Since 1982, Jet Li’s performances as an actor and martial artist in action and fantasy movies have thrilled audiences. The 55-year-old Chinese born, Singapore naturalized performer has an extensive filmography in both Asian and American cinema. Unfortunately, Li’s physical condition looks to be declining in recent months. Photos of the star exploring a temple in Tibet show him to be require the aid of others whilst walking. His thinning, white hair and frail demeanor have greatly dismayed fans.
In 2013, the actor admitted he suffers from hyperthyroidism and was advised not to perform exercise or any strenuous activity that could raise his heart rate. He even admitted that his doctors had told him he could “end up in a wheelchair” if he kept trying to push his body beyond its limits.
Fans and concerned netizens quickly took to social media to express their dismay. “He was so active before and now he looks like an old man”, one Chinese commenter put rather bluntly. Another poster expressed condolences, saying “His kung fu is real and his films were great. Pity he’s suffering from this illness.”
One even claimed “I couldn’t even recognize him.”
Others spoke of how aging is a process that affects everyone, but were concerned because of just how drastically Li’s appearance had changed in the last decade.
Li was originally supposed to appear in 2017 spy thriller sequel xXx: Return of Xander Cage, but ended up being replaced by Donnie Yen. In a 2016 interview, Li claimed that he had overcome his malady and that he hadn’t been acting because he was actively choosing to focus on charity work.
Earlier this Spring, we reported that he would be playing the Emperor of China in Disney’s live-action Mulan, a pivotal character that saw no combat in the original animated incarnation of the movie.
In a recent statement, Li declared “I’m just a regular guy. I’m not Wong Fei-hung. I’m not Huo Yuanjia [kung fu heroes he has portrayed on film]. I’m just like you.”
Li’s manager, Steven Chasman, responded to concerns today, claiming “We appreciate everyone’s concern. But Jet is completely fine. There’s nothing wrong with him. There’s no life-threatening illness. He’s in great shape.”