Jackie Chan Was Almost Demolition Man’s Villain: Why He Turned It Down
Jackie Chan was offered the role of the villain in Demolition Man, which eventually went to Wesley Snipes, but he turned it down. Here’s why.
Jackie Chan could have appeared in Demolition Man as the villain, opposite Sylvester Stallone, but the actor turned down the part. The role of Demolition Man’s murderous criminal and anarchist, Simon Phoenix, ultimately went to Wesley Snipes and became one of Snipes’ biggest roles in the early 1990s.
Demolition Man is a 1993 science fiction film set in 2032, which tells the story of John Spartan (Stallone) a respected and capable cop who tried in vain to save hostages from his nemesis, Simon Phoenix (Snipes). After a false accusation from Phoenix lands Spartan in hot water, both men are placed in cryogenic sleep. After Phoenix breaks out of containment and starts a crime spree in the future, Spartan is awakened to join the police force to face him.
Though in retrospect, Snipes feels like he was the perfect fit to play Simon Phoenix, he wasn’t the only actor in mind for the role. At the suggestion of Sylvester Stallone, the part was offered to Jackie Chan, who around this time was making Hong Kong action movies like the Police Story films and Twin Dragons. Chan turned down the role because he was unsure of how his performance as a villain would be received [via AMC]. For decades, Jackie Chan played only heroes, and fans generally expected Jackie Chan to be the main protagonist. It wasn’t until the 2000s and his pairing with Chris Tucker in Rush Hour that Chan started playing supporting roles a bit more regularly, and even now, Chan is still associated with playing good-natured characters.
Admittedly, Chan has played a villain before, but only at the beginning of his career. In three movies from the early 1970s – the most notable is The Young Tiger – Chan played thugs who had to be defeated by the main hero. Later, when he was elevated to playing the lead in various kung fu movies, an attempt was made to turn Jackie Chan into the next Bruce Lee. It was only when Chan was allowed to insert comedy into his acting that the reputation that he has today began to form.
Similar to actors like John Wayne and Tom Cruise, Jackie Chan has created an image from his movies. While some actors fear being typecast, the martial arts icon has embraced the expectations that fans have about him by gravitating toward heroic roles that can accommodate his comedic acting style. So even though Demolition Man would have garnered a significant amount of attention simply by having Chan play an evil criminal, it makes sense why he felt playing an evil psychopath would have conflicted with his heroic image.