HONG KONG — Help for the people of Japan suffering the effects of earthquake, tsunami and radioactive fallout was only a phone call away. It helped that Jackie Chan was on one end of the call.
“When I picked up the phone and called my friends in the entertainment business in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Singapore, right away, they all agreed to come over,” Chan said.
The Hong Kong-born action superstar called in favors from across Asia for his disaster relief fund-raising concert, Artiste 311 Love Beyond Borders, which raked in more than HK$26 million ($3.3 million) — and counting — in donations in just three hours.
The concert was held Friday, but the cash kept flowing the next night at Chan’s wrap dinner for the production team, where co-organizers Eric Tsang and John Shum toasted their crew and wound down. “I still have some of the cash donations that people gave me today in my pocket,” Chan told The Hollywood Reporter.
Chan initiated the fund-raiser, held at the Victoria Park in Hong Kong, with longtime buddy Tsang, a film and TV multi-hyphenate who is always the first person Chan calls to kick off a disaster relief show, and John Shum, a veteran producer, director, actor, writer and political activist. The three organized the seven-hour Crossing Borders Fundraising Show for the Indian Ocean tsunami victims in January 2005 and the eight-hour Artistes 512 Fund Raising Campaign for those affected by the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan, China.
“It’s got to be a record to raise so much in just three hours,” Chan said of the show, which was headlined by Chan; Tsang; actors Andy Lau and Donnie Yen; the Wonder Girls and singer-songwriter Park Jin-young from South Korea; and from Japan, singer Sen Masao, actor Masatoshi Nakamura, girl group AKB48 and Judy Ongg, who is the best-known Chinese singer in that nation.
Even American Lionel Richie put in an appearance from Australia via satellite with a rendition of his “Say You, Say Me.”
“I’ve known Lionel Richie for 16 or 17 years,” Chan said. “We’re great friends. He has written a song called ‘One World’ for me.”
Chan rang up Richie during dinner to affectionately thank him.
“The only reason we couldn’t do a longer show is because of the venue,” Chan said. “We didn’t want to put on the show on April Fools’ Day, but with everyone’s schedules and the venue, we’d rather go ahead for April 1.”
Chan said organizers put the show together in only 11 days.
Chan has a long relationship with Japan, having established his enormous popularity in the early 1980s. The disasters that shook the country had a personal dimension for the actor, too. “Forty of my Japanese fans are now missing; my fan club there is trying their best to find them and keep me posted,” Chan said.
“Earthquakes have struck Japan many, many times before. But what shocked me was the tsunami, especially when we saw all the videos of strong waves hitting the towns. Then there was the nuclear crisis. Even when we wanted to help, we didn’t know where to start. After the Sichuan earthquake in China, I chartered planes to deliver provisions to the affected population, but this time, there was no road to reach the disaster-struck areas.”
The fund-raiser took place three weeks after the disaster, which some deemed too late a response. Said Chan: “Japan is a developed, wealthy nation and has all kinds of resources and experience for disaster relief. We tried to wait and see what we could do to help, but the situation just got worse and worse. For years, my Japanese fans have made a great effort to raise money for my charity, to build schools in China and to help the victims of the Sichuan earthquake. It’s time for me to return the favor and do what we can to help.”
To Chan, the most difficult part of organizing the event was the overwhelming number of willing participants. “There are just too many performers,” he said. “The production team consists of fewer than 40 people, but 300 performers showed up. Almost everyone from Japan that we asked agreed to come over. But then we had to ask ourselves, what role could they play? What should they perform? Because, you know, every guest means a plane ticket, a hotel room, each for the guest and their assistants.”
Chan paid for the plane tickets and accommodations for all the overseas performers and their assistants and contributed nearly HK$5 million ($643,000).
All proceeds from the concert, minus expenses, will be passed on to the Salvation Army, which will deliver emergency relief packs to people in the affected areas. The $60 packs include a 15-day supply of food and water, personal care and hygiene products and blankets.
For all his physical comedies and international celebrity, Chan is also a philanthropist. He established his Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1988 in Hong Kong and has since set up branches in China and Hawaii. In 2004, he set up Dragon’s Heart Foundation expressly for the children in China. Through his charitable foundations, he has raised and donated millions to such diverse efforts as the aid for the disaster victims in Haiti, emergency assistance in Japan, orphans in South Korea and schools in China.
The energetic star estimates that he has given out at least half of what he had earned throughout his career. “I guess more than HK$100 million ($12.8 million), but not as much as $100 million,” he said. Now he tries to match what the foundations raise. “It’d be more substantial if I can match the sum,” he said. “The worst thing would be to ask others to give but not give yourself.”
“My goal is to have a $0 in my bank account the day I die,” the 56-year-old Chan said with a shrug. “I get very happy when I think about that, no more worries. I buy the things I like, I give money to charity, and then I try to make more money. I’ll be frank with you: It’s not difficult for me to make money. If it’s easy, why shouldn’t I give it away?”