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Still getting kicks

IT'S easy to forget how great Jackie Chan is. Especially given some of the muck he's been in of late. From those early days as the new Bruce Lee to becoming one of the biggest stars in Asia -- and then the rest of the world -- Chan is pretty much a living legend.

So, why is he reduced to such second-rate movies as recent kiddie-comedy The Spy Next Door and now the eponymous remake of 1984 Rocky-for-runts hit The Karate Kid?

I'm guessing it has more than a little to do with the fact that he is incredibly humble.

"I'm happy to make any film, anywhere," says the 56-year-old. "It's not about making some kind of career plan -- it's about doing the work, about finding things that are fun to do. I still have a lot of fun making these films, and it's so amazing when people go to see them in large numbers."

Which, of course, they've done in the US for The Karate Kid, Will Smith's precocious little tyke Jaden Smith playing Dre Parker who, after moving with his mother to China, finds an unlikely mentor in maintenance man Mr Han. The reviews have been surprisingly positive, given that it's a remake, and it's led by the offspring of a soul-crushing Hollywood dynasty.

PAUL BYRNE: What grabbed you here? A love for the original? A desire to act your age?

JACKIE CHAN: Definitely a part of it was getting a chance to play someone who wasn't pretending to be young and dynamic. I think I have to be careful now about the roles I take on, and this felt like a good fit. I have moved away from stunts, and it means playing other kinds of roles.

PB: With this movie, you bring some perfect baggage to a humble maintenance man who just so happens to be a kung fu master.

JC: I felt I could relate pretty quickly to the role of Mr Han. I feel the real beauty of martial arts is never showing off, never using your skill merely for your ego.

It's only for self-defence, and it's a lesson the movie itself brings to young people.

PB: Jackie Chan is a big part of the history of martial arts on screen. Do you feel particularly iconic, or are you too busy getting on with your work?

JC: I really appreciate and am very humbled by those people who tell me that they are fans of my work, but I try not to dwell on such things, no. I'm happy to keep working.

Over the years, I have been involved in many, many different aspects of this business -- and the hope always is that you make something people enjoy.

PB: You must feel as though you've come full circle in a way here -- your 1962 screen debut, Big And Little Wong Tin Bar, had you playing the kid.

JC: That's right. So, now I'm the adult and someone else is the kid. It's funny, but it's also a very natural progress. I don't think I'm that old, but I do feel that my roles have changed over the years, to the point now where I'm going to play older and older. But that's all good, you know. Why would I play younger?

PB: How is your relationship with Hollywood now? Still fun?

JC: Oh, yes, it's still fun. I wouldn't do it otherwise, I think. I have a strong work ethic, and I like to keep busy, but the work itself is important to me.

I only want to sign on to those projects that I know I will enjoy, that I know will mean I'm doing something new, something challenging.

PB: You're a one-man empire these days -- do you ever miss those early, crazy Hong Kong days, when you would sometimes get involved in street fights with rival studios?

JC: I miss them, but I'm glad they're over, too. At the time, it was very normal to have these fights, but

I wouldn't want to get involved now. I know there are better ways to do business, and safer ways too.

The Karate Kid hits cinemas on July 28