Jet Li (李連傑) is an international superstar, so hearing him speak fluent English isn’t a surprise.
What is a surprise, though, is that the martial arts star actually didn’t start to learn English until he was 35 years old.
After graduating primary school, Jet Li went to an athletic school to learn and study wushu. In 1982, he debuted in the film Shaolin Temple <少林寺>, which was the first martial arts film made in mainland China. His successful film career in Hong Kong, most notably after the Once Upon a Time in China <黃飛鴻> film series, turned Jet Li into an international martial arts superstar.
In 1998, Jet Li transitioned into Hollywood, and debuted his first Hollywood film appearance in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4. At the point in time, Jet Li was 35 years old and did not speak a lick of English. He said he used flash cards to memorize all 26 letters of the English alphabet, just like a preschooler.
He had to memorize six pages of English dialogue. Before the audition, Jet Li recorded his friend reading the script and practiced his English by memorizing what his friend had said in the recording. That recording followed Jet Li everywhere.
Jet Li’s success didn’t come easy. Behind the camera and the fights were years of hard work and practice. He is grateful to have experienced those hardships; it has made him realize that there’s no point to comparisons, because in the end, your greatest enemy will always be yourself.
This article is written by Addy for JayneStars.com.