Q&A: Jaycee Chan

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L.A.-born Jaycee Chan has big shoes to fill, and he knows it. The actor and singer-songwriter (he released the album "Jaycee" in 2004) is expanding on the work of his superstar father Jackie; his mother, Taiwan-born actress Lin Feng-jiao; and godfather Leo Ho, co-founder of Hong Kong movie giant Golden Harvest. "I'm still in their shadow," he says. "Slowly, hopefully, I can put out my own name." Despite attending high school and college in the West, Chan is happy roaming the East these days, looking back on his time in California with one regret. "I didn't get a girlfriend back then," he confides. "In the States, they were either pretty hot and popular or really ugly. I didn't want an ugly girlfriend." Now in Beijing remaking Eddie Murphy's role as the little dragon in a live-action version of "Mulan," Chan talks about his heroes, his craft and the challenges facing Asia's young entertainers. Walking quickly away from rolling cameras and whispering so as not to disturb the set on his first day on "Mulan," Chan, an honoree in THR's inaugural Next Gen Asia class, talked with Asia editor Jonathan Landreth.

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The Hollywood Reporter: Who are your heroes and why?

Jaycee Chan: Of course, a lot of people would say Marlon Brando or Al Pacino ... but the Western actor that I really like the most is Johnny Depp. He's in control of what he can do, and not a lot of actors can do that. He can be himself sometimes in a movie, and he can also be a totally different person, like in "Pirates of the Caribbean." A lot of people have to be themselves in every single movie, but Johnny Depp can just change himself at another whole level.

THR: If you couldn't act or sing to make a living, what would you do? What's your secret dream job?

Chan: Maybe a photographer. It depends on what kind of photography. If it's studio photography, you get to see a lot of pretty people every day, but if you do documentary pictures, say, like a war photographer, you could visit all different kinds of countries and show people what you see and also the truth.

THR: If you could work with one director anywhere in the world, who would it be?

Chan: Does that include the ones I've already worked with? Jiang Wen. I would like to work with him again. He's the one who brought me to the Venice Film Festival (with 2007's "The Sun Also Rises"), so I really thank him for that. I'd like to work with him again and hopefully we could go even further. He's such a great actor already, so as a director, he can tell people exactly what he wants. He has very good communication with actors.

THR: Was there a day when you had trouble and he was able to help you?

Chan: We were about to shoot a scene in which I was supposed to cry. Well, I can't really cry. So he sort of found a way, out of the blue, to touch me, and my tears just came running down. He's really good at persuading and talking with people, or reading what people know, and reading people's minds. He's really good.

THR: What did he tell you that made you cry?

Chan: It was easy. I missed home after four or five months of shooting. But I wasn't thinking of that, because I was very nervous on the set, trying to get myself crying, and all of a sudden he just came up to me and said something like, "Your mom's at home. Just work hard a few more days and you'll be home soon. Make your mom proud." My tears just freaking flew down. It was really good. He knew I really want to make my mom and dad proud. That's one of my lifetime goals.

THR: Which movie of your father's is your favorite? Least favorite?

Chan: "Miracles" is my favorite because it's a good action movie and he did it. (The 1989 film is a Hong Kong adaptation of Frank Capra's 1961 "A Pocketful of Miracles"). At first, a lot of people said, "Oh, he can only do action films. He has no camera angle, no skills at lighting and such." But that one, he shut everyone up. Everyone who doubted him, he basically just shut them up as the director of his own movie. The one I like least is "City Hunter" (1993), because it's just kind of cheesy.

THR: What you do for entertainment?

Chan: Fishing. I like to study red wine and I'm starting golf because I don't want to start learning when I'm 50. My friends know I suck now, so I want to start now so I'll be really good by the time I'm 50.

THR: Did you learn fishing with your grandfather, who passed away last year?

Chan: Yeah. He's gone to a place that's better, so it's all good.

THR: When you fish, do you think about him?

Chan: Actually, I do. I want to fish more so that I can have a better sense of stuff that he would do normally. Golfing, my grandfather didn't do, but my godfather (Golden Harvest co-founder Leonard Ho Koon Cheung) does. I'm picking it up to experience what he does, in his shadow.

THR: How are you preparing for your new role every morning?

Chan: This is my first day at work. I'm really nervous. Today, I didn't do anything to prepare. I just woke up and washed my face and ate, ate a lot. And I try to stay in a happy and open-minded mood and try to do whatever the director asks me to. I just want to get along with all the actors and actresses so we have a really smooth shoot.

THR: What's the biggest challenge to young entertainers in Asia today?

Chan: I think the hardest part for a young entertainer in Asia is the same as the rest of the world, which is to make their own name so that people actually recognize their face and remember their name. It's easy to be known but it's hard to be famous. I'm lucky to have a dad who's really famous, but (people) don't really know me for who I am ... they just know me as Jackie Chan's son. The hardest part for me is to let people know what I'm really capable of doing on my own. For other normal entertainment youngsters, it's even harder. In Hong Kong, there's a lack of twentysomething actors and actresses. There are a lot of talented young people, but it's hard to find them. That's why a lot of directors are using the same people over and over, because they can't really find anybody.
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