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Owen Wilson & Jackie Chan | Bluntly Shanghai'd
an emily blunt interview

 



Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, the ying and yang of screen partners, sat down with me recently to chew the chitlin.

Each proved to be as charming and different in real life as their screen counterparts Roy O'Bannon and Chon Wang in Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights.

Owen is one of my favorite screenwriters. Besides Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, I own one of those fancy schmancy special edition versions of Wilson's co-penned masterpiece, The Royal Tenenbaums. Yeah, I'm a sucker for the "special" additions in the "special" editions…the studio repackages the film, throws in a missing scene, perhaps a quickie interview with a gaffer, and a mustard stained storyboard on a napkin they discovered discarded in the lot's commissary. Then they double the original dvd price and prey on addicts, err, people like me to be frothing at the bit for the store to open so I can gladly hand over the additional forty bucks the day the new improved dvd is released…hey, some people collect Hummels™. Today we are here to talk about his role in Shanghai Knights.

Then there's Jackie! Jackie is just a kung fu legend! I remember him flying around for as long as I can remember. His film credits are as long as the Great Wall I think. Off screen the kinetic powerhouse is a gregarious funny bubbling man - who always happens to be razor sharp. I admit can't always really understand his broken English, but what he lacks in the vernacular he certainly makes up for in physical intensity.

When they arrive I can't help but notice Owen looks as if the cat dragged him in and scrunched him in the chair like a discarded hair ball. I suggest an IV of pure caffeine for the man may be in order...but his publicist just glares. Jackie on the other hand bounds about like an Asian Tasmanian devil. He's bouncing off the walls. Three days with his energy and I'd drop two sizes man! I popped a couple caffeinated mints, slurped down the rest of the hotel's java selection and hit record.

Emily: Hi Jackie and Owen. Jackie you're beaming! You're very excited about Shanghai Knights - I know you've been, um, less than positive about some of your past films.

Jackie: Every time I start a movie the director is like I want to do this I want to do that - but then the time becomes an issue! Cut the date cut the budget. This one as soon as we started the producer the director said, "Go!" I'd say, "I need two more days." They 'd say, "Okay two more days!' I really go nonstop 7 days a week…on the set we can tell the script is any good- everybody works hard. Even though my English is not so good I know the humor it's a universal humor. It's not like Rush Hour, "Wassup nigger." Only American people get it. [it's] For only a few and nobody knows what happen. "I slap your back to South Africa, never catch a black man without a radio." Asian theater [goers] don't know this humor…but this kind of humor? If I smile? Everybody knows. Everybody understands. I always wanted to make a movie - not just for the American market - for the world market. After Rush one…I went back and made an Asian film. Now I hope Jackie has made an international film!

Emily: You're open about your dislike of Tuxedo- That's so rare- so honest.

Jackie: You see it? Awful. This is way funnier. I did all the action sequences in Tuxedo and they said six months later okay it's cut. I look and I said, "This is not a good movie." I don't lie. I tell the truth. While I was doing it I couldn't tell. When I was doing publicity for Rush Hour 2 in Japan I said to everybody, "ah it's no good." I always speak the truth. Sometimes I don't like to do publicity. I said, "I'm not going to do it." I don't like Tuxedo

Emily: Poor Owen here all quiet and sleepy - I have to tell you are a comic genius! May I shake your hand?

Owen: Wow! Thank you.

Emily: So who's your influence?

Owen: Well, I know Wes Anderson, who I was lucky enough to become friends with in college, I work great with him. He's someone I think is really funny. Ben Stiller is really funny. My dad had a really good sense of humor and both my grandfathers. Both sides of the family - I'm Irish and we use humor to cope with stuff. My sense of humor is - I don't know - I didn't think it was that different from anybody else's but when we did Bottle Rocket it didn't seem like that many people thought it was funny! That was more my sense of humor. People thought it was a little odd or different then normal. Movies I liked growing up were like Francis Ford Coppolla movies and Scorsese movies. Not so much... I don't remember loving a lot of the big comedies. Maybe Animal House and Caddyshack and stuff. I guess those were more of the big comedies. I liked Punch Drunk Love. That was that Adam Sandler movie. I really liked.


Emily: How does that " different than normal" translate with the two of you?

Owen: I don't know. I was just saying when we first began Shanghai Noon, Jackie and I weren't friends. We didn't know each other. And yet, and as soon as I started working with him I liked him. I could see him even being in one of Wes' movies almost just as himself. Because he's such a character. He has a real kind of innocence and stuff. I always kind of enjoy playing scenes off him.

Emily: Do you understand Owen's sense of humor?

Jackie: Yes!

Owen: I think he understands Roy. [laughter] He has a situation and he knows how Roy is going to react.

Jackie: Roy's a funny character. He's selfish. When the fighting is going on he's always hiding then when the fighting's finished he comes out. I'm from Forbidden City I am honorable. Also when he speaks…he speaks really slowly. He's humor is different than Chris Tucker! Chris is like babababababababababaaaa [makes a machine gun sound] right away your hahaha. But, his humor you can taste, you go home and you think of it again.

Emily: There's going to be another Rush Hour. Do you okay with that?

Jackie: Yes. I always like… just in my own country they even know me Rush Hour 1-2-3 Shanghai 1-2-3. I always believe when I am making a movie I have to make it the best I can. Then you can continue your career. How many…In Asia there' almost none actor like me- survive twenty-five years. On the top. .

Emily: How long have you been doing this?

Jackie: Forty-seven years. I was a stunt coordinator than actor. I have been doing this all my life. It's not easy even in Asia.

Emily: Now you even have a star on Hollywood Boulevard! Why do you think you've had such a staying power?

Jackie: Yes! I believe it's because I make a movie not for the money. I really work for it. Do the best I can

Owen: He works like seven days a week.

Jackie: I don't have too! The producer says, "Jackie you've only had three hours sleep can you do it." I say, "Yes!" I would die for the movie. In the movie I can die for the movie I do anything for the movie- whatever. But outside the movie you ask me, "Hey you want to go and go cart?" I say," No! Too dangerous."

Owen: He'll do all this crazy stuff on film…like falling, getting a hole in his head; all these crazy stunts! But if you ask him to do anything in real life like go skiing he doesn't do anything.

Jackie: Yes. I stop the car under the bridge before the bridge. Yeah. I am afraid the bridge might fall down. I always go as fast as I can through a tunnel. I am always afraid the water comes in.

Emily: But you'll die for a movie?

Jackie: Yes. [laughter] I don't want to get hurt for nothing.

Emily: There's a story about the clock scene in Shanghai Knights?

Owen: He tried to scare me. We were hanging like 100 feet in the air. He said that he was veryafraid and had never done anything like that. And I knew for Jackie to be afraid, that would mean that I should be screaming in terror. [laughter]

Jackie: I said the wire was broken. [laughter]

Emily: Owen are you ready for a real dramatic role?

Owen: Well, something like Behind Enemy Lines was not so much- - that was more of an action movie than a real drama huh? Then yeah, I could see doing something like that.

Emily: Are you glad you did Behind Enemy Lines?

Owen: Yeah, I had a good time doing it. It was not as much fun for me to do as a movie like this, just because I have more fun coming up with funny stuff. This character, I have a good time playing off of Jackie's character. Behind Enemy Lines is more being by myself just running around. It's more hard to know if it was any good.

Emily: Your stunts in this were wild Jackie. How the heck do you keep in shape?

Jackie: I train in things I really like. Jogging one hour, punching, kicking, but not like before. Before when younger in school I did it was like 5,000 punch, 500 kicks. Now, no. I do the treadmill. I cannot walk on the street. First, people notice me. Second, my ankles hurt. I've broken both my ankles.

Emily: How often do you work out now?

Jackie: Oh, jogging every single day. Punching and kicking depends. Right now, my back's still pain, my ankle's pain. This ankle always comes out cracked. I have to put it back all the time.

Emily: Oochie! How do you "put it back?"

Jackie: They help me. I push, they pull. I'm just used to it.

Emily: Would you ever teach?

Jackie: I try to open a school to teach people how to do martial arts and do film martial arts, how to be a good stunt coordinator, how to be a good action editor.

Emily: What did you learn from each other working together?

Owen: I guess the thing that I would say what I learned the most would be…. it's not so much that I learned anything new. I'd gotten to be friends with Jackie on the first one. I knew what a hard worker he was. It was more kind of the way that Jackie works, where he goes on the set, he kind of looks around and he sees something and he incorporates that into the scene. That was a really nice way for me to work too because I don't like to be tied down to necessarily how the script is if the scene doesn't work when you get on set. I like it free.

Jackie: I learn from him, he really concentrated on the whole script. For us, I don't care. I just go on, I do it because he will ask two weeks ago I speak this kind of dialogue, but that actually continue my personality. He always does that. And also, when he does something, he thinks before he does it. I always hurt myself by teaching people do this, bam, boom, ow. Oh, we cannot do that. But he'll ask me, "Is that dangerous?" I find out okay, how- - now I learn how to protect people, and more patient.

Emily: Owen do you know if you like acting or writing better?

Owen: It's more fun acting. Writing is more like school. Ya know having a paper due! Its fun when you get on a role and it's a great feeling when you're finished to have something that's so personal. But sitting there and starting to write is a lot scarier and harder than showing up on a movie set!

Emily: As a screenwriter do you react different as an actor than other actors do?

Owen: Yeah but maybe not necessarily in a good way because I'll read it and not maybe not like it but still do it and think I'll just change stuff. But you have to be kind of careful because you can only improvise your way so far. Here I had got along great with the writer and the producers…in the first one I had a lot of talk in the character. I already liked the character. Yeah they were real open to me coming up with stuff.

Jackie: What annoys me…it's like others they have two lines - and they have to think and think what's my character… should I say this way? That. Really. I'm just like, " Oh, come on it's just two lines!" And they can think two days for one small page.

Emily: But you'd do the same with an action sequence!

Jackie: Yeah. [laughter] But action…. yeah ...okay.

Emily: And you bring in your own stunt team right?

Jackie: Oh always. The stunt team is very important. When I was in Prague they said we don't have "stunt" man we have "brave" men. Brave men? They don't know. That kind of action I have to train them rhythm and timing. He's a stunt guy- he hit and at same time protect you. The Yugoslavia cameraman he runs away when I come at him…my own cameraman follows me chases - not afraid. I use my own people to protect me and keep everybody safe. I am the stunt coordinator.

Emily: So Jackie what's up with Highbinders?

Jackie: I finish Highbinders already and probably released in September.

Emily: So what's next?

Jackie: Then I do Around the World in 80 Days I start next month in Bangkok first. Then day after tomorrow I'm going to Berlin for film festival for my parents' documentary. Then I go three weeks location for Around the World then back to Bangkok to start the movie. We have a verbal on Shanghai Dawn.

Emily: And Owen?

Owen: Starsky and Hutch. We start in a month. I think it could be good. It's with Ben Stiller. And Wes actually has story about an oceanographer we hope to start towards the end of summer. September maybe.

Emily: The same group of people?

Owen: Yep. Same group of people...

Emily: How about a new script from that mind?

Owen: Yeah. I'm trying to make myself sit down and do a whole story I've been writing a little - adding - in these films. But nothing really.

Emily: Well get crackin' boy! We need more. You two have fun with all this publicity see ya soon!

Owen & Jackie: Thanks. [laughter] Sure.

END

What a fun time. It was like mental rest stops when Owen answered; a respite after Jackie bulleted out his thoughts - in broken English - at about 100 mph. The transcriber posted a note with the interview, "Not responsible for odd expressions or erroneous word groupings." I think he did just fine. You get the gist; they enjoy working together, they are proud of the film Shanghai Knights and they are both unique talents.

Owen's got The Starsky and Hutch thing and a new shindig with Wes Anderson brewing. While Jackie's in like 5492735 upcoming projects here and in Asia....we can all rest assured they'll be providing us with even more shenanigans shortly! In the mean time? Go see Shanghai Knights it's just plain old funny.

 

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