September 18, 2005

Jackie Chan & the British Museum

Posted at 6:15 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

Internationally renowned star of many action films, Jackie Chan speaks out about the injustice of items kept by the British Museum rather than in their countries of origin.
In an interview with the Malay Mail, the Hong Kong based actor stated “No one can go to another country and steal their national treasures and say that they are temporarily keeping them. They are actually claiming it as their own and this is a despicable act.” He went on to say “After watching my movie, the British Museum might decide to return all the exhibits from China back to its homeland. That would be great.” Both these statements are relating to the story behind his new film The Myth, but this is not the first time that Chan’s films have made references to artefacts from other cultures held in the museums of the west. A couple of examples that instantly spring to mind are Jui Kuen II (In The Legend of the Drunken Master) where there are scenes where The British are trying to steal Chinese artefacts to sell them to the British Museum. Around the World in 80 Days contains a scene where Chan takes a jade Buddha from the British Museum to return it to his village in China.

Malay Mail (Malaysia)

Cover Story: Myth with a message
Chow Ee-Tan
Sept 16:
Hong Kong heavyweight Jackie Chan returns to the screen in ‘the myth’…, pens CHOW EE-TAN.

A JACKIE Chan movie is always entertaining and full of action. But hardly thought-provoking.

Perhaps he’s getting wiser as he gets older – in his latest movie The Myth, Chan has a message he wants the world to hear.

That scene shows Chan making a statement to his ambitious scientist friend who wanted to take a historical treasure to experiment on.

“No one can go to another country and steal their national treasures and say that they are temporarily keeping them. They are actually claiming it as their own and this is a despicable act.”

Or something to that effect anyway.

Chan, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to promote the film, said that as a movie-maker, he had a responsibility to spread messages important to mankind.

“I’m saying this on behalf of countries like China and Egypt which have lost their national treasures to other countries.

“ After watching my movie, the British Museum might decide to return all the exhibits from China back to its homeland. That would be great,” said Chan at a Press conference.

He was accompanied by The Myth director Stanley Tong and co-star Mallika Sherawat.

The superstar, although normally amiable, displayed his stern side when he told off a reporter for asking a question relating to his son Jaycee.

There were reports from Hong Kong saying that for Chan’s charity concert in Shanghai earlier, he had invited local songstress Penny Tai to participate as a bid to match-make his son.

“Shouldn’t we talk about The Myth today and not about Jaycee? The standard of the Malaysian media should not be this low. Don’t go for gossip like the Hong Kong Press!”

As you might have guessed, no more questions were asked on that issue.

Chan and director Tong were, however, more than keen to talk about the movie.

The Myth boasts an international cast including Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Ka-Fai (The Lover), Kim Hee Seon (Bichunmoo and A Letter from Mars) and action star Choi Min Soo – both from Korea, as well as Indian beauty Mallika.

The Indian actress, who was also present at the Press conference, said it was all worth it to be in a Jackie Chan’s film despite the ‘torture’ she underwent in a fight scene.

“I cried, I howled, but I fought on and in the end, it was all worth it,” said Mallika who said she had learnt a lot from Chan, Tong and other actors.

In The Myth, Chan displays once again his trademark spectacular martial art technique, humour, and dramatic acting skills.

He plays two different characters in the movie. One is Jack, an archaeologist in the present day who is independent and carefree but troubled by recurring dreams.

The other is the man in his dream: The loyal General Meng Yi from Qin Dynasty, whose purpose in life is to serve his liege the First Emperor of China.

He is a fierce warrior whose heart is consumed by a forbidden and unrequited love.

“The General was the most difficult role for me. He is so expressionless and repressed. At least in New Police Story, I could cry, but for this role, I couldn’t laugh or cry!” At 51, Chan still wants to be a action star for several more years, and claimed that dramatic roles are tougher than action roles.

His next Hollywood movie will be out only in 2007. In the meantime, he plans to go behind the scenes to produce more action movies, make small-budget films and National Geographic-style documentaries, and help train young directors and stunt actors.

He said the US market is now saturated with too many movies, noting that many recent action movies fizzled amid Hollywood box-office slumps.

“These days there are no more clear distinctions between ‘American movie’ and Chinese movie’ as they are all international movies. Even major Hollywood studios are looking to link up with China,” he said.

One interesting part in the The Myth talks about the immortality pill, or the Elixir of Eternal Youth.

If such pill does exist, would Chan take it?

“I used to think about it and spurred by this movie, some of my friends have also talked about it recently. I would never take the pill myself. But I might take it together with all my friends,” he said.

Chan said that although he might long for a more youthful body, growing old was actually a blessing as not everyone has the chance to do that.

“As for me, I’m just middle-aged, I haven’t grown old yet,” he laughed.

When this writer pointed out that his love interest in his movies were always women half his age, Chan has this to say:

“You may disagree but women usually age faster than men. It is still believable for me to play Kim Hee-Seon’s lover but I think the audience would find it hard to accept, say, if Maggie Cheung plays Daniel Wu’s lover.

“I heard there are producers asking Maggie to play Daniel’s mother!”

Chan, however, disclosed that he might soon be playing an ‘aged’ role in Ngok Fei Juen (The biopic of Ngok Fei).

“My son (Jaycee) will be play the younger Ngok Fei while I will be playing the older version,” he said.

History, legends and Jackie-style adventure

FORBIDDEN LOVE: Kim Hee Seon plays royal consort Ok Soo, and Jackie plays Meng Yee, a general who falls for her

IN ‘The Myth’, director Stanley Tong combines 2,000-year-old Chinese mythology with modern-day action adventure, with scenes that alternate from present day to Qin Dynasty.

There is a little of history, myth and cultural undertones in the film.

For instance, legend has it that during the 36th year of the reign of emperor Qin Shihuang, ‘a star fell from the sky into the Eastern Province, where it became a stone.’

The stone foretold that the Earth would split for the death of Qin Shihuang.

The emperor, who was at the time on a quest for the Elixir of Eternal Youth, killed the villagers who lived near the rock – and then discovered its incredible power of anti-gravity.

Qin Shihuang started to build a royal tomb for himself despite his infatuation with immortality.

Through the prodigious endeavours of more than 700,000 forced labourers, the mausoleum was completed 37 years later.

To ensure utmost secrecy, all those who worked on the project were buried alive with the dead Emperor.

Over the next 2,000 years, historians, tomb-raiders, and happy-go-lucky adventurers alike have been homing in on the royal treasure buried within.

However, no one has ever succeeded in locating the entrance to the mausoleum. Thus the bulk of the First Emperor’s treasure, including the much-fabled elixir of youth, remains intact.

The film gets into pace when intrepid archeologist Jack (Jackie Chan) and ambitious scientist William (Tony Leung Ka Fai) set out on an adventure.

Their journey starts at Dasar, India, where they stumble upon an ancient sword from the Qin Dynasty and a magical gemstone that appears to be able to defy gravity.

The booty not only leads them to the mythical mausoleum, but also connects Jack to his ‘past life’ in his dreams.

In his dreams, Jack is Meng Yi, a Qin General who falls for the First Emperor’s beautiful consort Ok Soo (Kim Hee Seon).

As Meng Yi commands his troops in an increasingly desperate war against rebels, he also has to battle his inner desires in choosing between eternal love and loyalty.

Computer effects are heavily used such as in the innovative creation of an anti-gravitational Laboratory of William.

In the final part of the movie, there is the rather grand ‘Palace in the Sky’, based on historical text which said the Qin emperor had built such a place.

With the help of computer modeling, artists used Qin dynasty architectural and design elements in creating the Palace in the Sky, giving it an ethereal and romantic setting for the climactic ending.

But the largest set in The Myth is the one used for the General’s final battle scene. It was a grand scale production, involving thousands of soldiers and horses from the Chinese military and cavalry posing as the mighty army of the Qin Dynasty.

The battle was shot at the Yellow River Forest of Rocks in faraway Jinsu Province and the Jinxi Plains of Beijing.

The production was extensive. There were 300 crew members working on top of the thousands of extras in battle scenes.

Many were injured on the set, including one where 22 people got hurt.

* ‘The Myth’ opens in cinemas nationwide on Sept 23.

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