By age 17 Richard Norton was a karate black belt working security for nightclubs and serving as chief instructor to 500 karate schools nationwide. He landed a big job in the 1970s as security / bodyguard for The Rolling Stones during the band’s Australian tour and experienced his first brush with the demands of global celebrity. Norton trained with Mick Jagger in 4:00 a.m. workouts after concerts. His competency attracted a dazzling roster of other rock star clientèle including James Taylor, ABBA, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie and Linda Ronstadt, who invited him to California as her bodyguard. Before Aussies invaded Hollywood in posses, Norton ventured there alone.
A friendship with Chuck Norris brought him work in motion pictures. Norris cast Norton as the lethal Kyo, a masked ninja, in The Octagon (1980), and their grueling final combat endures as a classic cinematic fight scene. Director Robert Clouse chose Norton to be one of the ensemble heroes in Force: Five (1981), an international hit, and the young martial artist’s career in movies took off. His reputation for stellar performances emerged largely from high-energy Hong Kong films directed by Sammo Kam-Bo Hung and starring Jackie Chan in the mid-’80s. Muscular charisma made Norton the perfect Anglo bad boy for Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985) and Millionaires’ Express (1986). Taking the hits of his screen adversaries in those films earned Norton more Hong Kong work and, notably, Chan’s abiding respect.
Richard Norton calls Jackie “the maestro of martial arts movies.” Jackie has returned the compliment by recruiting Norton as one of just two Western actors to perform in several of his Hong Kong-based productions, including the comedic cult favorite Madam City Hunter (1993) and the darker Mr. Nice Guy (1997), directed by Hung. Hung encouraged Norton to play the “Guy” nemesis, a well-heeled gangster, with eccentric edginess. Norton embraced the direction and delivered one of the best co-starring performances in all of Chan’s films. The success of Norton’s Hong Kong work made him an established star in action films and a frequent cover subject for global martial arts and movie magazines.