So why would you hire a guy who didn't speak English and didn't have a martial arts background to star in an American action movie in the role that made Bruce Lee famous?
While the majority of Americans are completely unfamiliar with Chou, in Asia he's a musical superstar. Time Magazine called the Taiwanese native "the King of Asian Pop." He's been at the top of the pop charts in Asia for 10 years straight, selling over 32 million albums. And he even has legions of fans in this country, selling out concerts in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
Chou's been called "the Asian Justin Timberlake" -- though in the exclusive video below, Rogen states he prefers to be thought of as "the [Asian] Usher." And like Timberlake, Chou has used his fame as a pop star to launch an acting career. He appeared in several hit films, but only one -- 2006's "Curse of the Golden Flower" -- was ever released in the U.S. He also wrote and directed a feature film, 2007's "Secret," which won the Golden Horse Award for Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year.
Originally, "Kung Fu Hustle" star Stephen Chow was on board to both direct "The Green Hornet" and play Kato. But when he dropped out of both roles, the filmmakers began a worldwide search to find the right actor to put on the mask. Naturally, expectations were high, since Bruce Lee's performance as Kato in the '60s television program was the most memorable aspect of that show.
Chou first auditioned for the role from Taiwan over a Skype video call. Even though he didn't speak the language -- his high school English teacher told Time that she "thought he was dumb" -- the producers were impressed enough to fly him in to meet Rogen. The two had a natural chemistry, and Rogen said, "He completely pulled off everything that we thought he could do, but more so, because he was even cooler than we thought he could be."
Chou began the film shoot learning all his lines phonetically, but according to costar Cameron Diaz, within a few weeks he was comfortable enough with English that he could improvise dialogue. He also became proficient in martial arts moves for the fight scenes. Stunt coordinator Jeff Imada said, "Because he has a dance background, Jay picks up choreography very quickly." Imada went on to say Chou could watch the stunt performers run through a fight and then match their actions without any prompting.
Chou's burgeoning film career did not slow down his music one. He would jet out to concerts on breaks from shooting "The Green Hornet," selling out arenas all over Asia. He also gave the character in the movie a musical side. In one scene in the film, he plays piano to impress Cameron Diaz's character. And if you stick around through the closing credits, you'll hear a song Chou wrote and performed called "Nunchucks," which happens to be the same weapon Kato wields in the film.
"The Green Hornet" is in theaters Friday. To get a preview of Chou in action, watch the exclusive featurette below.
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