LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Everybody knows actor Will Smith is a good-natured, fun-loving guy, but to hear his son Jaden tell it, he’s more than that. He’s crazy!
Jaden, 11, stars in “The Karate Kid” which debuts in U.S. movie theaters on Friday as a remake of 1984’s cult hit of the same name about an old martial arts master who teaches a young boy how to defend himself in the face of schoolyard bullies.
The idea to remake the movie with his son in the lead role was the brainchild of “Hancock” star Will Smith, and initially his family was skeptical, Jaden said.
“My dad had the idea, and everybody knows in (our) house that my dad’s a little crazy, okay? He’s very crazy! But you know, when he said this, we were like ‘are you sure?’ and then we were like, ‘all right, we’re going to listen to you because you’re the guy,’” Jaden told Reuters.
In fact, Smith, 41, has put both of his children with wife Jada Pinkett Smith in movies. Jaden starred alongside his father in 2006 drama “The Pursuit of Happyness” and daughter Willow, 9, had a role in Smith’s “I Am Legend.”
For “Karate Kid,” however, Jaden is on his own as the film’s star, while his mom and dad took on producer roles.
In the 1984 original, Ralph Macchio’s “Karate Kid” was a fish out of water as the new boy from New Jersey who moves to a California town.
In the new version, the stakes are raised for Jaden’s Dre Parker. He’s not just the new kid in town. He’s the new kid in the country when he and his mom (Taraji P. Henson) relocate from Detroit to China.
Much of the film was shot in and around Beijing, including the Tiananmen Gate, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. There was also a four-day film shoot in the Wudang Mountains in central China.
In both versions, the lead character makes an enemy of the class bully and must learn how to defeat him. But there are some new twists.
Gone are the famous “wax on, wax off” scenes dealing with waxing a car and used to help train the boy. In its place is a new learning system centered around putting a jacket on and taking it off, hanging it up and taking it down.
Karate, which originated in Okinawa, Japan, is replaced with Chinese kung fu. And Jackie Chan is Parker’s instructor, Mr. Han, a maintenance man and secret kung fu master who trains Parker to face the bullies at an upcoming kung fu tournament.
Jaden said he had seen the original movie and he liked it. But he said the new version “has a lot of story, a lot of amazing actors, and, like, I just think that this movie is good. We planned it out good, and we just attacked it.”
Chan, a veteran of martial arts movies and comedies including the smash hit “Rush Hour” flicks, said his stunt team trained Jaden for three months to do the fighting, and that the young boy proved adept at mastering all the right moves.
“He’s very, very good,” Chan told Reuters in a joint interview with Jaden. “I think he was born like that, he has this kind of gene, like me!”
When asked if either of them might like to work on a sequel, Jaden piped up that “it would be really cool.”
Chan, however, said he had to “think about it,” until he saw the budding kung fu expert glare at him. After that, he quickly changed his mind: “okay, I do it.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Alex Dobuzinskis