Why can’t Jack Ma just be a billionaire?

Society & Culture

Although the Wall Street Journal reports (paywall) that “Alibaba’s entertainment efforts look like an untalented rich kid trying to make it in Hollywood,” the company’s failure in the film business has not deterred its founder, Jack Ma 马云. Ma has a net worth of $38.6 billion, but it’s well known that he is an entertainer at heart. He has really pushed it over the edge recently by collaborating with a number of celebrities.

On November 11, the annual retail festival initiated by Alibaba as an epic celebration of consumerism, the ecommerce giant released The Art of Guard and Defense (攻守道 gōngshǒudào), a 22-minute kung fu film starring Jack Ma, along with an impressive ensemble cast featuring Jet Li 李连杰, Donnie Yen 甄子丹, and Wu Jing 吴京, just to name a few. Ma, a longtime martial arts fan, plays a tai chi master who defeats a string of kung fu legends. What’s more surreal is that none of the actors in the film took a paycheck for their roles. They participated, voluntarily, to realize Ma’s dream (in Chinese).

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In addition to Ma’s film debut, the billionaire also recorded a song with pop diva Faye Wong 王菲. The song is the theme for his film and is titled “Feng Qing Yang” 风清扬.

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On the night of Alibaba’s extravagant November 11 gala, a significant amount of time was set aside to promote Ma’s film. Hollywood actress Nicole Kidman, who had nothing to do with the film, attended the event and gave a speech. “The incomparable Jack Ma has produced and starred in a movie,” she said on stage.

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In an interview in October, Ma said that, with his incredible wealth, it’s time for him to think about his childhood and all the dreams he had before establishing Alibaba. Ma’s dream, as he has said explicitly at different occasions, is to become an all-round entertainer who can sing, act, and even paint.

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Ma also seems to have a persistent aversion to money, which might stem from the fact that he just has too much of it. When asked about his view about money, he once said, “I never touched it and I have no interest in it.”

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