Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li

Jackie Chan and Jet Li, the two most revered martial arts stars in the world today, appear together for the first time in filmmaking history in “The Forbidden Kingdom.”

In this epic action-adventure tale, Boston teenager Jason Tripitikas confronts the toughest journey he has ever faced in his life, one which takes him on a dangerous mission through ancient China where he learns the art of kung fu from his mismatched teachers, Lu Yan and the Silent Monk.

While both Jet Li and Jackie Chan, who are close friends, have long expressed a mutual desire to work together, it wasnt until “Forbidden Kingdom” that either had found an appropriate project that featured two strong roles and memorable fight sequences. When Li read screenwriter John Fuscos script, he knew the time had finally come.

I was immediately impressed by the extensive knowledge of various ancient Chinese legends, says Li. Stories like the Monkey King, which “Forbidden Kingdom” is based on, are completely unknown to most Western audiences. But the script got so many details right, and it created this great fusion of Eastern and Western sensibilities. It seemed like the perfect way to bring this character to an international audience.

Jackie Chan readily admits that his attraction to the movie hinged on Lis involvement. I have always hoped to make movies with some people whom I really admire, like Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, before I retire from this business, he says. Jet Li is someone with whom I have wanted to work for more than ten years.

Producer Casey Silver also saw the great potential in Fuscos script that could bring the two martial arts giants together for the first time. As soon as I read the screenplay, says Silver, there seemed to be parts that would be perfectly suited to both of them. So thus began the journey of trying to get two big stars who hadnt worked together to collaborate, join the adventure and I think it was a testament to the strength of Johns screenplay.

When the momentous day finally came for Chan and Li to shoot their first fight sequence together, the chemistry was palpable. It was seamless, avows Chan. With most people, you have to practice. But with Jet, I don't know why, we both looked at each other and we just said, Lets just do it, yeah. And we did it. The first two takes were so fast that everybody had to tell us to slow down or theyd have to use slow motion.

According to Chan, most fight sequences require about ten to fifteen takes per segment; but his sequences with Li required only three to five. All I did was tell Jet Id do these few strokes and let him know my rhythm. He would pick up my rhythm and just react with his strokes. That kind of chemistry is rare.

Known for the animated feature, “The Lion King,” director Rob Minkoff received the script of “Forbidden Kingdom” from producer Casey Silver shortly after returning from a trip to China. Minkoff had learned of the legend of the Monkey King during his travels, only to discover weeks later that it was the inspiration for the film.

It was very much an omen, recalls the director. The script was terrific; all the characters were charismatic and jumped to life. And the opportunity to work with Jet Li and Jackie Chan was such a once in a lifetime opportunity. I agreed at once.

I was really taken with Rob, both because of his past work, and also for his great interest, admiration and respect for Chinese culture, says Silver. I found him to be extraordinarily astute about the stories, the characters and the story structure. This, combined with his past experience and the movies he has made, seemed to make him the perfect man for the job. We were very lucky to have him.

The miracle of Robs direction is that he was able to create a film with a Western point of view that can still be appreciated by Asians and the Chinese, says Li.

Minkoff wanted to give “Forbidden Kingdom” a different tone from the recent spate of martial arts films that began with “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Tiger.” While remaining faithful to the cultural traditions that make martial arts films so special and unique, we wanted to make a more universally accessible movie that would be enjoyed by people of all ages and cultures, he explains.

Adds Silver, Robs tone as a storyteller is peppered with a playfulness and a comedic bent. He understands romance and he understands emotion. He has been able to depict the classic underpinnings of the heros journey with a humorous tone, which is what we wanted to achieve.

Action superstar Jet Li, who has two young daughters, sees the wide appeal of the film as an advantage. Having made so many violent movies in my career to date, I thought it was about time I made a film that families with children will be able to enjoy together. This is the film that I am making for my two girls.
Being both a martial arts film and a contemporary American film makes this unlike any martial arts film before, adds executive producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. All we wanted to do is make a fun, good movie that will appeal to both the East and the West, and I think weve done it.