Jet Li, then and now
A picture allegedly of the popular martial artist, Jet Li, has alarmed fans and raised questions about the 55-year-old action star’s health.
Long known for his youthful looks and acrobatic moves spanning decades of action movies, in recent years, Li has battled hyperthyroidism, a condition that can cause fatigue and weight loss and that has previously ignited rumors of Li’s declining health.
The South China Morning Post reported on Saturday that fans were “praying for his health” after the emergence of the photo, which was said to have taken at a temple in Tibet and has been widely shared. Others have speculated that the man they believe is Li looks older because of bad lighting or the angle.
As the photo continue to make the rounds on social media, Jet Li’s manager, Steven Chasman, on Monday, said that it was just a bad photo of someone who is 55-years-old.
“He has hyperthyroidism that he’s been dealing with for almost 10 years. It’s nothing life-threatening and he’s dealing with it,” Chasman told the Washington Post, adding that he has spoken with Li’s assistant.
For years Li was one of the most electrifying martial arts actors in the world. A national wushu champion, he broke out in film after portraying the legendary folk hero Wong Fei-hung in the “Once Upon a Time in China” series.
His fights, though choreographed and sometimes employing wire tricks, evinced a fierce athleticism and fluidity of movement. He would then branch out to American and European productions such as “Romeo Must Die,” “The Expendables” and “Kiss of the Dragon,” where his character subdued a room full of French police singlehandedly.
Even after going to Hollywood, Li would continue to work with Chinese directors, such as Zhang Yimou in “Hero.”
Diagnosed with an overactive thyroid in 2010, Li said in 2013 that he was uncertain if he could continue working but was determined to, according to the Associated Press. “I’m in pain, but I’m not suffering. I’m happy,” he said, adding that he took medication.
Last year, the Beijing-born actor said during a dinner for his charity, One Foundation, that his illness kept returning.
Speculation about Li’s health has bubbled up before. In 2016, he dispelled rumors that his illness was worsening and that he needed a wheelchair, telling Singaporean journalists that “even my friends are concerned and are asking how I am,” according to the Straits Times.
“There is nothing to worry about my health,” he said, joking that, “I’m not sure which wheelchair company is putting out such news to sell more wheelchairs. Perhaps someone wants me to be a spokesman for their wheelchairs.”
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