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Jackie Chan biography: Taking the hits

  • Story Highlights
  • Action hero who does his own stunts is international movie star
  • Actor trained at China Drama Academy before starting career as stunt man
  • Chan is an official ambassador for the Olympic Games this summer
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By Dean Irvine
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(CNN) -- He's thrown himself off more buildings than he can remember and broken more bones than an actor has any right to and still be alive and working today, but at 54 years old, Jackie Chan's days of taking spectacular tumbles may be coming to an end.

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Jackie Chan: From chop socky superstar to Olympics ambassador.

"You gotta change," he told Anjali Rao for Talk Asia. "I want to be an actor, not an action star; I want to be an actor who can fight."

The body, battered as it has been by thousands of stunts, may still be willing, but a will to be taken more seriously as an actor means that at the very least, his next project is a self-directed drama rather than an action flick.

Despite his best efforts, it's probably too late for Jackie Chan to be seen by most film-goers as anything other than a comedic action star. The fact that he can now direct his own productions, however, indicates just how far he's come in a career in film that has spanned four decades.

The movie hero has been at the heart of Hong Kong's chop socky film industry for over 30 years, fostering a knock-about on-screen image that has seen him appear in almost 100 films and pioneer the comic kung-fu genre.

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As a boy he studied theatre and acrobatics at the China Drama Academy in Hong Kong. He describes the hardship of life under his master at the academy - where learning was based on strict physical discipline - as more like the army than a school.

After nearly a decade spent learning the physical hardships that a career in the Hong Kong film industry had in-store, his first foray into film was as a stuntman on Bruce Lee films. It was only when he developed his humorous on-screen persona in "Drunken Master" in 1978 that he found greater success as a leading actor, and one more than capable or doing his own stunts.

After several attempts to translate his success in Hong Kong cinema to wider audiences in the U.S. and Europe, it was only after he made 'Rumble in the Bronx" that Hollywood took notice. His big-budget Hollywood films include the "Rush Hour" series and "Shanghai Noon," where he starred alongside Owen Wilson.

His next cinematic venture to hit the screens is alongside Jet Li in "The Forbidden Kingdom," before he takes a lead role as an ambassador for the Beijing Olympics leading up to this year's Games and as one of the torch bearers when the Olympic Torch arrives in Hong Kong in May.

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As well as being as firm supporter of the Olympic Games in China, he has combined his dubious penchant for singing ballads (he has released over 20 albums) with this role, releasing an official song to mark the impending event last summer.

There is also a more serious side to Chan away from the screen. As well as funding a number of charitable projects he has also become a UNICEF Good Will Ambassador, leading Forbes magazine to him as one of the 'Top 10 Generous Celebs.' E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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