Inside Jackie Chan’s Complicated Marriage With His Wife, Joan Lin

Action film star Jackie Chan has enjoyed stratospheric fame for years, with a worldwide following and some 150 films to his credit. He’s also a trained opera singer, philanthropist, and multi-millionaire who is worth $400 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

Although it may seem hard to believe, Chan’s wife, actress Joan Lin, was even more well-known than he was when they first crossed paths. She was in more than 70 movies before she retired from acting. The pair has been through a lot together, and they tend to keep a low profile.

Here’s what we discovered about the special lady who has been by Chan’s side for 50 years through many difficult moments.

Joan Lin Was A Superstar In 1970s Taiwanese And Hong Kong Cinema

Back in the 1970s, Lin was a film superstar in her own right in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Born in Taiwan on June 30, 1953, Lin dropped out of school when she was just 12 due to her family’s poverty. She had four siblings.

Lin began her career when she was quite young. At 19, she starred in her first movie, The Hero of Chiu Chow (1972). Lin had a leading role as a character named Hsueh Feng in the film, which revolved around the struggle of workers pushing back against their unfair boss (per HKMDb). Billed as a Kung Fu action film, it would not be the last time Lin was accorded praise for her acting skill.

Despite her success with her first film, it was another project that would catapult her to stardom: The Story of a Small Town (1979). The movie depicts a man who is let out of prison and then finds himself enthralled by a woman who does not speak, played by Lin.

It was a significant milestone in her career. The film earned multiple honors at the 16th Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards that year, including Best Leading Actress for Lin. She was now a bonafide star, thanks to her hard work and talent.

Chan Was Attracted To Lin By Her Down-To-Earth And Mature Demeanor

In many ways, Joan Lin was very unlike Jackie Chan. According to the way he described himself in his autobiographical book, Never Grow Up, he was somewhat brash and headstrong when he was younger.

Lin, on the other hand, was demure, low-key, and uninterested in the kind of flashy clothes and jewelry that many movie stars typically sported.

Chan’s team liked her a lot, and he recalled their fondness for his wife in a chapter of his book titled “The Love of My Life.”

They urged him to pay close attention to this charming woman who had so much finesse. He remembered them saying, “Jackie, she’s so beautiful, and such a nice person.” Chan was impressed with Lin, too. He took her out many times.

The better acquainted he became with Lin, the more he was bowled over by her. She was unpretentious and friendly, and she accepted him exactly the way he was. They got along well. Chan made Lin laugh.

“I behaved like an oaf as usual,” Chan wrote self-deprecatingly, “but it didn’t bother her. I never felt uncomfortable with her.”

If there was a minor sticking point in their relationship, it was that the media took the stance that Lin was too classy for the rough-hewn Chan. She was also depicted as a bigger star than he was. That could have caused a rift between them if they had allowed it to.

Their Relationship Got Serious After Lin Became Pregnant

Lin became pregnant with Chan’s child in 1981. He told her he wanted the baby, but under the surface, he harbored serious concerns. Chan wondered how the public would react to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy and whether fans might be distraught at the news that his baby was on the way.

He came up with a solution of sorts, which was to have Lin give birth to the child in secret in the United States. She went along with the plan, and left for California. Chan was working, so he did not accompany her. Instead, his manager traveled to America with Lin.

Chan was not too attentive to Lin during this time when she needed him most. He admitted that he was working throughout Lin’s pregnancy. He never made the journey to this country to be with her. His manager departed from California, so Lin was by herself in a strange land with no one to turn to.

Chan finally took time from his career to come to America’s shores when the baby was on the verge of being born. His manager thought that they should get married. Chan and Lin had their wedding in a private room at a rooftop coffee shop.

He shared that the place was teeming with customers grabbing a midday bite to eat. Chan and Lin could hear their loud hubbub during their ceremony. Not too romantic!

Their only child, Jaycee, was born that very night. “Most babies are ugly when they’re born, and Jaycee was no exception,” Chan wrote, showing scant fatherly pride in his new offspring. Still, he seemed relieved that the child was at least apparently healthy.

Chan Was Often Tight-Fisted With Money

Chan’s friends started to put ideas in his head about Lin’s sincerity, suggesting without basis that she was a gold digger who was after his money even though she had earned quite a bit of her own. He acknowledged that he was stingy with Lin despite the fact that she was now his wife and the mother of their child and never gave him any cause to be suspicious of her.

“Although I frittered away my own money like crazy,” Chan wrote in his book. “I never gave Joan access to my bank accounts and made sure that, if we were to divorce, she wouldn’t receive a dime.”

Chan’s unkind attitude toward Lin, who he said was a loving and devoted partner and parent, bothered him to some degree. “I was the wicked one, not her, and also stupid,” he said.

Chan’s 1999 Affair With Another Woman Led To A Child

A bombshell landed in the middle of the Chans’ marriage when he had an extramarital relationship. The other woman, Hong Kong actress Elaine Ng Yi-lei, had Chan’s daughter, Etta Ng Chok Lam, in January 1999.

In 2017, The Straits Times reported that Ng’s lawyer had reached out to Chan in 2015 via a middleman for some financial support for Ng. She had fallen on hard times amid discord with Etta that led to an alleged domestic incident and Ng’s arrest for criminal intimidation. Chan reportedly flatly declined to assist her.

Chan was so embarrassed by his behavior that he thought he could use his transgression as an excuse to slink away and get a divorce from Lin.  Any way out was preferable in his mind to facing his dignified, loyal wife and taking responsibility for his betrayal of her and their marriage vows.

“I’d behaved abominably and I’d let her down badly,” Chan conceded.

The three Chans—Jackie, Joan, and Jaycee—had an awkward family meeting at Chan’s request. He had something to confess to them.

Owning up to his “unforgivable mistake” in front of his wife and son, Chan said, “I want to apologize to you both.”

He said they never talked about the subject again. Chan changed his will after that, leaving everything to Lin. It seems as if this incident had brought him clarity about her decency and the unfairness of some of what he put her thorough.

She not only resolutely stood by him, but also urged him not to be hurtful toward Ng. Lin’s big-heartedness in this messy marital situation was almost saintly.

Chan’s Relationship With His Family Is Reportedly Distant

Chan wasn’t always a model husband and father. He often prioritized the demands of his hectic and extremely successful career over his family. Chan and Lin reportedly each went their own way to the point that he felt at ease dating other women.

His son, Jaycee, was said to only see his dad rarely. Chan didn’t even want his family present when he was busy filming.

He may be rethinking the way he has conducted his relationships with Lin and Jaycee, however. In 2014, Jaycee was arrested in Beijing for marijuana possession. He spent time in prison. That incident seemed like a fresh beginning for the whole family.

Jaycee Chan speaks during a press conference following his release from jail
Jaycee Chan speaks during a press conference in Beijing on February 14, 2015, following his release from jail. (GREG BAKER/AFP via Getty Images)

Chan made a thoughtful video for Jaycee when he was released from jail because he was unable to be there in person. He said in this video, “No matter what, your mom and I will always have your back. … we can celebrate the New Year as a family.”

Chan, Lin, and Jaycee reportedly viewed the video together. Chan’s uncharacteristic tenderness left all of them in tears.

Chan’s co-author of Never Grow Up, Zhu Mo, wrote, “In the six months that Jaycee was away, Jackie learned how to care for Joan.” He became more attentive and appreciative of her. They seemed to turn a corner.

Joan Lin has been stoic and steadfast in what may have been her most challenging real-life role as Jackie Chan’s wife. He has been, by his own admission, sometimes callous and harsh to her.

After many years of challenges and crises, this is one celebrity couple that hopefully has grown from what they have gone through and now appreciate each other in a new and deeper way.

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