Jackie Chan wasn’t faithful to his wife for most of the first half their marriage. When he fathered a daughter with another woman, he nearly filed for divorce without even asking for forgiveness.
Whether Jackie Chan actually loved his wife, Taiwanese actress Joan Ling, when he married her, is anyone’s guess. The two had been seeing each other and although Joan Ling was hugely successful and probably better known than Jackie Chan, at least at the time, he did think that she married him for his fame.
He admitted his distrust of women in his auto-biography, which is somewhat rich considering how many times he cheated on his wife.
The two were married in 1982. Joan was pregnant with their son and he had brought her to Los Angeles to have the child there. When she asked if he wanted the child and if they would marry, he said yes to both. But was love a part of the equation? Probably not. At least not back then. After all, they got married in a coffee shop rather spontaneously.
Jackie took off pretty much right away and made movies back to back. He also took lovers back to back. He has been known to date quite a few women, most of them beautiful. His affairs never lasted, though.
His wife looked the other way. She ended her own acting career in order to bring up their son Jaycee and stayed at home with the boy. For a number of years Jackie only came home for two weeks a year and even Jaycee once said that he saw his father in a period of six years only six times.
Why did Jackie get married to Joan? He wasn’t faithful and he was never at home. Was she something to be kept for the future, when he was ready to settle down? We don’t know and he didn’t say, not even in his auto-biography.
Things only changed when he got then-girlfriend Elaine Ng pregnant in 1999. She announced the pregnancy publicly, which caused Jackie to panic. Whilst Joan had certainly known about the many affairs her husband has had, at least he had never fathered a child with any of the women. But getting another woman pregnant somehow seemed to make his transgressions that much more real and tangible. Jackie wanted to call his wife and offer her a divorce, but she didn’t want one.
Did she love him so much to keep forgiving him or did it simply not matter to her all that much. One can hardly say that the two had a traditional marriage, but perhaps she wanted what they had more than facing a divorce and being unmarried at her age. It’s impossible to tell, because Joan does not have a public life at all.
Jackie admitted that their marriage was far from perfect, but he said they cherished each other and were, at the end of the day, family.
He ended the relationship with Elaine Ng and never acknowledged their daughter Etta as his. The girl is 16 now and doesn’t want a relationship with him anyway. Whilst she knows that he is her birth father, she never had a relationship to him and doesn’t really consider him her father.
It’s easy to mistake an actor for the characters he’s playing. Especially in the case of Jackie Chan, who, in all his Hollywood movies, has been playing the loveable goof, who knows how to fight, but who’s also always somewhat clumsy and awkward.
In real life Jackie Chan is nowhere near as charming as his characters. Whilst he publicly acknowledged his transgressions and apologized for them, he never even acknowledged his own daughter and even in his auto-biography speaks only of the ‘incident’. It seems he would prefer none of it had happened. But then he would have had to behave rather differently, too.