x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 17 December 2017

The story behind Jackie Chan’s trip to Dubai to shoot Kung Fu Yoga

Atlantis, The Palm was the scene of several days of martial-arts action, as bemused guests looked on and security guards ushered away anyone who lingered too long around the hotel’s famous aquarium.

Jackie Chan shooting Kung Fu Yoga in Dubai. Courtesy Gulf Film
Jackie Chan shooting Kung Fu Yoga in Dubai. Courtesy Gulf Film

It seems an eternity since The ­National broke the news in ­August 2015 that Jackie Chan’s latest movie, Kung Fu Yoga, would be shooting in Dubai the following month.

This weekend, the film finally arrives in local cinemas. A ­Chinese/Indian co-production, it aims to combine the might of two of the world’s biggest movie industries.

Martial arts legend Chan stars as a professor from China’s ­Museum of the Terracotta ­Warriors, alongside Indian ­actresses Disha Patani and Amyra Dastur (Katrina Kaif was set to star, but missed out due to scheduling problems).

The filmmakers shot extensively in Dubai at a number of locations. Atlantis, The Palm was the scene of several days of martial-arts action, as bemused guests looked on and security guards ushered away anyone who lingered too long around the hotel’s famous aquarium – the backdrop for much of the fighting.

Downtown Dubai and Business Bay also served as locations, with several days of road closures as the stars chased each other in a variety of impressive supercars. It was a treat for star spotters around the city, who were spoiled for choice given Star Trek Beyond was also filming in the city at the same time.

Alkatraz Productions in Dubai Studio City were the local production partners for Kung Fu Yoga, and chief executive Ammar Al Khrisat admits that his company was largely responsible for the traffic jams and hotel-lobby battles that baffled guests and residents for more than three weeks.

“We worked on all the locations through our location department and scouted the locations for and with the Chinese crew – we tried to show them everywhere,” he says.

“Then we had to start working with the film commission. It wasn’t easy because there were a lot of road closures needed and that was all down to us, too.”

As you might imagine, closing major roads in a busy city centre is far from simple.

“We had to advise all the locations we wanted to shoot at and devise a plan for the rerouting of traffic with the necessary committees, even down to rerouting buses and public transport – but we made it work in the end,” Al Khrisat says.

Founded three years ago, ­Alkatraz is a relative newcomer to the UAE movie scene but already has an impressive list of credits, not the least of which is 2014’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens shoot in Abu Dhabi, for which it cast the local extras.

Al Khrisat is no newcomer to the industry, however.

“I’ve worked in facilitation for film shoots for many years,” he says. “One of my first big local projects was Syriana [the 2005 film starring George Clooney, which was the first major Hollywood movie to shoot in the UAE], so I had a lot of contacts.

Kung Fu Yoga all started with a proposal that came to Dubai Studio City, and as a locally-owned company based there we were offered the chance to quote on it. I got in touch with the Chinese crew and we started working ­together from there.”

Audiences will get to see how well Chan fared on his visit to Dubai when the film is released tomorrow – but Al Khrisat says the star proved himself to be a gentleman while shooting here.

“He was a great guy,” he says. “He works really closely with everyone, allowed everyone to take photos with him, he walks everywhere, just a very humble person.”

Were there any surprises or secrets he can share about Chan?

“He loves to cook,” says Al ­Khrisat. “Honestly, he was cooking for the crew at the end of the day when we finished shooting. He’s actually an amazing chef. Just a really great guy all around.”

Kung Fu Yoga is in cinemas from Thursday, February 2

cnewbould@thenational.ae