Here's What Happened To Jet Li

Before Jet Li became a superstar actor, he was a superstar martial artist. When he was still in grade school, he began studying martial arts, and that move would change the course of his life in a major way. "I was from a very poor family and we didn't have enough money for a good school, so sports school was good," Li said in Muscle & Fitness (via "It gave me good food and an opportunity out of China."

After winning some national championships, Li left the martial arts competition scene and went all in on the movie scene. He is now known for his roles in blockbuster martial arts films like "Lethal Weapon," which made the actor a household name. With a long list of notable roles under his belt, Li decided to step away from Wushu films after filming "Fearless." "Everything I believe, the physical part, the mental part, I put everything in the film," he said in Cinema Blend in 2006. "That's why I say this is my last wushu movie." 

While he has not stepped away from acting entirely, it seems as though Li hasn't been as prominent in Hollywood in recent years. Here's what happened to the star.

He was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism

Jet Li has stepped away from more physically demanding movie roles in part due to his hyperthyroidism diagnosis. He was diagnosed with the condition in 2010. Per The Hollywood Reporter, the star addressed his illness in 2013 while filming for a TV show in China. "I'm fat. I don't have the time to lose it. It's a fact!" Li said of his fluctuating weight. According to the American Thyroid Association, hyperthyroidism results in high thyroid hormone production in the body. This causes numerous symptoms that can result changes in metabolism, heart problems, increased anxiety, and more.

In 2018, a Twitter user shared a photo of Li that left some fans worried about the star's weight loss. The actor's manager, Steven Chasman, came forward to put an end to the speculation after the photo gained traction on social media. "We appreciate everyone's concern. But Jet is completely fine," Chasman said in a statement to USA Today. "There's nothing wrong with him. There's no life-threatening illness. He's in great shape." 

The martial arts champion went on to return to the big screen in 2020 in Disney's live-action remake of "Mulan," so it seems that his health has not caused him to quit acting entirely.

The Hero star has turned his focus to charity work

Jet Li fans might know that the multi-talented actor has a passion for charity work and that he founded a non-profit foundation called One Foundation. The organization works with the Red Cross Society of China to fund disaster relief, assist children struggling with mental health issues, and other causes. "My ideal foundation is a fundamental charity facility much like the water and electricity utilities to a city," Li said of his vision in Borgen Magazine. "The public charity is not driven by the influence of trends, but is driven by a custom of giving."

The father of four incorporates Chinese tradition into One Foundation's mission. "We want to change 'do a good deed a day' in Chinese traditional culture into 'do a good deed a month,' Li explained. "Why one Yuan? It is the easiest step from psychological research. Once a donor makes the first movement, he/she will be rewarded psychologically."

In a 2008 interview with Reuters, Li explained that he turned down multimillion-dollar movie deals to prioritize One Foundation. The actor also shared that he had a lot to learn about running such a multifaceted non-profit.

Jet Li portrayed Mulan's emperor in the live-action remake

As previously mentioned, Jet Li made a return to Hollywood with the 2020 live-action remake of "Mulan," which stars Liu Yifei in the title role. Li portrays the wise Emperor in the beloved Disney film. So, what motivated the actor to get involved with the movie after a four-year-long hiatus? It turns out his daughters insisted he should embody the character because they were huge fans of the original film.

In an interview for Shin Min Daily News (via Yahoo! Life), Li detailed the conversation he had with his then-15-year-old daughter. "She asked me if I am proud to promote Chinese culture to the world," said Li, who had previously turned down the role due to a disagreement regarding pay and the movie's script. Besides these two discouraging factors, Li was also worried about lines that he had to recite in English. Luckily, the actor's dialogue coach helped him through the difficult process.

When news of Li's involvement in "Mulan" gained fans' attention, the star's well-being was brought into question once again. This time Li decided to put an end to the speculation himself. The actor told USA Today that contrary to popular belief, he is in relatively good health. He continued, "But people want to make an excuse, saying, 'Why doesn't he make a movie, because he has a problem?' OK, fine, that's what you think, I'm still good."

Why he chose to skip The Matrix

If you think Jet Li would have perfectly embodied Seraph from "The Matrix" movie franchise, you're not alone. The Wachowskis hoped Li would take on the role in "The Matrix Reloaded," but the actor had other plans. As Li shared in a 2018 interview with Abacus, he turned down the franchise due to concerns regarding the rights to his martial arts moves and the future of his legacy. "I was thinking: I've been training my entire life. And we martial artists could only grow older," he said. "Yet they could own [my moves] as an intellectual property forever. So I said I couldn't do that." 

In 2003 — the year "The Matrix Reloaded" hit theaters — Li confirmed to CNN that he was offered a part in the sci-fi action flick, but ultimately decided to take his filmography in a different direction. "If I made 'Matrix,' I cannot make 'Hero,'" the actor said. "So... I think sometimes you get something and sometimes you lose something. And I tried my best, I got 'Hero.'" Li shared that he was happy that he chose to go with Zhang Yimou's martial arts masterpiece, while also noting that he knew "The Matrix" franchise would be successful with or without his involvement.

He's a family man

As Jet Li's four daughters grow up, it seems the actor has been spending a lot of time enjoying fatherhood. The "Romeo Must Die" star shares a lot of snaps he's taken with his kids on Instagram. One post features photos of Jet and his daughter Jada Li visiting one of the most famous places on the planet. "My daughters love to go to museums, so this time I went to the Louvre with Jada," Li captioned the post.

Jet usually keeps his family's lives out of the spotlight, but his youngest daughters, Jane Li and Jada Li, have made some headlines for all the right reasons. Per the South China Morning Post, Jane got into Harvard University and attended Le Bal des Debutantes in 2019. This event is a modern-day débutante ball held for women of influential families who have yet to make their introduction into high society.

Even as a teen, Jada has a list of impressive accomplishments — just like her sister. Per 8Days, in 2021, Jada graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. This prestigious private high school has an acceptance rate of only 13%. Jada's Instagram bio reveals she has decided to attend Barnard College of Columbia University in New York City. Admission into this women's liberal arts college is no easy feat as the acceptance rate is only 14%.

Jet Li's near-death experience changed his perspective

Jet Li had a life-threatening experience while on vacation in 2004. He was in the Maldives with his family when the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami hit. Li was so moved by the life-changing event that he wrote a piece for Newsweek detailing his experience and how it shifted his perspective. "I picked up my 4-year-old, Jane, while the nanny took Jada, and we turned toward the hotel. In that instant, the water rose to my knees," Li recalled. "I took two steps and the water was at my hips. Two more, and it was at my chest. Then it was just under my nose." Li was thankfully rescued by swimmers.

The star went on to explain how his experience in the Maldives and surviving the natural disaster inspired him to create the non-profit organization One Foundation. "I thought that if God had saved me, it must mean something," Li wrote. As previously noted, One Foundation provides disaster relief among other support for communities in need. Although Li is no longer the face of One Foundation, his passion for the organization and helping people in need is undeniable.