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Jet Li faces looming threat of a wheelchair-bound life
2006-01-06 02:16:21 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONG KONG, Jan 6 (AP) -- Chinese action star Jet Li said Thursday that a lifelong kung fu career has left him with the growing threat of a wheelchair-bound life, but that it would be too difficult for him to switch to a less punishing genre.

Li told about 200 Hong Kong students that few knew about the suffering and sacrifices behind show business -- namely, that he suffered for 20 years after he broke a leg in 1982.

The actor star said doctors have warned him that he could end up in a wheelchair ever since he was 19 years old.

"There's a chance I have to face this problem eventually. It's not 100 percent, but the rate of it happening is very high, increasingly high," he said breezily.

Li, 42, reportedly said earlier that he wanted to give up the martial arts genre for more sensitive fare.

The kung fu actor has trained in Wushu, or martial arts, since he was 8 years old and went on to be a national champion before starting acting at age 16. His films include more than two dozen Chinese action movies along with violent Hollywood productions such as "Lethal Weapon 4" and "Romeo Must Die."

Li said it was difficult for him to make a switch to non-action movies because of commercial reasons.

"You want to make one, but there's a great distance with reality," he said. "This is a commercial society, and it has its mode. Every actor has a set mold.

"Film companies will not invest in (a movie) if you have no guarantee. Can you do it yourself just by thinking about it? Realizing that dream is hard."

Li, a practicing Buddhist, also said he wanted to devote more time to philanthropic work, but must continue making movies because it serves as a way to make his influence felt.

His latest movie, "Fearless," the story of Chinese martial arts pioneer Huo Yuanjia, is due for release in Hong Kong and mainland China later this month.

The actor said his next project was a Western movie, but declined to provide further details.

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