“I’ve always found that anything worth achieving will always have obstacles in the way and you’ve got to have that drive and determination to overcome those obstacles on route to whatever it is that you want to accomplish.” —Chuck Norris
In the realm of American action stars, few of them are quite as beloved, or cheesy, as Chuck Norris. Starring in various action and martial arts films, Norris also became a household name from his television series Walker, Texas Ranger during the 1990s. Despite all the genuine love he gets, though, Norris has also been the subject of intense parody for the silliness associated with his style of films. Not only that, his personal life has been far more divisive than one would expect. Read these facts and find out more about the legend of Chuck!
41. Named for Father
While most would probably assume that he was originally named Charles, Norris’ real name is actually Carlos Ray Norris. He got his middle name from his father, Ray Norris, and his first name from Carlos Berry, a minister whom his father greatly admired.
40. Fly Like an Eagle
While Norris’ father had served with the US Army during the Second World War, Norris decided to join the US Air Force instead. In the late 1950s, Norris was stationed to Osan Air Base in South Korea.
39. It Was There My Life Changed
Two very important things happened to Norris while he was stationed overseas during the Korean War. Firstly, he got the nickname “Chuck,” which he would keep for the rest of his life. Secondly, he developed an interest in Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art. This began his lifelong study of martial arts.
38. So, Tell Me About Your Childhood…
Contrary to what you might think, Norris’ childhood wasn’t filled with sports or even academic success. His father was an alcoholic whose habit left him unstable and the family finances uncertain. This caused Norris to become very introverted throughout his childhood.
37. I Didn’t Refuse: I Didn’t Have to
Contrary to popular belief, Norris didn’t refuse to play the villainous karate instructor in The Karate Kid (the one without Will Smith’s son in it). Despite Norris’ enthusiasm for martial arts, having been a six-time World Karate Champion, he was never offered any role in The Karate Kid at all.
36. Double Referenced
The full name of Norris’ character in Walker, Texas Ranger is Cordell Firewalker. When he was teased for not looking Native American, Cordell shortened his surname to “Walker.” Not only is this a reference to Norris’ claim to mixed Native American background, but it is also a reference to his prior film Firewalker.
35. Those Who Teach
In addition to winning championships in karate, Norris also opened a chain of schools that taught karate (this makes us understand why those Karate Kid rumors lasted as long as they did). Several of his clients were celebrities, such as Bob Barker, Priscilla Presley, Donny Osmond, and even Hollywood star Steve McQueen.
34. The Teacher Inspired by the Student
Speaking of Steve McQueen, he ended up being crucial to Norris’ success in the film industry. In the mid-1970s, after he’d appeared in the overseas box office triumph Way of the Dragon, Norris was the martial arts instructor to McQueen and his son. McQueen encouraged Norris to try out acting classes at MGM. The rest is history.
33. Fateful First
Norris’ first film appearance (though uncredited) was the Dean Martin comedy film The Wrecking Crew in 1968. Interestingly, Bruce Lee, (whom Norris had befriended that year and would later work with on Way of the Dragon) was credited as an advisor on the film. In a chilling note, this film was also the last acting credit for Sharon Tate before she was murdered by Charles Manson’s followers.
32. I’m Not Too Old for This
Norris came out of retirement at the age of 71 to appear in The Expendables 2 at Sylvester Stallone’s invitation. Not only that, Stallone asked him to also bring in one of the many “Chuck Norris” facts that the Internet made famous. Norris’ wife personally chose the “fact” that Norris quotes in the final film: “Chuck Norris was bitten by a cobra, and after five days of excruciating pain… the cobra died.”
31. That’s What They Call Me
In more examples of the way that The Expendables 2 became one giant reference to other famous action films, Chuck Norris’ character is a thinly veiled caricature of other characters he played in previous action films. His credited name, Booker, is the same name of his character in Good Guys Wear Black, but he is also referred to as a lone wolf, referencing Lone Wolf McQuade. Even better, apparently the Russians decided to discard subtlety entirely and simply credited Chuck Norris as himself in the Russian translation of the film.
30. Buy My Book and Become a Sensei
In 1975, Norris released his first book, Winning Tournament Karate. As you can imagine, it’s a practical examination of how to train for karate tournaments, regardless of rank. Norris goes over sparring techniques, fighting forms, and specific moves, but somehow forgets to teach people how to grow fists under their beards.
29. Anonymous Ally
One of Norris’ old friends in the film industry is writer-director John Milius, who directed such action films as Conan the Barbarian and Farewell to the King. Milius actually contributed to the screenplay for Norris’ hit film Lone Wolf McQuade, though he didn’t receive a credit for his efforts.
28. Partners in Art and Life
In 1986, Norris starred in the action-comedy film Firewalker alongside Louis Gossett Jr. Interestingly, Norris and Gossett Jr. both have stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and they happen to be back-to-back. Good thing they were able to snag that real estate space together!
27. So… They’re About Justice?
In 2006, Norris published his first fiction book, The Justice Riders. Norris immediately followed up that book with a sequel, A Threat to Justice, in 2007.
26. Father, Texas Ranger
Norris is father to five children: two sons (Mike and Eric) with Diane Holechek, twins (Danilee and Dakota) with Gena O’Kelly, and one daughter (Dianna DeCioli) out of wedlock while Norris was stationed in California with the US Air Force.
25. There’s 25 Other Letters, You Know!
From 1982 to 1985, Norris starred in four films in which he played characters whose first names began with “J.” He played Josh Randall in Forced Vengeance, J.J. McQuade in Lone Wolf McQuade, and Col. James Braddock in both Missing in Action and its immediate follow-up Mission in Action 2: The Beginning.
24. Sorry, Chuck, Spielberg’s Calling
Interestingly, despite their vastly different views, Norris is reportedly very good friends with Whoopi Goldberg. He even tried to get her a role in his 1985 film Invasion U.S.A. He was unsuccessful in doing so, but given that she was busy releasing The Color Purple that year, we can’t imagine she was that sorry to miss out on that other role.
23. It’s in the Hole!
One of Norris’ more low-key habits is golf. He has frequently taken part in golfing events throughout his life. Sadly, we have no proof that he’s ever hit a golf ball while chanting “Ma-na-na-na-na-na-na…”
22. My Style
During his life, Norris created a hybrid martial art called Chun Kuk Do. It was initially based on the Korean martial art Tang Soo Do, but Norris later progressed Chun Kuk Do to include influences of Brazilian jujitsu, Judo, and Shito-ryu karate. Every summer, there is a World Championship Chun Kuk Do tournament held in Las Vegas.
21. Ready When You Are, Hero
Throughout his career, Norris has only ever played a villain twice, and they were both martial arts films produced in Hong Kong: Way of the Dragon and Yellow Faced Tiger.
20. Debut With the Dragon
Norris was cast in the 1972 film Way of the Dragon, his first major film role, at Bruce Lee’s insistence. Lee wanted Norris because Norris, having held the Professional Middleweight Karate championship title since 1968, was understood to be one of the few men who could match Lee for speed in martial arts.
19. If You Want Something Done Right…
Norris’ first real success as a lead actor was the independent film Good Guys Wear Black. Norris conceived of the screenplay with one of his karate students based on a story they came up with. None of the major studios were interested in distributing it, so Norris and his team rented out cinema space to screen the film on their own dime (in which case they would get all of the profits made during the screenings). The film received poor reviews but made over $18 million on a $1 million budget. No doubt he was laughing his way to the bank that day!
18. Making That Money
In the mid-1980s, Norris signed a five-picture deal with Cannon Films and was paid $1 million for each film. The first film in this deal was one of his most famous films, Missing in Action, which inspired a prequel and a sequel.
17. Chuck vs Bruce
Allegedly, the final fight between Norris and Bruce Lee in Way of the Dragon took 45 hours to complete. Almost a quarter of the film’s screenplay was devoted to the choreography instructions for said fight. According to Norris himself, he and Lee both made actual contact with each other while filming the fight scene, and he added that if it came down to a clean bout, Lee would win every time.
16. Meet Cute
Norris first met Bruce Lee while he was competing for the World Title in 1968. At the time, Lee was known for The Green Hornet TV series.
15. Be Our Guest
Aside from Walker, Texas Ranger, Norris reprised the role of Cordell Walker in the show’s spinoff Sons of Thunder, and made a cameo in the Canadian-American comedy series Martial Law.
14. Telling Your Story
Norris became a New York Times Bestselling author in 1988 with his autobiographical novel The Secret of Inner Strength: My Story. The novel focused on Norris’ own philosophical journey and overcoming his inner demons to a more positive state of mind. The book was also supplemented with stories about his life while acting in movies, competing in karate tournaments, and spending time with people like Bruce Lee.
13. Love Over Work
Walker, Texas Ranger ran for eight seasons, but because of the show’s popularity, CBS wanted to produce at least two more seasons. However, Norris’ wife became pregnant, and Norris was reluctant to make such a big commitment to the show again.
12. Yeah… No thanks
In 1982, the major film studio MGM gave Norris a three-picture deal, beginning with Forced Vengeance that same year. Norris, however, disliked the film and MGM’s plans for the other two, so he cancelled the contract and walked away.
11. Next Thing I’ll Learn is Krav Maga
Less than five Americans have ever achieved the honor of an eight-degree black belt in tae-kwon-do. Norris happens to be one of those few Americans.
10. Don’t Mess With Texas
In 2017, Norris received an accolade as an “Honorary Texan,” not only because he lived for many years on a Texas ranch, but also because of his roles as Lone Wolf McQuade and Walker, Texas Ranger.
9. Brotherly Love
Norris is one of three brothers. His middle brother, Wieland, tragically lost his life in 1970 while he was serving in the Vietnam War. Norris’ youngest brother, Aaron, has worked alongside his brother as part of the stunt team, and has also directed several films that also starred Norris.
In honor of his deceased brother, Wieland, Norris appeared in the film Missing in Action, which follows a Vietnam war veteran returning to Vietnam to rescue MIA soldiers.
7. Take My Word for It
Throughout his career, Norris has offered endorsements for a series of different products and services. These include The World of Warcraft, Mountain Dew, Hoegaarden, and a Finnish hamburger chain named Hesburger.
6. Order in the Court!
The similarities between Norris’ characters in Lone Wolf McQuade and Walker, Texas Ranger were so significant that when the television series was first aired, CBS was sued by the company behind Lone Wolf McQuade for copyright infringement!
5. No Pictures of This…
According to Norris, he learned how to speak properly for film acting thanks to his drama coach, Jonathan Harris. Harris allegedly stuck his fingers into Norris’ mouth and stretched it as wide as possible while encouraging Norris to speak. Norris jokingly declared that Harris was “the only man in the world who could get away with doing that to him.”
4. Burying a Friend
Bruce Lee and Norris formed such a connection during their lifetimes that when Lee tragically passed away in 1973, Norris served as one of the pallbearers at his funeral.
3. Fact Checker
Norris is no stranger to the long list of facts built up on the internet spoofing his supposed awesomeness. Apparently, Norris’ favorite one of these “facts” is “Before the Boogie Man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.”
2. Turning the Other Cheek
While Norris is often associated with violence, whether it’s through firearms or martial arts, his characters often preferred to settle conflict in non-violent ways. Norris is apparently like this in real life as well, with Reader’s Digest reporting a story where Norris was confronted in a bar by someone who didn’t recognize him and wanted his seat. Rather than fight back, Norris gave up his seat to the man, who later recognized Norris. When asked by the shocked man why he didn’t attack him, Norris simply responded “What would that have accomplished?”
1. Giving Back
As the introverted son of an alcoholic father, Norris would later turn to philanthropy to help at-risk children build up self-esteem. Through Kickstart Kids and the United Fighting Arts Federation, Norris also makes use of martial arts classes as an opportunity for children to avoid drug use and gang violence.