Jackie Chan Turned Down Lead Role In 2022’s Best Film

Jackie Chan was offered the lead role in Everything Everywhere All at Once before Michelle Yeoh accepted it.

By Phillip Moyer | Published

jackie chan

Jackie Chan might still be making movies in China, but it’s been a long time since the Rush Hour star appeared in a movie that made it big in the west. While his 2017 film The Foreigner did find some success in the states, the last time he starred in a well-known (non-animated) role in America was probably the 2010 remake of The Karate Kid starring Jaden Smith. However, that might have changed if he had accepted an unexpected role that CNN Business reports was offered to him: the lead character of the Oscar-nominated Everything Everywhere All at Once.

The role Jackie Chan was offered was eventually filled by Michelle Yeoh, playing the laundromat owner Evelyn Quan. Quan is thrown into a world of endless parallel universes after an alternate version of her husband takes over her husband’s body and recruits her on a quest to defeat an alternate version of her daughter, whose actions threaten the very existence of the multiverse. The film ends up being a strangely-comedic genre mash-up with a heavy emphasis on martial arts — something Jackie Chan would have been well-suited for.

Jackie Chan
Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

According to Evelyn Quan, the role was actually written specifically with Jackie Chan in mind, and she would end up playing a supporting role as Jackie Chan’s wife. According to Quan, Jackie Chan texted her to let her know that the directors went to him first. Quan said she was extremely thankful to him for turning down the role, which she viewed as a huge favor.

By turning down Evelyn Quan’s role, Jackie Chan unknowingly stepped away from what could have been an Oscar-winning performance. The film has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Actress, Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor. While it’s unlikely to win all 11 (a feat that would have it tied for the all-time record with Return of the King, Titanic, and Ben Hur), the unexpected critical success of the movie probably took both Jackie Chan and Evenlyn Quan by surprise.

The reason for the critical success comes from the emotional context of the movie, which is strangely relatable for being a movie about unlimited travel between parallel universes. While its plot is absurd, at its core the movie is about the relationships you build with your family and friends and the importance of kindness and understanding in a world that doesn’t make any sense. In the CNN Business interview, Evelyn Quan voiced her understanding of the film’s emotional heart — it’s unclear whether Jackie Chan had the same understanding.

Interestingly, Jackie Chan didn’t star in a single 2022 film, despite appearing in two 2021 films and being scheduled to appear in two 2023 films as well. One of those upcoming films is the horse-themed action comedy Ride On, a film about a stuntman and his stunt horse that is currently only scheduled to release in China. His other film, however, is the action thriller Snafu, which will have him starring alongside WWE superstar John Cena and is confirmed for a U.S. release.