Jet Li Biography
Born: April 26, 1963
Birth Name: Li Lian Jie
Losing his father at an early age, Beijng, China native Jet Li was brought up by his mother and became a model son. He went to the Changqiao Primary School and excelled academically.
China's compulsory fitness program placed little Li in the Wushu class. The hard working student was naturally gifted in Wushu, but seemed extremely fatigued and his somewhat overprotective mother began to worry.
Nevertheless, Li persevered and trained everyday, rain or shine. He quickly rose to become a top student and soon found himself competing in national contests and representing China all over the world. At age 11, he first competed in the Chinese National Wushu Championships, and went on to win the competition a total of five times. Li won first place in swordsplay, spearplay, routine boxing, Pu swordsplay and duel practice. Li continued to train and work hard, and by the end of the 1970s, he became a National Coach.
Li was drawn towards the idea of starring in martial art movies. While on tour, audiences would ask when they could see him in kung fu films. The chance came in 1981, when he was approached to star in the film Shaolin Temple. He accepted and when the film was released, it broke box office records in Hong Kong and Korea.
Li became an overnight success and a legend in his own country. People would line up outside his house, hoping to get a glimpse of this rising star. And it wasn't long before Li was back in front of the cameras with the comedy sequel Kids From Shaolin (1983).
Li decided to turn his hand to directing his own production, which he was also to star in. Born To Defend (1986) was set during the Second World War, and Li played a young soldier who took on all takers inside the boxing ring. The finished movie was very unpolished and the box office figures reflected the lack of public interest.
Disappointed, Li spent the next two years trying to get U.S. citizenship, claiming that he was not able to express himself as freely as he would like, and that he had no power when it came to putting forward creative ideas. Luckly his move west was to prove invaluable. After a slow start, Li worked on Once Upon A Time In China (1991). The movie was a huge success worldwide and critically acclaimed, and Li went on to star in two sequels.
With Li at the top of the hot property list, everyone wanted a piece of him, and it was Golden Princess studio that was lucky enough to sign him to star in Swordsman 2 : Invincible Dawn (1991). When the film opened in Taiwan, it took the highest lunar new year box office ever.
A frantic panic broke out amongst producers who were desperate to get Li in their film, and some people were prepared to go to any lengths to get him. Later that year Li's personal manager was gunned down in Kowloon. The reason was unclear, but talk in film circles said he had refused to let Jet star in an unscrupulous Triad production.
The year 1993 was to be Li's biggest to date. He set up his own production company Jing Tung and produced the fabulous Fong Sai-Yuk. Jet Li had once again created a tremendous hit, and he admitted, "This is as close to me as any character I've played."
After that, Li found even more fame with several modern day action movies, including a brilliant performance in Fist of Legend (1994), a remake of the Bruce Lee classic Fist of Fury. He would later release Black Mask (1996) into foreign theaters. Although the film's story left much to be desired, the fight scenes thrilled American audiences, leaving them hungry for more.
Foreign interest in Hong Kong films was growing, and a good friend suggested that Li take a role in the new Jean-CLaude Van Damme vehicle Knock Off. But Li pulled out at the last minute and decided to look at Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) instead. This fourth installment in the American buddy-cop franchise included a thrilling hand-to-hand battle with Mel Gibson: many felt that Li stole the show and made a promising mark in the Hollywood action genre.
In 1999, Li took on his first English-speaking role in Romeo Must Die. Starring roles followed in films such as Kiss of the Dragon (2001), Cradle to the Grave (2003), Hero (2004), Jet Li's Fearless (2006) and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
Divorced from his first wife, Qiu-yan Huang, with whom he has two children, Li married Nina Li Chi in September 1999. They have two children together.