Jackie Chan's First Encounter With Steven Spielberg Sounds Extremely Delightful

Kevin Donovan's 2002 film "The Tuxedo," while certainly not critically beloved, began with a cute enough premise. An affable chauffeur (Jackie Chan) becomes the driver for a kindly government agent played by Jason Isaacs. When Isaacs is unexpectedly killed, Chan inherits his tuxedo. It turns out, though, that the Isaacs character was a James Bond-type spy, and his tuxedo is, in fact, a high-tech suit of armor that can robotically manipulate the limbs of its wearer. All of a sudden, a working-class schlub can fight like Jackie Chan. The character quickly becomes embroiled in a spy plot all his own. "The Tuxedo" should have been able to sail on Chan's charms and talents alone, but a silly plot (the bad guy seeks to contaminate the world's water supply with genetically manipulated bugs) and some clunky visuals (the opening shot is of a deer peeing in a river) led to "The Tuxedo" being ultimately rejected by audiences. 

But, darn it if Chan was going to pass up on a project overseen by Steven Spielberg. The filmmaker co-founded DreamWorks, the studio behind "The Tuxedo," and Spielberg is known for actually discussing or interacting, even in a cursory way, every film and TV show his name is attached to. The man does not have a reputation for being aloof. As such, it was Spielberg who contacted Chan about the possibility of starring in "The Tuxedo." This led to an adorable moment of the two men being mutually starstruck. 

In an interview with the Canadian newspaper Tribute, Chan described how he came to "The Tuxedo," and his experience meeting Spielberg face-to-face for the first time. 

Chan's autograph

Tribute asked Chan about how he came to star in "The Tuxedo," wondering if it really was as simple as receiving a phone call from Steven Spielberg. It took perhaps a few more steps than that, but Chan revealed it was almost as easy as that. Chan, eager to meet a director he greatly admires, happily responded: 

"Well, at first my manager told me about this DreamWorks movie by Steven Spielberg and said, he wants to meet you. So I said, okay. When I came to Hollywood, there were two people I wanted to meet: One was Steven Spielberg and the second was George Lucas. I just think that the two of them are geniuses. When I met Spielberg I was so excited, but he was just like a normal person. But what made me so happy was the first time that he saw me, he held out his hand and said, 'Jackie, hi, can you give me your autograph because my son just loves you.' ... It was like, wow, he asked ME for my autograph!"

Chan has been a celebrity since at least the early 1970s when he became one of the best stunt performers and martial arts filmmakers in Hong Kong cinema. He was well known in the United States among kung-fu movie enthusiasts, but didn't explode in popularity until the 1995 release of Stanley Tong's "Rumble in the Bronx," the first Chan-starring movie to receive widespread American distribution. Chan would eventually begin appearing in high-profile American productions as well, starting with "Rush Hour" in 1998, and "Shanghai Noon" in 2000. Although his American films were hits, Chan was still, at least in his own eyes, a Chinese star first. That someone like Steven Spielberg would be a fan of his was overwhelming for Chan.

'I press a lot of buttons'

Chan continued to describe his Spielbergian encounter. As anyone who has been dazzled by meeting a celebrity in person can attest, it can be awkward having a conversation that doesn't devolve into a rendition of "The Chris Farley Show." Chan, wanting to talk about something, asked Spielberg a very broad question about one of his hit movies. Spielberg's response is beautifully flip: 

"I was so happy, but I didn't know what to say. So I turned around and asked him, 'How can you make dinosaurs and people walk together on screen? It's amazing.' He says, 'Jackie, that's easy, I press a lot of buttons.' Then he asked me, how I jump from one building's roof to another roof. I told him that I just roll and jump. Camera rolls, director says action, I jump and then it's cut. That's all!"

This quaint reduction of both performers' mutual skills is certainly amusing. 

To date, Chan has not appeared in any of the many, many "Star Wars" projects currently running (at last count, there were 90 "Star Wars"-related shows currently airing on Disney+). Should Chan become involved on one of them — and there's no reason he shouldn't — then he will perhaps finally fulfill his dream of also meeting George Lucas, another filmmaker who also just pressed a lot of buttons.