The audience shouldn’t keep expectations for Jet Li’s eagerly anticipated fight scenes with Jackie Chan in the upcoming Hollywood movie "The Forbidden Kingdom" because it's not that kind of movie - and they both are getting too old.
In a phone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, 44-year-old Li said he and Chan, 53, talked about working together for more than a decade.
"When Jackie Chan and I first wanted to work together 15 years ago, our passion was at its peak. We were both in our 30s. Our desire to succeed was very strong," Li said. "Now we joke that when we watch the 'The Forbidden Kingdom' our combined age is 100."
But, he added, if the audiences still want fight scenes, "we'll oblige."
The martial arts stars come to blows in "The Forbidden Kingdom" because of misunderstandings rather than genuine animosity, and that the story doesn't really call for anything more, Li said.
"How intense are the battle scenes? My mentality is to not have high expectations," he warned.
"The Forbidden Kingdom," due out in the U.S. on Friday, is about an American teenager's fantasy journey to ancient China to rescue a mythological monkey king. The idea for the film originates from the classic Chinese novel "Journey to the West," in which a monkey king, a pig and a friar guard a Buddhist monk in search of religious texts.
Li plays the monkey king and a silent monk, while Chan will play another monk called T'sa-Ho.
But audiences should no longer look for reflections of Li's true character or beliefs in the films that he appears in.
"I'm done talking about my aspirations for martial arts," he said.
Li said "Fearless" - a 2006 film about a brash, proud young man's transformation into a sage master - captured his true philosophy of martial arts, but that all his movies since then have merely been a means to an end.
"I don't necessarily identify with the stories I act in. I don't necessarily have to agree with their handling of violence and life. I'm just an actor. ... I just do my job," he said. "Often when I go back to the hotel after shooting I reflect on why I'm doing this."
The actor's focus, he says, is One Foundation, a charity he launched recently to promote disaster relief and mental health among youngsters and that acting gives him the profile to promote the cause.
"If I don't have the platform of movies, how can I get the chance to promote my beliefs?" he said. "It's quite a painful choice."
Li, a former Chinese kung fu champion, made his name in Hong Kong movies with the "Once Upon a Time in China" series before moving to Hollywood.
But although his Hollywood movies have been consistent box office earners, he hasn't crossed the US$100 million (EUR74 million) mark at the U.S. box office, according to figures compiled by sales-tracking Web site Box Office Mojo.
Li said his movies are budgeted and marketed with a specific return in mind.
"The budget for the kind of action movies I make won't exceed US$35 million (EUR25.91 million). You have to earn that amount back in global sales. Your marketing budget is limited, perhaps between US$5 and US$8 million (EUR4 and EUR6 million). With that setup, your box office will fall between US$20 and US$40 million (EUR15 and EUR30 million)," he said.
"This business approach - how much to invest, how many people will watch movies of this kind - it's a fixed model," Li said.
Li called the martial arts hit "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" an aberration, saying that usually huge box office successes are underpinned with comparably larger production and marketing budgets.
The Oscar-winning Ang Lee film set a record for the top-grossing foreign-language film in U.S. box office history, earning US$128 million (EUR95 million), according to Box Office Mojo figures.
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