Fans are concerned about Jet Li after new picture surfaces online
Jet Li is known as one of the biggest action stars in cinema, dazzling audiences with his lightning-quick moves. He began his career at the age of eight, practicing wushu, a form of contemporary Chinese martial arts. The coaches noticed his talent quickly. Li won multiple championships, and even went on to perform in the United States for President Richard Nixon. Reportedly Nixon was so impressed he asked Li to be his personal bodyguard. Li replied, "I don't want to protect any individual. When I grow up, I want to defend my one billion Chinese countrymen!"
At the age of 19, Li retired from wushu, and transitioned to film. His debut, Shaolin Temple, was huge hit in Greater China, kickstarting a long and storied movie career. In Eastern cinema, he was part of the golden age of martial arts films, alongside other iconic stars like Jackie Chan and Donnie Yen. In 1998, he achieved Hollywood stardom with a role as one of the bad guys in Lethal Weapon 4. He went on to star in many other films, including Romeo Must Die, Kiss Of The Dragon, Hero, The One, The Expendables and The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan.
In 2013, Li revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that he was suffering from a heart condition as well as hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is a condition where the thyroid gland produces too much of the hormone thyroxine, causing the body's metabolism to accelerate. Symptoms include sudden weight loss, a rapid heartbeat, increased sensitivity to heat, muscle weakness, difficulty sleeping, skin thinning and irritability.
Li also said all the on-set injuries from his movie career had taken their toll on his body. As a result of injuries to his legs and spine, he admitted that he could no longer stand for a long time without hunching. Quoting his doctor, Li said he could "either continue making [action] films or spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair." So, the international action star, who at one point was considered Bruce Lee's successor, retired from filmmaking. In July 2016, he claimed it was not because of his health, but because he wanted to spend more time working with his charity, The One Foundation, which focuses on disaster relief and child welfare in China.
Now a new photo of Jet Li has surfaced on line, in which he looks elderly and extremely frail. (He's the person to the right in the picture above - yes, the right.) The photo was taken in Tibet, where Li was spotted at a temple. A devout Buddhist, he has credited his religion for helping him live with his illness. In case you're skeptical this is a hoax, here's an additional photo of Jet Li, taken in January 2018.
On social media, fans expressed concern, since Li is only 55 years old but appears to be 20 or 30 years older. It's a jarring, heartbreaking image, considering how we all remember Jet Li as a baby-faced, agile, ass-kicking movie star. "Jackie Chan and Jet Li were like Gods to me when I was little. It's so sad to see Li like this," wrote one fan on Twitter.
Well, we're all aging and you never know what difficulties life is going throw at you. The good news is, Li appears to be great spirits and hasn't entirely retired from acting. He's booked to play The Emperor in Disney's live-action Mulan movie, which comes out in 2020. And if Sylvester Stallone makes The Expendables 4, it's possible he'll pop up in that, since he starred in the previous three films. Hopefully we continue to see him kick ass on the big screen for years to come.