Jackie Chan And The Studio Janitor

From The Science of Getting Rich:

After the break, a real-life story from the Jackie Chan autobiography, Never Grow Up, that confirms the above quote.

One day, when he was still with Lo Wei [the head of a film studio], Jackie noticed the janitor looking depressed. He asked what was wrong, and the janitor said he was old and wanted to retire back home. He’d asked the studio for some money as a retirement fund after all his years of service, but they’d said no. Jackie had known the man for about a year. They ran into each other at the studio every day and would chat for a bit. Sometimes, the old man would tell him a joke or two, and they bonded over shared laughter. Jackie couldn’t stand to see him so dejected, and knew that the studio would never come through for him.

After a moment, Jackie said, “I have three thousand in my bank account. You can have all of it.” The old man was shocked and refused to take it several times. Jackie insisted and finally, the janitor accepted.

After making three hits in a row, Jackie was now a bona fide Hong Kong star. These films topped the box office, and he became a hot property, fought over by every studio. Of course, Lo Wei hoped to renew his contract, and offered to raise his per-picture fee to $50,000, but if Jackie broke his contract, he’d owe the studio $100,000. A loyal person, Jackie agreed to the terms.

Lo Wei gave him a contract, but the terms weren’t filled in. Still, he directed Jackie to the dotted line to sign. “I’ve just come back from abroad and haven’t had time to prepare a proper contract, just sign here and I’ll put everything else in later, then give you a copy,” Lo Wei told him. Jackie didn’t think about it too much, but duly signed. He believed that his senior in the business, the man who’d helped get him this far, wouldn’t cheat him.

What happened next was astonishing. Golden Harvest, a rival studio, offered Jackie a contract for $1 million per film, then upped it to $2.4 million, and then $4.8 million. These sums were beyond his wildest dreams. But to accept Golden Harvest’s offer, he’d have to break his existing contract with Lo Wei. That would be a betrayal, though, and Jackie hated to do that. Still, Golden Harvest was offering more money than he’d ever thought he’d make in his life. It was a difficult choice.

Many friends advised him that actors are usually popular for only a short while, and he had to make his money while he could. What was he waiting for?! After much consideration, he finally decided to sign with Golden Harvest.

When he heard about this, Lo Wei threatened to sue Jackie for breaking his contract. This was expected, but now he said the number they’d agree to was not $100,000, but $10 million!

Lo Wei had filled in the blank contract with different terms. This was a major blow to Jackie. Besides the emotional pain of being cheated and lied to, he was stuck. Even if he were to sign up with Golden Harvest, he’d never be able to come up with $10 million for Lo Wei.

Just as Jackie was at his wit’s end, the old janitor come to see him. He said that he’d also done some filing at the studio and could testify that Lo Wei personally ordered him to alter the contract. All these documents were handwritten back then, and the old man had been in charge of this one. Lo Wei had instructed him to add a stroke on top of one of the [Chinese] characters, turning it from ten to a thousand.

The old man said, “Don’t worry, if he sues you, I’m prepared to tell the court what really happened.”

Whether this is a case of foolish people having foolish luck or of virtue being rewarded, the matter of $10 million in damages went away just like that. And because of this whole incident, Jackie was able to sign a contract with Golden Harvest, starting a new era of Jackie Chan films.

Previously here:

Actor Jackie Chan: His Deepest, Only Regret
The Science Of Getting Rich
Human Variables category

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