International action star Jet Li made headlines over the weekend after the actor was photographed after an appearance in Tibet, because the actor is practically unrecognizable. Jet Li announced in 2013 that he was suffering from hyperthyroidism and a heart condition, and those who have commented on the photo are quite stunned, since the 55-year-old actor looks at least 20 or 30 years older than he really is. The actor has quietly stepped away from acting since then, although he is slated to portray The Emperor in Disney’s remake of Mulan.
When Jet Li announced his hyperthyroidism in 2013, he admitted that he had been dealing with it for three years prior. He was advised to take medication to control his heart rate and he was advised by his doctors to stop making action films, or he would risk, “spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair.” Li’s last major Hollywood film was 2014’s The Expendables 3, and he also played Jiang in the 2016 Chinese film League of Gods, and appeared in a 2017 short film On That Night… While We Dream.
Jet Li was also originally slated to star in XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, but we reported in February 2016 that he was ultimately replaced by Donnie Yen. Li reportedly had to be replaced quite quickly, after dropping out for “unknown reasons,” and it seems possible that his hyperthyroidism may have been the cause for Jet Li dropping out of what was an action-intensive role as the main villain, Xiang, who was described as a, “deadly alpha warrior.” XXX: The Return of Xander Cage was released last January, earning just $44.8 million domestically but faring quite well internationally with $301.2 million, for a global total of $346.1 million worldwide, from an $85 million budget.
We reported in April that Jet Li was brought on to play The Emperor in Disney’s live-action remake of Mulan, which doesn’t seem to be an action-intensive role. Aside from his hyperthyroidism and his heart condition, the serious injuries Li has suffered throughout his career in martial arts and as an action superstar, have limited his movements greatly. The actor has admitted that he can no longer stand for an extended period of time before he starts hunching over.
Li is a devout Buddhist and he was spotted in Tibet at a temple, where younger children referred to him as “grandpa.” Li has credited his belief in Buddhism in helping him cope with his illness. Since his quiet withdrawal from the entertainment industry, Li has been devoting most of his time to his charitable organization, The One Foundation, which supports the Red Cross and other international relief efforts, which he formed in 2007 after he and his family managed to survive while vacationing in the Maldives during the massive 2004 tsunami. Li was born in Beijing, China, living in poverty after his father died when he was just two years old. When he was eight, he was discovered practicing the martial art of wushu, and he would go on to become a national wushu champion. He took up acting after retiring from wushu at the age of 19, starring in hit Chinese and Hong Kong films such as Once Upon a Time in China, The Master, Fist of Legend and Black Mask, before making his Hollywood debut in 1998’s Lethal Weapon 4. Take a look at this photo of 55-year-old Jet Li below, which was discovered by The Hollywood Reporter.