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Cabbie-turned-chauffeur Jimmy Tong (Jackie Chan) learns there is really only one rule when you work for playboy millionaire Clark Devlin (Jason Isaacs): never touch Devlin's prized tuxedo. But when Devlin is temporarily put out of commission in an explosive "accident," Jimmy puts on the tux and soon discovers that this extraordinary suit may be more black belt than black tie. Suddenly thrust into a dangerous world of espionage with a rookie partner (Jennifer Love Hewitt) as inexperienced as he is, Jimmy becomes an unwitting--if impeccably dressed--secret agent.
Who DOESN'T want to work with Jackie Chan?
The Tuxedo is anything but the typical Jackie Chan movie. For the first time, Chan stars as a man who is, himself, completely inept at the kind of high-flying stunts that have set Chan's action films apart. Nevertheless, The Tuxedo does, in fact, showcase Chan doing the kind of moves that have delighted his fans for years, but here it could be said that it's a case of the clothes making the man.
Chan stars as Jimmy Tong, an ordinary cab driver, whose abilities behind the wheel of his taxi land him a job as a chauffeur for Clark Devlin, a wealthy industrialist, whose real industry is working for the CSA as a secret agent. Devlin is put out of commission, but not before ordering Jimmy to put on his prized tuxedo. Jimmy soon learns that this is no ordinary suit, but rather, a state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar tux, with features that allow the wearer to do everything from punch and kick to sing and dance--features that can turn an ordinary cab driver into an extraordinary secret agent.
Jackie Chan jumped at the opportunity to play a role that was such a departure from his usual onscreen persona. "It's the kind of part I've never done before, and that is what made me want to do the movie," Chan states. "The script was funny, and my character was interesting. I wasn't playing a policeman, just an ordinary person--a taxi driver who becomes a kind of super spy because of a tuxedo that lets him do all kinds of special things.
Not surprisingly, it was the chance to work with this international mega-star that drew many of Chan's colleagues to the project, including director Kevin Donovan. "I have to admit, I was very enticed by the fact that Jackie Chan was involved," Donovan confirms. "I truly believe there is not another actor on the face of the earth who could have done this role, certainly not to his level of expertise. I don't think anyone else has that kind of physical dexterity; I mean the man is amazing. On top of that, he has to be one of the nicest people ever to step into this industry."
The Tuxedo, marking Donovan's feature film directorial debut, comes on the feels of his award-winning work as a commercial director. Producer Adam Schroeder says that the studio and producers knew he was the right person to helm the project after seeing his innovative ad spots and then meeting with him. "Kevin had a very clear vision of what this movie was going to be from the very beginning, and it was great to work with him and watch him develop it and bring it to reality. He brought a wonderful visual sense and style to this project."
Donovan notes, "It was gratifying to be doing something for the sheer entertainment value rather than to promote a product. I really liked the combination of fun, comedy and action, and also that, apart from all the special effects and martial arts, there is a heart to it, especially between Jackie Chan's and Jennifer Love Hewitt's characters."
Jennifer Love Hewitt: She's Perfect!
Jennifer Love Hewitt stars opposite Chan as Del Blaine, a rookie agent in the CSA. Del lands the plum assignment to partner with the great Clark Devlin, never suspecting that her new partner is decidedly not Clark Devlin and is, in fact, even less experienced than she is.
"Jennifer was the only person we met with for the part of Del," Schroeder recalls. "We all thought she was a terrific actress, and then she came in with great ideas about how to play the character. We all agreed we had to go no further."
"Del is a lot different from anyone I have ever played, so I was excited about that," Hewitt remarks. "She's smart, but at the same time somewhat socially challenged. You might say communication is not her best skill, but I think by the end of the movie she learns something. She was a lot of fun to play."
For Hewitt, perhaps the most enticing thing about the role of Del Blaine was the chance to explore new territory in the action arena. "I've always wanted to be in an action movie; I have a real tomboy side to my personality than loves to kick butt," she laughs. The actress particularly enjoyed working alongside Jackie Chan, whom she refers to as "a hero of mine," adding, "Jackie was probably the number one reason I wanted to do the movie. I had seen almost all of his movies and thought he was adorable and funny, and the things he does on screen are unbelievable. Having worked with him, I think he is the greatest person I know. He's this little ball of light and energy that bounces around making every person he meets smile."
Hewitt's admiration is reciprocated by her co-star. "Jennifer is a beautiful, silly, crazy girl," Chan states. "She made me laugh all the time, even when we were about to shoot a scene. They'd say, 'Ready. Quiet. Rolling,' and she would start smiling behind me. I'd turn around and she'd start to laugh, then I'd start to laugh, and we'd have to cut and start all over. But she really concentrated on learning the stunts and the movement; when she wasn't on camera, she was always practicing on the side."
That mutual admiration resulted in the kind of camaraderie between the two leads that Kevin Donovan states was integral to the film. "Jackie and Jennifer just clicked immediately. They played off each other and were always cracking each other up. At the same time, Jackie is a consummate professional, and Jennifer, despite her bubbly exterior, is extremely savvy. They're both so seasoned and so smart, it just added to the chemistry between them, which was critical to me."
Devlin in Disguise
In the film, Hewitt's Del Blaine is partnered with the man she thinks is Clark Devlin. The real Devlin, however, is in the person of actor Jason Isaacs. "I play Clark Devlin, who is an international super spy, but when a mishap befalls him, he winds up in a coma, and Jackie assumes his identity for much of the film. A lot of people have said that my coma acting is among the best work I've ever done," Isaac quips. "It was fun. You know, every little boy wants to be James Bond, and this was probably as close as I'm going to get, so I enjoyed it."
The filmmakers acknowledge that Clark Devlin required an actor with James Bond-like qualities. "Jason fit the part perfectly," Donovan says. "He's a brilliant guy, very good looking, elegant and sophisticated, and has a way with words. We were very lucky to get him."
Isaacs, who is perhaps best known for his villainous roles, like that of the malevolent Colonel William Tavington in The Patriot, was glad to play a character audiences wouldn't love to hate. "I'm not expecting to be booed or hissed as I walk down the street after this. It will be nice for a change."
Instead, Isaacs turned over the villain reins to Ritchie Coster, who stars as Diedrich Banning, the megalomaniacal bottled water tycoon who has hatched a diabolical plot to corner the market on the world's bottled water supply.
Donovan offers, "We spent a lot of time casting the part of Banning, and then Ritchie came in and blew us away. He has a great combination of a sort of London street fighter and an aristocratic British gentleman. He brings out this sadistic, crazy quality on screen, which makes him seem very intimidating. I was a little worried though; he got so into the role, I wasn't sure he was ever going to come out of it," the director jokes.
"Banning is a nasty piece of work, which was great fun," Coster happily admits. "I like to think of him as a rusty, jagged edge who's pretending to be a razor blade. He wants to be a James Bond type of villain--all posh and stylish--but he's a rough sort, completely lacking in social graces."
I see your kung-fu is as great as mine...
Coster adds that much of the fun stemmed from being able to square off with Jackie Chan. An unabashed fan, Coster says that he was inspired to take up martial arts himself after seeing his first Jackie Chan film at the age of 12. "I was practically raised on his movies," he offers. "If anyone had told me as a teenager that I would be in a movie fighting with Jackie Chan, I would never have believed it, but there we were and it was brilliant. I was just giddy about it."
Debi Mazar is another cast member who says she was thrilled to be working alongside the action star. "Jackie Chan is the main reason I wanted to do the movie and, in fact, one of the things I liked about my character was I got to interact with Jackie on screen. I'm a huge fan." Mazar plays the CSA agent named Steena, whom she describes as "skilled and smart and all business, but she has a humorous edge. You could say she gets the ball rolling since she is the one responsible for recruiting Jimmy Tong to work for Clark Devlin."
"We wanted an urban charm for this part," says Schroeder. "Debi is totally convincing as this tough cookie who can obviously handle a gun, and has no trouble taking charge when she discovers that Clark Devlin's mission isn't exactly going as planned."
The main cast of The Tuxedo also includes Peter Stormare as Dr. Simms, the scientist who is carrying out Banning's plan to seize control of the world's drinking water; Mia Cottet as Banning's girlfriend Cheryl, who makes a game of trying to seduce Jimmy; and Romany Malco as Mitch, Jimmy Tong's best friend.
When your co-star is a $2 billion tuxedo...
It has often been said that some inanimate object has become like a character in the film, but it has rarely been as true as it is in the case of the title "character" in The Tuxedo. Donovan notes, "the tuxedo is not supposed to be like Inspector Gadget, although it does have some amazing gadgetry designed into it. Primarily, what it does is enable whoever wears it to have extraordinary capabilities. It allows you to run faster, perform martial arts, sing, dance better than you ever have...whatever--all abilities that human beings could have, but are rarely contained in one person. And in this case, they have all been put in the hands of one very unlikely person."
For Chan, acting with a computerized tuxedo that seems to have a mind of its own was particularly challenging because, while he was performing the moves, he had to make it appear as if his character was not in control of them. "It had to look at times as if I was going this way and the tuxedo was going that way, so I had to act with the tuxedo as if I was thinking, 'What's going on...what are you doing?'. I had to move my arms like somebody else was doing it for me; I had to hide my head like I didn't know what was about to happen," Chan describes, adding that he wants the audience to share in not knowing what was up the tuxedo's sleeve, so to speak. "I didn't want it to only be about fighting. The audience knows that when I wear the tuxedo I can fight. I wanted them to think, 'What's next? What other surprises does it have?'"
Some of those surprises allowed Chan to indulge his interest in working with special effects. Moviegoers are well aware that Chan is capable of remarkable fears and because of that, he is typically limited to what audiences know are within his own capabilities. He knows that fans will accept special effects moves from other actors, but they want to see Jackie Chan actually do what Jackie Chan does best. However, in this film, he is not supposed to be performing feats under his own power, but via that of the tuxedo, so he was able to push the boundaries more.
Fighting, fighting, and more fighting...
Beginning in pre-production, and continuing throughout filming, Chan, Hewitt and Coster threw themselves into fight and wire-training rehearsals to prepare for the film's many stunt sequences and fight scenes. Working with stunt coordinator Rick Forsayeth and stunt choreographer Chung Chi Li, the actors perfected their high-flying moves for the action sequences that are a staple of a Jackie Chan movie.
Forsayeth comments, "For Chan, the choreography of a fight scene is very much an organic process. He'll work with his team, rehearsing moves over and over again in a variety of ways until he feels they work for the scene. Then he'll leave, rethink it, and on any given day, at any given time, things will change."
Kevin Donovan adds, "Jackie is tireless when it comes to getting a stunt right. One night we were filming the scene at the silo where the action required him to leap up, do a flip, hit two guys, and do another flip. Obviously, it's a very back-bending, arduous thing to do, so after the fourth take I was saying, 'We'd better not do this any more; he's going to hurt himself.' But not only did we go past four takes, Jackie made us do 37. He will not stop until it's perfect, until he thinks he's done his best for the film."
The director had no problem deferring to his star's expertise in the action arena. "Anytime we got into something that involved Jackie's physicality, he was the boss. It would be ludicrous for me to think I would have any sense of what works best for him. He is a master are choreographing these fights--not just in a rock 'em sock'em way, but in a way that's lyrical and funny."
And safe. While he admits that he is sometimes frustrated with the limitations imposed on him by the Hollywood film industry, Chan is the first to say that he takes no unnecessary chances. "I'm crazy, but I'm not stupid," he emphasizes. "When I'm planning an action scene, I know how far I can go, how high I can jump...When I create a stunt, I have confidence that I can do it. If I think I cannot do something, I will not do it. I would not risk my life."
Jennifer Love Hewitt's Flexibility
Playing a CSA agent who has to hold her own in a fight, without the benefit of a state-of-the-art tuxedo, Jennifer Love Hewitt trained for three months prior to beginning work on the movie. Once on the set, she was grateful to have Chan's constant guidance for the fight and action sequences, though she acknowledges it could also be somewhat intimidating. "The best thing about having him as a coach is that he wants everyone to feel they are strong and powerful and cool, so he works really hard with you to make you look the best you can. Also, being scared to death that you're going to screw up your stunts in front of Jackie Chan is a really good way to ensure you're gonna do it right," Hewitt laughs.
Chan had nothing but praise for his onscreen partner. "Jennifer surprised me; she's very good. She trained in dance, so she's very flexible...and she was kind of crazy, like me," he smiles.
Chan may have been Hewitt's coach for the action scenes, but when it came to the dancing sequences, their roles were reversed. Chan admits that had may be the only man in the world who is more afraid of dancing than jumping from the top of a 150-foot silo. "He was terrified; it was just the cutest thing in the world," Hewitt says. "It was kind of cool for me, because he'd been teaching me the fight moves, but dancing is something I've been doing forever and am very comfortable with. We got to flip positions, and I was the one saying, 'Come on, Jackie, you can do it.'"
Unlike the tuxedo--with controls that could be switched at the touch of a button--Chan could not be as easily reprogrammed from fight mode to dance mode. Hewitt recounts, "During dance rehearsals, he would sometimes forget that he wasn't doing a stunt, so he'd be holding my hands and moving me around, and I'd say, 'Jackie, what are you doing?' He'd say, 'We're dancing,' and I'd say, 'No we're not; you're beating the crap out of me!' He'd apologize, but in the next minute he'd dip me to the floor and throw me around. But it was really fun...I spent every single day laughing hysterically. And when push comes to shove--literally--he's a fantastic dancer."
James Brown: Down for the Count!
Hewitt's praise notwithstanding, no amount of encouragement could calm Chan's nerves about having to dance and sing like the legendary James Brown when the tuxedo KOs the Godfather of Soul, and Jimmy Tong has to take his place on stage as the Emperor of Soul.
"It made me so nervous," Chan affirms. "I'm a pretty good martial artist, but I'm not a dancer. I had to practice, practice, practice every night...even in my sleep, my feet were moving. It drove me crazy, because how can you copy James Brown? He's the Godfather of Soul, the best."
Chan would be gratified to learn that James Brown, who has been dubbed "the hardest working man in show business," called Chan, "definitely the hardest working actor I've seen. He is unbelievable."
The combination of the two performers was almost too good to be true for choreographer Clarence Ford, who was responsible for teaching all the actors their dance moves in the film. "Working with Jackie Chan and James Brown, having those two energies together...what more could I ask for?"
Filming Locations the World Over
The Tuxedo was filmed almost entirely on location in Toronto, Canada. The film's first action sequence was accomplished on the to of a 140-foot cement silo, where for eight nights the company towered high above Toronto's skyline while shooting the first scene, including Chan's hair-raising drop from the top of the silo.
From the heights to the depths, the action sank to 40 feet below sea level in the full of the Seaway Queen. The massive steel shipping tanker provided an appropriate location for the floating office of the water baron Diedrich Banning.
Additional Toronto locations included the Casa Loma, a stately castle that doubled as Clark Devlin's palatial mansion; the RC Harris water filtration plant, an art deco building that provided the setting for the CSA's ultra high-tech headquarters; and the Royal York Hotel, where the James Brown concert sequence was filmed. The Aberfoyle Springs water distillery plant in Guelph served as the home of Banning Springs bottled water, and the historic Parkwood Estate in Oshawa provided the location for Banning's extravagant party to celebrate the launch of his new product.
The Hatchery, the site of the film's final climactic fight, was built on a Toronto soundstage and was by far the production's most elaborate set. The massive, spider-like structure was designed to accommodate the aerial rigging required for the action sequences. "The Hatchery is visually stunning, and brings all the film's elements of water and bugs to a head," says producer Adam Schroeder.
Kevin Donovan collaborated with cinematographer Stephen Windon and production designers Paul Austerberry and Monte Hallis to achieve a look he calls "stylish, but not futuristic. We wanted it to feel at once real and like something odd is happening. I think our designers did a fantastic job."
Slick Threads, and What Are You Wearing, Jenny Luv?
Eric Edell Phillips designed most of the costumes seen in the film. However, the centerpiece of the story, the tuxedo itself, was designed by world-renowned designer Giorgio Armani. "Knowing how important this tuxedo would be to the film, we went to Giorgio Armani and told him what it would mean to us to have his involvement," Schroeder recalls. "He was excited to work with Jackie Chan, so he agreed to design the tuxedo, and it's beautiful. It's classic, with a modern twist, and it obviously has that beautiful Armani line in its design."
The special tuxedo is a one-button classic wool crepe tuxedo with narrow notched satin lapels. The jacket is detailed with topstitching, and the waistband cummerbund is in satin and is worn with a classic tuxedo shirt and bow tie.
In addition, the suit Chan wears at the end of the film is from the Giorgio Armani men's collection. Jennifer Love Hewitt also wears a range of outfits from both the Giorgio Armani and Emporio Armani collections, including: an Emporio Armani turquoise silk chiffon cocktail dress; an Emporio Armani beige textured wool peak lapel suit; another Emporio Armani suit, in a charcoal textured wool; and a dramatic Giorgio Armani strapless navy floral beaded tea-length gown featuring a plunging back highlighted by a spider-web pattern of straps.
It could be said that a movie with a state-of-the-art tuxedo, designed by no less than Giorgio Armani, gives new meaning to the phrase "the clothes make the man." But Kevin Donovan is quick to counter, "I think the message of the movie is that external forces, be they clothes or whatever, don't have anything to do with who we really are as people. It's the man who makes it happen, not the clothes that make the man."