Jackie Chan's Disciples Bear the Torch

By John Brown

Jackie Chan's The Disciple is moving towards its exciting finale, but you can't see it here in America. This unique television event, the first Chinese reality game show where contestants vie for a shot to work in movies with Jackie Chan himself, is only being televised on China's BTW network, although clips have been making their way to the web. Twelve preliminary competition episodes have already been broadcast. The show took a short break before moving towards its climactic conclusion.

When the The Disciple was announced, nearly 100,000 people applied to audition. The premiere episode narrowed that pool down to 128 competitors who were separated into four groups and tested on their physical conditioning, reflexes and acting skills. Eliminations brought the pool down to 36, who were again separated, but this time into groups of four. They had to create short dramatic skits and were graded on their creativity, improvisational skills, and acting ability. More elimination rounds brought the pool down to 26. By the final two episodes of the 12-episode season, only 16 finalists remained. Many very talented competitors, like He Jingde, a former Beijing Wushu Team member, and Shi Yanjie, a former Shaolin disciple, failed to make the cut.

The first twelve episodes of The Disciple resembled the 2006 martial arts show K-Star, in which contestants competed in martial arts, singing, dancing, and various challenges, such as staying at Shaolin Temple. It was a formatted more like a talent show, akin to American Idol. In a special episode that was televised in early February as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations, Jackie introduced each competitor personally.

Jackie Chan's Disciples Bear the Torch

For the final episodes, The Disciple will change its tone. In March, the finalists, comprised of thirteen men and three women and including martial arts champions, actors, and even a student from Shaolin Temple, were sequestered for three months in special living quarters. They will be under constant live camera surveillance. They will be allowed no contact with the outside world-no cell phones, no computer, nothing-until May or June. The competition will consist of stunts with the JC group, such as jumping off of buildings, crashing cars-the kind of action film stunt work that made Jackie famous. Additionally, all 16 finalists will receive special-edition JC logo gear, including stylish JC shoes with five separate toes like a glove, and signature JC airline luggage. Only sixteen pairs of these shoes and sets of luggage were created.

Jack Tu, a former K-Star competitor and Tiger Claw Elite Champion, is in the final sixteen. He's thrilled to be a part of the show. We caught up to Jack just as he was about to leave to see Jackie attempt a dramatic stunt for a new, as-yet-untitled project. The stunt has been very hush-hush, but it's rumored to involve jumping into ice water again like he did in First Strike (Police Story 4). Jack was excited about the opportunity to see Jackie in action. He had nothing but praise for the veteran kung fu star. "Jackie is very kind and caring. He knew all our names. He knew where we were from. He did a lot of research. During filming, one guy fell and hit his head and another girl had a fever. Jackie was very concerned and saw to them personally."

Despite the scheduled stunt, Jackie has said recently that he plans to take a break from filming to be a goodwill envoy for the Beijing Olympics. Beyond his 2008 films Forbidden Kingdom and Kung Fu Panda, Jackie is planning to record a countdown song and carry the Olympic torch. There's even discussion of having the final three Disciples carry the torch with Jackie. For these young Disciple competitors, carrying the torch for the ever-expanding legacy of Jackie Chan is a true challenge. But, like carrying the Olympic torch, it's the honor of a lifetime.

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Jackie Chan's Disciple

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For the official website of Jackie Chan?s The Disciple, go to http://long.btv.com.cn.

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