Action star Jet Li turned down an opportunity to star in last year's Oscar-winning crossover smash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in order to focus his energies on a different project: the birth of his daughter with second wife Nina Li Chi.
"I said [to director Ang Lee], 'Right now is wrong time, because I promised my wife [I would stay home]," the Romeo Must Die star reveals to TV Guide Online. "[Lee] understands. He says, 'Jet do it. I can wait. Or I can find another actor to make the movie.'"
Lee eventually opted for the latter scenario, casting Chow Yun Fat to star opposite Michelle Yeoh in the $127 million blockbuster. Still, Li insists he has no regrets about his decision, recalling the pledge he made to his bride: "'If you have a baby, I will stop working [to be] with you until the baby's born.' [And] I didn't work a whole year."
Well, with little Jane now 14 months old, the martial arts master is back doing what he does best: annihilating the bad guys. However, Li points out that his latest pic, Kiss of the Dragon (opening Friday), isn't just a 90-minute celebration of gratuitous violence. "I thought it's really important to have a message. Whether it's a popcorn movie or action, you still want to share some information with young audience," says the 38-year-old performer, who received a story credit on the film. "You watch 10 movies [and] they still give one message: Kick somebody's ass. I feel sad about [giving] one message."
Still, Li isn't suggesting that Dragon
is for kids. "I try to remind them this [is] rated R," he admonishes. "I think all parents need to decide [what's appropriate for children], not just me or studio. Everybody needs to take care of their next generation."