Ex-Manager Willie Chan on Jackie Chan, “Fame Got to His Head”
Best known for lifting Jackie Chan’s (成龍) career to international superstardom, former manager Willie Chan‘s (陳自強) relationship with Jackie had gone sour. Willie said, “Fame got to his head” and that Jackie was no longer his old self.
Jackie hailed from the performance group Seven Little Fortunes and worked as a stuntman in the 1970s. Willie, fascinated by Jackie’s stunt work, took him under his wing and secured Jackie lead roles in Lo Wei’s (羅維) New Fist of Fury <新精武門> and Yuen Woo Ping’s (袁和平) Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow <蛇形刁手>. Both films were big box office successes, pushing Jackie to be the next biggest action star after Bruce Lee (李小龍).
Willie managed Jackie’s career for the next 38 years until 2008, when Willie announced that has he decided to step down as manager of the star, leaving all management responsibilities to Jackie’s wife, Joan Lin (林鳳嬌). In an interview with Commercial Radio in June, Willie finally spoke up about why he decided to end the working relationship.
Jackie Chan Changed After He Got Famous
Willie was one of the most prominent talent scouts and managers in the Hong Kong industry. Besides Jackie, Willie also once managed the careers of 47 stars, including Jacky Cheung (張學友), Cherie Chung (鍾楚紅), Carol Cheng (鄭裕玲), Maggie Cheung Man Yuk (張曼玉), and Joan Chen (陳冲).
The 73-year-old producer revealed that he got to know Jackie through Taiwanese actor Charlie Chin (秦祥林). Willie and Jackie were not bounded by contract, describing his relationship with Jackie to be as close as brothers. “Jackie trusted and treated me like his elder brother.” He added, “Jackie said he didn’t know how to read, so I helped him decipher documents, scripts, and contracts. He told me then that he would not neglect me. We were all about trust.”
Their harmonious relationship finally ended six years ago. Willie said,“Gradually he became so popular that he lost himself. Fame went to his head. He didn’t really need my help anymore and I couldn’t help him with much either. There were many high officials sitting at the same table. There were many rich men and ‘Yes’ men. My words fell on deaf ears. Many people were eyeing my spot. My presence was bothersome. I know a lot of people wanted to take over my position, so why not leave elegantly on my own. That’s always better than getting forced out.”
Willie’s statements made it seem like it was Joan who forced him to step down, but Willie clarified, “Joan and Jaycee Chan (房祖名) are very kind to me, even now.”
Willie recalled the days when Jackie could not utter a word of English, to becoming a decent speaker now. He not only watched over Jackie’s career, but also Jackie’s family. “From Jaycee’s birth, to house-hunting in the United States with Joan,” said Willie, while choking back tears.
Jackie was beginning to show signs of “losing himself” in 1999, when his extra-marital affair with actress Elaine Ng (吳綺莉) took the media by storm. Elaine gave birth to daughter Etta Ng in November 1999. Willie said, “Jackie had many advisers with him at the time. At first, we planned to have him tell a Biblical story, which was a story about a woman getting stoned to death [from adultery]. The idea was to have him say that all men would make mistakes, but instead, he said ‘I made a mistake that all men in the world would have made.’ That stunned us.”
Though Willie and Jackie ended their professional relationship, Willie did attend Jackie’s recent 60th birthday party event. “There was no awkwardness between us. It’s not like I’m an enemy.”
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.