Willie Chan had become Jackie’s personal manager and firm friend, and has remained so for over 30 years. He was instrumental in launching Chan’s international career, beginning with his first forays into the American Film Industry in the 1980s. His first Hollywood film was Battle Creek Crawl in 1980. Chan then played a minor role in the 1981 film The Cannonball Run, which grossed US$100 million worldwide. Despite being largely ignored by audiences in favour of established American actors like Burt Reynolds, Chan was impressed by the out takes shown at the closing credits, inspiring him to include the same device in his future films.
After the commercial failure of the protector in 1985, Chan temporarily abandoned his attempts to break into the US market, returning his focus to Hongkong Films.
Back in Hong Kong, Chan’s films began to reach a larger audience in East Asia, with early successes in the lucrative Japanese market including The Young Master (1980) and Dragon Lord (1982). The Young Master went on to beat previous box office records set by Bruce Lee and established Chan as Hong Kong cinema’s top star. With Dragon Lord, he began experimenting with elaborate stunt action sequences, including a pyramid fight scene that holds the record for the most takes for a single sequence of scenes with 2900 takes, and the final fight scene where he performs various stunts, including one where he does a back flip off a loft and falls to the lower ground.
Chan produced a number of action comedy films with his opera school friends Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao. The three co-starred together for the first time in 1983 in Project A, which introduced a dangerous stunt-driven style of martial arts that won it the Best Action Design Award at the third annual Hongkong Film Awards.Over the following two years, the “Three Brothers” appeared in Wheels on meals and the original LuckyStars trilogy. In 1985, Chan made the first Police Story film, a US-influenced action comedy in which Chan performed a number of dangerous stunts. It was named the “Best Film” at the 1986 Hongkong Film Award. In 1987, Chan played “Asian Hawk,” an Indiana Jones-esque character, in the film Armour Of God. The film was Chan’s biggest domestic box office success up to that point, grossing over HK $35 million.