You know him as the epitome of alpha manliness, the star of some of our earliest memes. Chuck Norris can delete a recycling bin. Chuck Norris can divide by zero. Chuck Norris can set an ant on fire with a magnifying glass. At night.
But who is the man behind the meme? A martial artist, actor, and screenwriter, Chuck Norris got his start with minor but memorable roles in films like The Wrecking Crew (1969) and Way of the Dragon (1972). Later, he’d star in other action films like Breaker! Breaker! (1972) that would propel him to popularity.
With his long career in writing, acting, and martial artistry, there are inevitably some facts about Norris that may be new to you. Here are seven of them.
7. He’s 80 years old today.
Chuck Norris’s birthday is March 10, 1940, making him a total Pisces, who are known for their gentleness and wisdom. Makes sense—as Norris once called himself “the shy kid who never excelled at anything in school.” This is quite a difference from the fighting expert who later opened 30+ karate studios and started his own style of martial arts.
6. He’s actually Carlos Ray Norris.
Named after a minister who was close to his father, Chuck Norris is actually Carlos Norris. He writes in his autobiography that he got the nickname Chuck while serving in the U.S. Air Force, and it just stuck. We owe the iconic name to someone in his barracks, who apparently told him, “Carlos? That’s a rather odd name for someone who isn’t Hispanic, isn’t it? […] We’ll call you Chuck. Chuck Norris.”
5. He thinks the memes about him are “far-out.”
In a blog post, Norris wrote about Chuck Norris Facts, in a somewhat wholesome dad way, “Some are funny. Some are pretty far-out. And most are just promoting harmless fun and times of laughter (but be careful if you go searching for “Chuck Norris Facts” on the Internet because some are flat-out not appropriate for kids).” The Official Chuck Norris Fact Book, however, contains the only facts Norris approves of.
4. He almost played Red Forman on That ’70s Show.
The tough-love father of That’70s Show was portrayed by Kurtwood Smith, but Chuck Norris was the producers’ first choice. Although this could have been a good fit—given Norris’s time in the Air Force and Red’s backstory as a WWII veteran—the schedules didn’t work out. While the show was in development, Norris was in his own show Walker, Texas Ranger.
3. He’s a playable character in mobile games.
Chuck Norris: Bring On The Pain (2008) was a side-scrolling action mobile game for devices like BlackBerry and Nokia. It emerged right in the height of Chuck Norris Facts and received positive reviews overall. Faithful to Chuck Norris Facts, you could shoot down a helicopter just by pointing Chuck Norris’s finger at it and yelling “BANG!”
Non-Stop Chuck Norris (2017) is still alive and well today. It’s an action RPG complete with loot and power-ups, and it’s apparently “110% Chuck Norris approved.”
2. He had his own line of jeans.
Chuck Norris Action Jeans were specifically designed for “stunt fighting in action movies,” which I guess was a booming market at the time. The jeans even boasted a “hidden gusset,” a piece of material sewn in to reinforce the connection, which would “allow for greater movement without binding or ripping.” They were $19.95 a pair.
1. He had lunch with Bruce Lee just days before Lee passed away.
Chuck Norris and Bruce Lee were good friends. Norris wrote in a recent blog post about how much he respected Bruce Lee, that his “confidence and wit were dazzling, and sometimes even debilitating to others.”
According to Norris, he and Bruce Lee had lunch together in Los Angeles, where Lee told him about how he had mysteriously passed out. Lee had just received the results of a physical checkup, which appeared fine. They then had a somewhat “prophetic conversation” about how a person’s legacy is built on his accomplishments, not the years he lived. Four days later, Lee passed away from an allergic reaction to the headache medication he was taking.