For the first-time in martial arts movie history, the duo of Jackie Chan and Jet Li can be seen on screen together in the forthcoming film The Forbidden Kingdom.
The film, which is set to be released on April 18, 2008, was written by screenwriter John Fusco (Young Guns, Hidalgo) and directed by Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little, Lion King).
Fusco recently, took time to explain his inspiration for the script, the pairing of Jet Li and Jackie Chan on-screen, and the development of the project.
Watch the trailer
ASIANCE: How did you come up with the idea for The Forbidden Kingdom?
John Fusco: It began as a bedtime story for my son when he was 10 years old (4 yrs ago). He got interested in martial arts and, because I am a traditional kung fu practitioner, I wanted to introduce him to the legends and lore and philosophy that inform
true kung fu. I felt that I could interest him in this deeper layer of martial art by creating a fantasy adventure for him. The bedtime fable grew into a screenplay.
ASIANCE: Was it always conceived as a vehicle for both Jackie Chan and Jet Li?
John Fusco: No. Only after I turned in a draft did the producer and I discuss casting. Because I am a martial arts cinema fan,
I dreamed big and suggested Jet and Jackie. Every fan has dreamed of those two uniting in a martial arts film. The producer,
Casey Silver, sent the script to them and they responded.
ASIANCE: How long did it take to get this project made from script to screen?
John Fusco: Four years. Over that time period Jet Li was creatively involved and very much a creative partner.
ASIANCE: Did both Jackie Chan and Jet Li immediately sign up for the film when presented with the script? What was their initial reaction?
John Fusco: Jet was very positive and wanted me to come to Hong Kong which I did. I am very grateful to him for his cultural
insights and wisdom. Jackie was interested in collaborating with Jet and I also flew to Hong Kong to see him. But the
credit for bringing the two together goes to Casey Silver who was determined to make it work.
ASIANCE: The film is obviously made for teens and children. It’s almost like a live-action fairy tale. What do you anticipate will be the
response from adult audience members, especially Asian fans off Jet Li’s and Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong films?
John Fusco: I am already getting that reaction and it is very, very good. Especially from adults in the martial arts community.
ASIANCE: Do you feel that die-hard adult fans of Jackie Chan and Jet Li films will find this film lives up to the expectations of a Jackie
Chan and Jet Li on-screen pairing?
John Fusco: Well, first they must recognize what kind of movie it is and be willing to travel down that road into a kind of
Wizard of Wuxia. If they do, they will not be disappointed. Jet and Jackie’s combat scenes are supreme.
ASIANCE: What did you learn from the experience of working with Jet Li and Jackie Chan?
John Fusco: I learned that they are still the greatest. From Jet I learned that martial art is really the art of achieving victory over
yourself, and I meditate more now when I practice. From Jackie I learned that giving is the greatest joy. I was trying to figure
out why he is so happy and full of life and I realized that his joy comes from making others happy and helping whoever he can.
They are both two remarkable and inspiring human beings.
ASIANCE: You were said to be working on a Hollywood remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic Seven Samurai. What is the status of that project? And what has the response been from Kurosawa and his fans?
John Fusco: It is not a remake. It is a contemporary story set in the world of corporate security contractors like Blackwater. I bow
to Akira Kurosawa and would never dare attempt to remake his period epic.
ASIANCE: Any last thoughts on your experience writing The Forbidden Kingdom?
John Fusco: It has been an amazing journey. I feel honored to have my story come to life in the hands of the martial arts Dream Team
under the incredible direction of Rob Minkoff. Everyone is mentioning the Master Woo-Ping, Peter Pau, and Jet and Jackie,
but this movie is a Rob Minkoff film and I don’t think anyone else could have created the unique blend that he did.
ASIANCE: Why was a white teenager the protagonist rather than an Asian teenager?
This is the answer John Fusco emailed me:
The truth is: I was that kid. My son is that kid. Quentin Tarantino was that kid. It is a very real phenomenon, and what I think it speaks to is the fact that America, like Jason, is young and awkward and still trying to find its way. China is the wise master.
That said, after my third draft I had concerns and decided to write Jason as Chinese-American, playing more on an atavistic calling. Two people rejected this approach and said it was not as realistic as the notion of the white boy who wants to know Chinese kung fu. Those two people were Jet Li and Jackie Chan. They felt that I was abandoning the heart of the story that came from my own childhood.
Thanks for the nice article — all best wishes,