Why Jackie Chan Always Does His Own Stunts (& The Movie That Started It)

Jackie Chan’s commitment to always doing his own stunts began with one movie in the 1980s. Widely regarded as one of the greatest martial arts icons of all time, Chan is renowned for more than his fighting ability. Chan also has a reputation for doing all of his own stuntwork, even when the action calls for his character to be put in potentially life-threatening situations.

Jackie Chan’s long career in the film industry is filled with stories of the actor risking his life and suffering severe injuries on set. It’s a pattern that goes back decades with Chan participating in a long list of headline-grabbing stunts, many of which being scenes that involved long falls. Regularly joined by his own group of trained stuntmen, the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, the actor has made a name for himself all over the world jumping off multi-story buildings, leaping through glass windows, hanging off helicopters, and fighting on moving vehicles. Rumble in the Bronx, Armour of God, Drunken Master II, Who am I?, and the Police Story films are all among the many movies to put the kung fu star in mortal peril.


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In his 2015 autobiography, Never Grow Up, Chan explained why it’s so important that he never has a body double perform his stunts for him. According to the actor, his tendency to put himself in danger – as opposed to a stuntman – began with 1983’s Project A, one of the Hong Kong movies he made with Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. Chan, believing wholeheartedly that he could pull off a dangerous stunt, went through it despite the reservations of the cast and crew. This set a trend for Chan because in the words of the actor, doing his own stunts makes Jackie Chan stand out from everyone other actor in the industry. He refers to this as one of several traits which help define a “Jackie Chan movie”.

Project A’s Clock Tower Stunt Explained

Jackie Chan falls from a clock tower in Project A

As for the Project A stunt that started it all, that would be the famous clock tower fall at the end of the film. In the movie, Jackie Chan’s character was hanging from one of the hands of the clock at the top of the 72-foot-tall tower when he lost his grip and fell through two awnings before hitting the ground. In his book, Chan revealed that fear kept him from shooting the scene for several days straight, as he would get in position and then develop second thoughts about the long fall. Finally, Chan went through with it but ultimately shot it two more times to make sure the scene was perfect.

While movie studios would naturally prefer to keep their lead actors out of harm’s way, it actually makes sense for Chan to prefer to do his own stuntwork in movies like Project A. As someone who had years of experience as a stuntman long before becoming a martial arts star, Chan certainly had the capability. And as a result of his dedication to ensuring all of his movies follow this specific formula, Jackie Chan succeeded in creating what he considers the “key element” of his image.