|Before his twentieth birthday, Li was asked by a Hong Kong
production company to star as a fighting priest in "Shaolin Temple". It was
a kung-fu movie shot on location at an authentic temple in Hunan Province.
The picture was banned in Taiwan, but was well received in Hong Kong,
Singapore and other parts of Asia. For this movie and others that followed,
he was paid only a small state subsidy.
In 1988, Li was granted a two-year exit permit from the Chinese
government, and settled in San Francisco with a Chinese actress whom he
later married and divorced. They also had two children together, which is a
subject he does not talk about. Though Li has an American green card, he had
trouble learning to speak English.
After his exit permit expired, he moved to Hong Kong and signed with
Golden Harvest. There his career took off when in 1991 he was cast as Wong
Fei-Hung in "Once upon a Time in China". Li was thrust into superstardom,
but the charismatic actor was left with a bitter feeling as he was still
grossly underpaid. He attempted to resolve his money woes with Golden
Harvest. After numerous attempts he parted company with his manager and
hired a new one whose name was Jim Choi. Choi was of great help to Li. He
helped him obtain a better relationship with the People's Republic of China
and was in his corner when Li threatened to sue Golden Harvest.
Subsequently, Golden Harvest voluntarily released Li from his contract.
Sadly, Jet’s relationship with his manager would come to an abrupt halt. On
April 16, 1992 (10 days before Li's 29th birthday) Choi was gunned down in
his Kowloon office building. Rumors flew about the reason for his execution,
but the most notable one was that a Hong Kong triad wanted to use Li in a
movie, and Choi refused to lend Li out. Choi had a questionable past because
he himself was a former triad member.
Jet Li's Midas touch seemed to return as he starred in a string of highly
successful and profitable films throughout the early '90s. He established
himself as mainland China's biggest star (and one of Asia's biggest, along
with Jackie Chan), a title he has yet to relinquish.
Rumor is that the opportunity to expand his fame outside of China's
borders came when Miramax enlisted Quentin Tarantino to help them develop a
project to rival the success of Jackie Chan's crossover hit, “Rumble in the
Bronx.” Tarantino had exactly one name on his list: Jet Li.
Fortunately, even though the collaboration between the two never came to
fruition, Li's name began appearing in the Hollywood trade papers and he
soon found himself inundated with scripts and development deals. When the
dust settled, he had to choose between Jean-Claude Van Damme's “Knock Off”
or “Lethal Weapon 4.” Wisely, Li selected the latter where he capably played
a villain and instantly proved that he was a star that Hollywood could work
|Jet Li’s height is 169cm (5ft 6inches) and he weighs 66kg
(145.5lbs). Michelle Yeoh, his co-star in the movie "Tai Chi Master" once
said that she was constantly terrified that one of his blows would
accidentally connect with her. Li may be short but he is built like a
Jet Li is a shy and timid person. He is very conservative, eats healthy
meals, and works out everyday to stay in shape. He is also very private
about his life, and for this reason, not many questions are asked of his
private life. Jet Li is a near perfect definition of the word "cool." He is
almost never flustered, never angry, never giddy, always maintaining total
confidence in all he says and does. If you look back at Jet Li's films,
you'll see that he's almost always wearing something stylish. Generally, it
seems like he favors the classic look of a black -- jet black -- leather
jacket with a T-shirt underneath, or a black shirt and black pants.
During the filming of his first six movies he sustained some of serious
“Shaolin Temple 1”: broken leg.
“Shaolin Temple 2”: sprained neck.
“Shaolin Temple 3”: sprained back.
“Born to Defense”: broken nose.
“The Master”: broken wrist.
“Once Upon a Time in China”: broken left leg and ankle.
Looking back at this disturbing pattern caused him to ask himself some
serious questions: How important was this career to him? Was it really such
a good idea to keep making movies? He wrestled with this question for quite
a while, but in the end, he decided: "Alright, well, since you still like
wushu and movies, you might as well keep forging ahead." And as it turned
out, the injury from OUATIC was the last major one of his career. He has not
been hurt in a serious way on any of the films that he did in the 1990's.
But the old injuries still bother him!