Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images
Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images

11 Things You Might Not Know About Jackie Chan

Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images
Kiyoshi Ota, Getty Images

Long before computer effects helped keep leading actors safe during stunts, Hong Kong superstar Jackie Chan achieved international acclaim by putting his body and life at risk—often for multiple takes. Films like The Legend of the Drunken Master and Police Story showcased Chan’s willingness to endure traumatic injury for his comedic ballets of violence. Here are a few things you might not have known about the man who seems to have the cinema DNA of both Bruce Lee and Charlie Chaplin.

1. HIS MOTHER WAS AN OPIUM SMUGGLER.

Born Chan Kong-sang in 1954, Chan’s early life has been the subject of much discussion. His parents left him behind in Hong Kong when Chan was just seven years old: They fled a Communist regime and settled in Australia, working for the American Embassy. Chan lived at a boarding school that emphasized performance arts. Only in more recent years did Chan discover more about his parents. His father, Fang Daolang, was involved in illicit criminal activities and may have been a Nationalist spy; his mother had once been arrested for smuggling opium and had connections to the Shanghai underworld. Chan reunited with his father in 2003. His mother passed away in 2001.

2. HIS SCHOOL EDUCATION WAS GRUELING.

Jackie Chan poses for a publicity photo
Central Press/Getty Images

Enrolled at boarding school from ages seven to 17, Chan was subjected to some of the most physically and emotionally grueling training imaginable. The Chinese Opera Research Institute in Hong Kong put its students through arduous training to prepare them for a career in theater, including singing, dancing, and martial arts. Some days, Chan said, lessons would last 19 hours. By the time Chan graduated, however, ending up in Peking opera was unlikely. Instead, Chan turned his skills to martial arts films.

3. HE WENT FULL-FRONTAL FOR AN ADULT MOVIE.

Virtually all of Chan’s films treat violence with a comedic bent, and few have any excessive gore or content that would make them unsuitable for general audiences. But Chan does have one entry on his resume that probably wouldn’t qualify for family movie night. In 1975, Chan appeared in All in the Family, a Hong Kong softcore feature that starred a prominent adult film actress and featured Chan naked, albeit not engaged in any sexual activity. “I had to do anything I could to make a living 31 years ago,” he said in 2006 of his reasons for making the film, “but I don't think it's a big deal. Even Marlon Brando used to be exposed in his movies. The porn movie at that time was more conservative than the current films.”

4. HE TOOK BRUCE LEE BOWLING.

Statues of Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee stand in a public area
Andrew Cowie, AFP/Getty Images

Early in Chan’s career, he made brief appearances in two Bruce Lee films: 1972’s The Chinese Connection and 1973’s Enter the Dragon. Months later, Chan was headed to a bowling alley when Lee spotted him in the street and asked to join him. Chan agreed, and the two played while Chan kept busy rebuffing autograph-seekers eager to get to Lee. Just about 10 days later, Lee would be dead of cerebral edema at age 32. "I was totally shocked," Chan said.

5. HE SOMETIMES USES STUNTMEN—FOR WALKING SCENES.

While Chan is willing and able to perform his own stunts, that doesn’t mean he’s put stuntmen completely out of business. In 2013, Chan told Yahoo! that stunt performers are sometimes used as stand-ins for his movies when scenes require his character to walk around, drive, or perform other menial tasks so Chan can rest. The actor also said he has stuntmen perform stunt tests so he has an idea of what to expect when he steps in front of the camera.

6. HE THOUGHT RUSH HOUR WAS TERRIBLE.

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker pose for photos during a public appearance
Scott Gries, Getty Images

Though Chan experienced some success as a cult movie figure thanks to re-releases of his earlier movies in the 1990s, his big American break came as a result of 1998’s Rush Hour, which paired him with Chris Tucker. With limited opportunity to do his own stunts and the film relying on the culture clash between his character and Tucker’s, Chan didn’t really understand the appeal. “That’s a terrible movie,” he remembered telling his manager. “They don’t allow me to do my own style [of action]. The English, I’m not good. Chris Tucker’s English, I don’t understand. Terrible movie!”

7. HE HAD AN ARMED STANDOFF WITH THE TRIAD GANG.

Chan’s celebrity in Hong Kong has led to considerable wealth: His stature and fortune eventually led to him crossing paths with the notorious Triad gang in China. According to Time, Chan has said he has frequently been harassed by the criminal organization over the years, including one instance where members shot at him as he deboarded a plane. Tired of the conflict, Chan claimed he once confronted them with a gun and had grenades ready for a more explosive standoff. Because firearms carry heavy criminal penalties in Hong Kong, authorities contacted Chan after he told the story. After Chan told them the incident took place out of the region, they declined to pursue the matter further.

8. HE LIKES ASKING CELEBRITIES TO POSE WITH HIS TWO STUFFED PANDAS.

Jackie Chan poses with two stuffed pandas
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

In 2010, Chan visited a Build-a-Bear Workshop in London and constructed two stuffed panda bears that he named Chan La and Chan Zy. The actor is fond of traveling with them and asking fellow performers to pose with them for photos. His pandas have met Ang Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, and Bill Clinton. The two also escorted him to the Academy Awards in 2017.

9. HE OWNED A SEGWAY DEALERSHIP.

Excited by the clean-transportation potential of the Segway scooter, Chan opened a dealership in 2006 and secured distribution rights to peddle the product throughout Asia. The actor wanted to promote a low-emission vehicle, though it was a pricey option: The retail cost of the Segway at the time in the U.S. was $5000. In China, it went for $10,000.

10. HE HAS A PERMANENT HOLE IN HIS HEAD.

Jackie Chan looks into the lens of a camera
J.P. Moczulski, AFP/Getty Images

Considering Chan’s prolific stunt career, it’s slightly amazing he’s still with us. But he had a very close brush with death shooting 1986's Armour of God. Describing the action as “simple,” Chan swung from a tree and hit his head on a rock, necessitating a surgically-inserted metal plate and a permanent, quarter-sized indentation in his skull. Chan will sometimes invite people, like co-stars or talk show hosts, to stick their fingers in it.

11. HE HOLDS THE GUINNESS WORLD RECORD FOR MOST CREDITS ON A MOVIE.

Chan often directs, produces, and stars in his Hong Kong films, but some projects have inspired him to take on additional responsibilities. For 2012’s Chinese Zodiac, Chan earned a Guinness World Record for most credits (15) in a single film. In addition to directing, producing, and acting, he is also credited as fight choreographer, composer, art director, unit production manager, gaffer, theme tune vocalist, writer, cinematographer, stuntman, prop work, and catering coordinator.

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare

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