Jet Li

  1. Jackie Chan, Zhing an zu/Crime Story, Hong Kong, 1993.       Kirk Wong spent two years prepping the true cop story, then his star quit – after his agent, Jim Choy, was shot by a Triad gang,  Li jetted  out of a tale about  organised crime  and leapt into Tai-Chi Master, 1993.
  2. Stephen Dorff, Blade, 1997.     While musing over an offer to lead the vampiric forces as Deacon Frost, Li got a better gig – joining Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon 4.
  3. Wesley Snipes, The Art of War, 1999.     Jet had been first choice for the UN’s covert (and then some) dirty-tricks squad. Snipes had been longer in training – eight years earlier he was seen reading Sun Tzu’s Art of War in  Passenger 67.
  4. Chow Yun-Fat, Wo hu cang long/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Taiwan-Hong Kong-USA-China, 1999.     “The timing was not right,” says Li. “I was just too busy concentrating on establishing a US career with Romeo Must Die.” And he had  promised his wife, movie queen Nina Li Chi, not work while she was pregnant. And so Chow fought with a sword – “I’d never  touched a sword” – for the first time in his life.
  5. Shaobo Oin, Ocean’s  Eleven,  2001.    The  Chinese acrobat named Yen went to a member of the internationally acclaimed Peking Acrobats.                                   
  6. Collin Chou, The Matrix Reloaded, 2003.    Seraph  was written for  Li by the freres Wachowski  but that did not impress Jet. He could not put his  career on hold for not one, but two sequels. Rather more dynamic than Jet, Chou (aka Ng Sing), reputedly the best kicks among action stars, was the assassin opposite Li in Bodyguard From Beijing (aka The Protector), 1994.
  7. Lucy Liu, Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever, 2002.       When he would not make the Matrix sequel, it was next offered to Michelle Yeoh. This time, a woman did take over his role of the rogue DIA agent. Didn’t save it from being one of the all-time champion flops – diabolical reviews and earning a mere 30% of its budget back. What else when the director signed himself… Kaos!
  8. Donnie Yen, xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, 2016.     The notoriously picky Li changed his mind about Xiang. Bad news. Made much better when the great Yen took over the villainy. The new assault on Hollywood by the top martial arts badass also included the Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Way to go!
  9. Jay Chou, The Green Hornet, 2009.    When Miramax owned  the rights in 2001, the Weinstein brothers had a pay-or-play deal with Li for Kato  – oppopsite first Jake Gyllenhaal. The Weinsteins let the  project go and Li went into The One. Chou, an Asian pop icon (and one of Li’s greatest fans), won the old  TV role, 1966-1967,  of his other idol, Bruce Lee. Opposite a  famously slimmed down Seth Rogen. 
  10. Donnie Yen, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,2015.    “May the Force of others be with you.” Who should be Chirrut Îmwe – Jet Li or Donnie Yen. No contest. Li cost $10m and Yen, $4m!   Even so,  Yen was hesitant – the gig meant five months in London. Being a huge Star Wars fan, his young son soon settled that matter! Yen decided the Guardian of the Whills should be blind – more of a nod to Japan’s Zatoichi blind swordsman hero than to George Luca’s original 1976 title:The Star Wars: From the Journal of the Whills.
  11. Donnie Yen, xXx: Return of XXander Cage, 2016. Vin Diesel was back as Cage, but there was a swift change of Axiang when Li split for undisclosed terrrains. Makes a change. Li had previously substituted Yen in The Mummy – Tomb of the Dragon Emperor,  2007 and Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables 2, 2011.

 Birth year: Death year: Other name: Casting Calls:  11