It’s hard not to hold your breath when Jackie Chan is on screen. And it becomes more complicated when you have to sit through his stunts. The Hong Kong actor has been performing death-defying acts his entire career, has been injured over a dozen times, and recovered only to get back into it. His dedication to his craft is astonishing, and no two movies are the same — because Chan has something bigger and better to offer with every single one of them.
Perhaps the greatest stunt in Chan’s career takes place at the end of the 1985 film “Police Story,” which the actor directed and co-wrote. It’s the first installment in the titular franchise, where we meet him as cop Ka-Kui, shortly before a war breaks out between cops and criminals on the streets of Hong Kong. The film’s climactic ending features a fighting sequence at the mall, which culminates with Chan sliding down a pole covered with lights — causing him second-degree burns, a dislocated pelvis, and a back injury. Additionally, Chan didn’t have much time to film the stunt.
The epitome of fearlessness
Jackie Chan is easily the most talented martial artist and stuntman in the film industry — his ability to dedicate himself to the most impossible of action sequences and execute them is a testament to his passion. Watching him commit to these stunts with fearlessness is a familiar experience, but it’s scarier to learn what went on behind the scenes.
At the end of “Police Story,” Jackie Chan completed the biggest stunt of his career: sliding down a pole in a mall and crashing into actual light bulbs and multiple panes of sugar glass. You’d think Chan had enough time to prepare for the scene: but he had to perform as soon as the cameras were rolling. Roger Ebert’s published history of “Police Story” intricately explains the actor’s bravado in the final 20 minutes of the film, when Chan and his stunt crew barrelled through an estimated 700 pounds of sugar glass.
‘It’s scary. It’s really scary.’
A lot went into making the multi-story slide down the pole stunt a reality — it was filmed in a mall with 15 rolling cameras, and the decorative lights were built from scratch. The film’s crew strapped real light bulbs on the vertical pole and had to use the building’s electricity to power it since a regular battery didn’t have sufficient power to do so (via Chan’s conversation with IGN).
While describing the filming experience, Chan wasn’t hesitant to admit it was pretty scary. “It’s scary. It’s really scary. I’m just ordinary people … I’m not Superman.”
Although the actor was terrified of what would happen at the end of the stunt, he was forced to jump on the pole when the cameras mistook him for being ready. So when the cameras began rolling, Chan took a leap of faith, jumping and sliding down what appeared to be hundreds of light bulbs, slamming through a “canopy of sugar glass” and making a safe-seeming landing. It’s magical, otherworldly stuff.
Chan felt so accomplished on completing the stunt that he had already begun celebrating with his crew … before he realized he had second-degree burns from the electricity used for the light bulbs. The entire action sequence was filmed in one take, and Chan ended the day by celebrating with his crew.
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