Li revealed in 2013 that he was suffering from hyperthyroidism as well as a heart condition. Quoting his doctor, Li said at the time that he could “either continue making [action] films or spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair”. Earlier serious injuries to his legs and spine sustained on film sets over the years had also limited his movements, and he admitted he can no longer stand for a long period of time without hunching.
Reluctantly withdrawing from filmmaking, Li has in the last few years dedicated his time to his charity, The One Foundation, which mainly focuses on disaster relief and children’s welfare in China.
A devout Buddhist, Li was spotted visiting a temple in Tibet in a recent photo and was allegedly addressed as “grandpa” by a group of school children due to his elderly appearance. He has credited his religious belief with helping him to cope with his illness.
Li has practised wushu since the age of eight, winning numerous awards, and once went to the US to perform as part of the China national wushu team for then U.S. president Richard Nixon. After retiring from wushu at the age of 19, he made his name in the movie business with his debut, Shaolin Temple (1982), which became a hit in Greater China, earning more than US$2 million in Hong Kong alone. Famed for his kung fu skills and boyish good looks, he attained Hollywood stardom in 1998 in Lethal Weapon 4 against Mel Gibson, and went on to star in Romeo Must Die (2000),The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) with Jackie Chan, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008).
Li and his family were vacationing in the Maldives at Christmas 2004 when the Indian Ocean tsunami hit. Although unharmed, the experience prompted him to start his work in philanthropy, setting up The One Foundation in 2007.
Credit Hollywood Reporter for article