LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - There’s an old saying in Hollywood: never work with kids or animals. Jackie Chan is okay with kids. Animals are another story.
“When a turtle bites you, it really hurts!” he told Reuters. “And the pig never listens. And the cat scratches.”
Hong Kong film star Jackie Chan swaps all-out action for adventurous family fun in his new movie, “The Spy Next Door,” following in the footsteps of other big-name Hollywood heroes such as Arnold Schwarzenegger (“Kindergarten Cop”) and Vin Diesel (“The Pacifier”).
In The Spy Next Door, which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, 55-year-old Chan plays Bob Ho, a man who secretly works as a spy and whose single-mom girlfriend (Amber Valletta) thinks is a pen salesman.
Her three children can’t stand him, but when he is charged to take care of them for a few days, they end up learning his secret and help Chan fight the bad guys.
While Russian terrorists are his nemesis, off set, the kids’ pets gave Chan the most trouble in making “Spy Next Door.” Like the cat who just wouldn’t stop pawing at his arm.
“I said to the animal trainer, ‘I‘m fine,’ and he said, ‘Look at your arm, it’s not fine’ and all this blood is coming down,” said Chan.
Despite pesky cats and biting turtles, Chan said he enjoyed the switch from martial arts films to family action and adventure, and he thinks that sort of diversity has been a key to his longevity and success in Hollywood, which reached it’s height with the box office smash “Rush Hour” movies.
“I don’t want to be doing Rush Hour One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven,” he said.
“That’s tiring. I’d like to do a vampire movie, or something like ‘Avatar.’ I can do everything -- scary movies, police films. I really want to try and play a bad guy, a villain.”
Chan has accomplished plenty already in Hollywood. He dabbled in movies in the 1960s before going full tilt in the ‘70s. He is known for his own stunt work and choreography, in addition to writing, directing and producing his own material.
Chan reached stardom in his native Hong Kong in the ‘80s and early ‘90s with the “Police Story” films and “Drunken Master II.” among others.
He found success in the United States with “Rumble in the Bronx” and became a major star with the “Rush Hour” and “Shanghai Noon” franchises.
According to box office data website The Numbers, Chan’s movies -- beginning with 1973’s “Enter the Dragon” -- have had a worldwide gross of $2.1 billion.
But despite the action genre that made him famous, Chan said he has “been trying to do a children’s movie a long time,” because he has for years been passionate about educating and helping kids.
He founded Jackie Chan Charitable Foundation in 1988 to offer scholarships and medical aid to Hong Kong’s youth. In 2005, he created The Dragon’s Heart Foundation to help provide educational opportunities for needy children.
The actor also was the subject of his own animated kids’ series, “The Jackie Chan Adventures”, from 2000 to 2005.
“I just produced another cartoon, another Jackie Chan Adventure in Beijing,” he said. “I’ve cared about children for a long time. They mean everything and they learn from us. (This new show) is about education, about protecting the Earth.”
The desire to educate youngsters prompted Chan to sign on to Columbia Pictures’ reboot of “The Karate Kid” franchise produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith and starring their son, Jaden. The film is slated for a June release.
“It’s a very serious movie because we’re talking about philosophy, about the secret of the martial arts and about respect,” said Chan.
“Right now, young children have no respect and I teach (Smith) how to respect his parents, how to respect the world.”
Editing by Mike Collett-White and Bob Tourtellotte