainment world began to plummet with less-favorable projects bombing at theaters, but after meeting with director Tsui Hark during a trip to America, the pair collaborated on the worldwide blockbuster trilogy, “Once Upon a Time in China.” Once again, Jet was one of the most desired actors on the market and after he allegedly turned down a role in a film bankrolled by a Chinese triad, his manager, Jim Choy, was shot to death. When the opportunity finally came to make his jump to American cinema, Jet didn’t look back. Unfortunately, the original deal involving a Tarantino production with Miramax fell through, but his name had since become big news in the gossip pages and scripts were finding their way to his address. His official American debut showcased the talented Jet as the villain of “Lethal Weapon 4” before breaking out into starring projects like “Romeo Must Die” and “Kiss of the Dragon.” Since then, Jet has not only become an international star, but also a liaison for a number of countries. Now that Jet has conquered the physical side of American film, look for the 40-year-old martial artist to show off his acting skills in his upcoming features. After delivering a solid performance last year in Zhang Yimou’s “Hero,” we’re convinced that he has what it takes to become one of the first serious Chinese actors working in the States.

Jet on the Screen

Jet Li has been a film icon overseas for nearly two decades, appearing in over twenty action films within that time and portraying some of the most important figures of Chinese history along the way. Jet got his first big break in America when he starred as the main villain opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon 4.” A quick fan base arose from his short and almost mute performance in the film, and Jet enjoyed instant success, thanks mostly to Jackie Chan’s recent revival of the kung-fu action genre that Bruce Lee first made popular twenty years before. Jet has continued to release American hits like “Romeo Must Die,” “Kiss of the Dragon” and “Cradle 2 the Grave” over the last ten years, but in 2004, the humble actor helped turn one of Asia’s most successful films into one of the biggest American hits of the year when “Hero” was finally released in to theaters with the backing of famed director Quentin Tarantino. For those interested in watching some of Jet’s earlier work, check out the “Once Upon a Time In China” trilogy or the action-comedy “Hitman” (aka. “Contract Killer) with Hong Kong funnyman Eric Tsang.

Jet Li Says

On women:
“I can feel very brave through all the action scenes in front of the people who are on the set, but when a girl comes close to me my face turns red because I’m so shy.”