The Forbidden Kingdom offers martial arts aficionados a historic cinematic moment: the first on-screen kerfuffle between the two Chinese titans of action flicks, Jackie Chan and Jet Li Lianjie. 'I haven't had that feeling in a fight for over 15 years,' says Chan at a press conference last month at Hengdian Studios, where the film was being shot after spells in the northwest near Dunhuang, the Wuyi mountains in the south- east and then bamboo forests in Zhejiang province. The on-screen duel was 'very comfortable and enjoyable', Chan says. 'It's the same feeling I used to have when I worked with [fellow action film veterans] Sammo Hung Kam-bo and Yuen Biao. Jet and I work in complete harmony. The movements between us, every kick, every punch and even breath are so fluent and fast ... Although this was the first time we worked together in one movie, it seemed we'd been working together forever.' Working alongside director Rob Minkoff is Hong Kong cinema-tographer Peter Pau Tak-hei, best known for his Oscar-winning work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and action and martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping, whose many credits include Crouching Tiger, Kill Bill and the Matrix trilogy. In The Forbidden Kingdom, Yuen reunites with Chan, with whom he worked on Drunken Master in 1978, and Li, the star of the Yuen-choreographed Fearless last year. 'Working with any one of them individually would be enough,' says Minkoff, who's better known for directing family movies such as The Lion King and Stuart Little. 'But to work with them all together is unheard of. It's such a remarkable experience.' The film was developed from an original script by American screenwriter John Fusco about a modern-day, kung fu-obsessed 17-year-old American, Jason Williams, who is transported to ancient China after discovering the staff of the Monkey King in a Chinatown pawnshop. The teenager embarks on a dangerous quest to return the weapon to the mythological Monkey King and to free him from his 500-year imprisonment by an evil warlord. In The Forbidden Kingdom, Chan, 53, plays Lu Yan, a wandering poet claiming to be a master of 'drunken kung fu', and Li, 44, plays the enigmatic and deadly Silent Monk. They help Jason, played by Michael Angarano (Almost Famous), to complete his mission and, in the process, profoundly influence him. The film serves as a showcase of contrasts between the two leading men's styles: Chan, best known for his acrobatic, improvisational moves competes against Li's intensely disciplined sequences of kicks and punches. 'Jackie has a more comedic character, which is more tailored to his strengths,' says the film's producer, Casey Silver. 'Jet plays a more philosophical, dangerous and quiet character. But they're of equal weight and importance in the movie.' Silver's company is co-producing the film with the mainland's Huayi Brothers, with funding from US company Relativity Media. International distribution is handled by two American US film industry mainstays, Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company. The producer dispels any idea that The Forbidden Kingdom is merely a take on the Chinese tale Journey to the West. 'Monkey King is only one of the many Chinese elements of the movie,' says Silver. 'The story isn't Journey to the West. It's a classic American story and a classic boy-to-man hero's journey. The movie is really about a boy's imagination and the boy's love of all things Chinese.' For Li, who has appeared on American screens in more violent fare - such as Romeo Must Die and Lethal Weapon 4 - The Forbidden Kingdom will realise his goal of making a family-friendly film for the US market. 'This will be a perfect commercial film for summer,' he says. 'Families can sit down together and enjoy the movie. It's about a young boy's dream and fantasy, which allows a lot of imagination for us to put in various elements of Chinese culture.'