Jackie's bundle of joy
There's more to action hero Jackie Chan than slick kung fu moves. He's also a dab hand at changing diapers.
On a recent visit to Thailand, the Hong Kong actor dropped into the Thai Red Cross Children's Home at Chulalongkorn University, where he donated diapers and deftly changed a baby boy in front of clicking cameras.
Yet the star of the new action comedy "Rob-B-Hood", says working alongside a pint-sized actor was not a bundle of fun.
"Working with a baby is very difficult. He's the king on the set," the 52-year-old actor revealed during a recent interview at the Dusit Thani Hotel.
In "Rob-B-Hood", Chan plays a compulsive gambler who kidnaps a tycoon's baby grandson, but later has a change of heart and protects the baby from the gangsters for whom he works.
The baby, Matthew Medvedev in real life, is a half-Chinese, half-Colombian cutie who Chan's assistant director spotted in the subway while his parents were on a three-day visit to Hong Kong.
After the initial surprise, mum and dad agreed to stay on and let the boy be part of the film, which involves him in such adventures as a high-speed car chase, being dropped from a balcony and getting rescued from a car crash.
And even though much of the action doesn't require a real live baby, it's hard to work with an infant who doesn't understand cues for when to cry or smile. The crew simply had to wait for the little boy to be ready.
"Working with animals is easier - they can be trained to work to order. With a baby, you are at their command. It will be my last project with such a young child," Chan gripes.
"Rob-B-Hood" also stars comedian Michael Hui, who made a string of popular movies in the 1980s and '90s before leaving for Canada just before the British handover of Hong Kong to China. Last year, he returned to the limelight. Chan was quick to snap him up.
"Michael is perfect for the role of a man who has to convince other characters to do bad things. I immediately thought of him," he says.
Fans of heartthrob actor/singer Louis Koo may be surprised to see him in an action comedy, but Chan says he's very disciplined and always ready to learn.
"He's punctual and remained on the set even though he was through for the day."
Chan grins as he recounts his reception at the Venice International Film Festival where "Rob-B-Hood" premiered earlier this month.
"I was trying to introduce myself as the new Jackie Chan, a character actor rather than an action star. But my fans greeted me by gesticulating and shouting wildly 'Ah, ah Jackie Chan!' making kung fu gestures.
"They welcomed [Robert] De Niro with something closer to subdued awe."
He says the same happens in Bangkok.
At 52, he admits that his movements are not as fast as they used to be.
"It's a miracle I can do so much at my age.
"I've been looking to change my roles for quite some time. I'm fed up doing the same parts."
Chan's last three films have reflected this trend.
He surprised his Asian fans with "New Police Story 5", a movie that combines drama with action rather than his trademark action comedy with slapstick kung fu.
In "The Myth", he tried his hand at fantasy, and in "Rob-B-Hood", he's making another attempt at drama, but this time playing a bad guy.
"I want to be an actor who can play action rather than an action hero who can act," says Chan.
While acknowledging that all three movies still have plenty of action, he admits that age alone will soon force him to slow down.
After finishing his Asian tour for "Rob-B-Hood", Chan returns to Paris to shoot the Hollywood flick "Rush Hour 3".
Chan has said on several occasions that he isn't totally happy about the stereotype Asian character in Western productions, yet he continues to work on both sides of the globe.
"In Hong Kong I get less money but more fun. But in Hollywood it's the same old song. The Hollywood studio would never pay $100 million [Bt3.74 billion] to do a new episode of 'A New Police Story' or 'The Myth', but I believe that they are willing to pay $200 million to make 'Rush Hour 4'
or '5'," says the actor.
"It's a very different audience."
Chan, who is widely regarded as the successor to martial-arts legend Bruce Lee, feels he has done well to work in the genre for so long.
He'd like to see Thailand's action hero Phanom "Tony Jaa" Yeerum step into his shoes.
"He has beautiful choreography and he can do anything in action."