He’s one of the greatest action stars of all time. And what’s most amazing is that he does his own stunts. So how does he do all that fighting and perform all those daredevil feats without getting injured? He doesn’t—he’s been injured dozens of times. Here’s a sample of what you (almost) never see.
Body Part: Head
The Movie: Armour of God (1987)
The Stunt: Jumping from a castle wall to a tree, Chan missed the branch and fell headfirst onto the rocky ground below. Result: a broken skull and a brain hemorrhage. With blood pouring from his ears, Chan was rushed to the nearest hospital for emergency brain surgery. He now has a permanent hole in his skull, filled with a plastic plug. The same fall shattered his jaw, knocked out some teeth, and broke his nose.
Body Part: Arm
The Movie: Snake in Eagle’s Shadow (1978)
The Stunt: In a sword fight scene, his opponent’s sword was supposed to be blunt—but it wasn’t. Chan’s arm was slashed and blood went everywhere. He screamed in pain, looked up at his opponent in surprise…and kept right on fighting. The camera kept rolling, and the scene—and the real blood—appeared in the final cut of the film.
Body Part: Neck
The Movie: Mr. Nice Guy (1997)
The Stunt: A stunt called for Chan to be pushed backward into a wheelbarrow on the second floor of a construction site, then fall out of the wheelbarrow to the ground two stories below, where he would land on mats that were out of camera range. Chan missed the mats: He jumped up to let everybody know that he was okay, then immediately passed out. X-rays revealed torn ligaments and dislocated vertebrae in his neck. (He broke his nose filming another scene.)
Body Part: Nose
The Movie: First Strike (1996)
The Stunt: You’d think this would have happened during one of the film’s snowboarding stunts—considering Chan did them with only four days of snowboard training. But it was actually in a scene where he jumped through an extension ladder. He got tangled in the rungs and couldn’t escape before it crashed to the ground, breaking his nose and knocking him unconscious.
Body Part: Shoulder
The Movie: Supercop (1992)
The Stunt: One of his most dangerous stunts ever. Chan had to jump from a building and catch a rope ladder that was hanging from a passing helicopter—with no air bags or cushions below him to break the possible 100-foot fall. Did he fall? No—but the rope ladder crashed through several billboards, breaking Chan’s shoulder.
Body Part: Ankle
The Movie: Rumble in the Bronx (1994)
The Stunt: Chan jumped from a bridge onto the deck of a hovercraft, turning his body as he landed to avoid hitting a wall. But his ankle didn’t turn with him. It stayed planted on the craft’s non-slip deck, breaking in two places. Chan’s doctor set the bone and told him to stay off it, but Chan put a sock over the cast, painted it to look like a sneaker, and finished the movie.
Body Parts: Hands, pelvis, back
The Movie: Police Story (1985)
The Stunt: Chan leaped 10 feet from a narrow handrail (70 feet above the ground) to a nearby pole, slid down the pole, then crashed through a glass ceiling and fell to the ground on his back. The slide peeled the skin off his hands (he was treated for second-degree burns), and the fall dislocated his pelvis and pushed several of his lower vertebrae into the surrounding organs, causing internal bleeding. When he managed to stand up, blood gushed from his mouth. Chan later told reporters that this was the only time in his career when he actually thought he might not survive a stunt. A few hours later he was back on the set.