When the Los Angeles Times proclaimed Chow Yun-Fat â€˜The Coolest Actor in the World," they were not only speaking for his fans in Asia, where his films have broken every box-office record
When the Los Angeles Times proclaimed
CHOW YUN-FAT 'The Coolest Actor in the World," they
were not only speaking for his fans in Asia, where his films have
broken every box-office record. "Asia's greatest actor, he
has become a hip invocation in Hollywood," the Times
noted, "an insider's secret and an outsider's, too."
At that point Chow had not made a single American film, but he
was already an icon to fans ranging from street punks to rap stars.
Even filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino reportedly dressed like
Chow's character in A Better Tomorrow --complete with duster,
shades, and toothpick in mouth--for weeks after seeing the film.
"More than just a movie star," Variety wrote,
"he's a state of mind."
Searching for comparisons to introduce Chow to American audiences
when he made his Hollywood debut in the hit actioner The Replacement
Killers, the New York Times observed that he combines
"the rakish charm of Clark Gable, the sensitivity of Montgomery
Clift and the cool destructive power of Clint Eastwood."
It is the combination of traits that makes Chow unique. "Chow
is the Fred Astaire of action," explains Academy Award winner
Mira Sorvino, who co-starred with him in The Replacement killers.
"Where Gene Kelly was the macho-type dancer, Fred was
just as masculine but elegant. Chow Yun-Fat has that kind of elegance.
A winner of numerous acting awards, Chow is the only Hong Kong
star who has made a career of versatility, being equally at home
in action thrillers, slapstick comedies and tragic dramas. He
is truly "The Hero With A Thousand Faces," whose popularity
with his millions of fans worldwide derives from the intensity
and inward quality he projects in even his toughest action roles.
"Somehow," wrote one critic, "even when he's pinning
a victim to the table with a carving knife, he radiates soulful
Despite his protean skills, Chow will forever be identified with
the films of John Woo, who was finally able to create the unique
mixture of poignant melodrama and brilliantly choreographed mayhem
that has made him the world's leading action director. Chow became
Woo's on-camera counterpart akin to what Toshiro Mifune was for
Akira Kurosawa or what Alain Delon was for French gangster maestro
In Chow's work with Woo and directors like Ringo Lam (City
on Fire), Tsui Hark (Love and Death in Saigon) and
Wong Jing (The God of Gamblers), he defined Hong Kong noir
and created his own version of the Gangster-As-Tragic-Hero, incarnated
in America by James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart. He also inspired
a generation of young men all over the world to imitate his style
of unbeatable cool. It was these roles that moved Time's
Richard Corliss to proclaim that when it comes to movie heroes,
'There's tough, there's tougher, and there's Chow Yun-Fat."
The son of two farm workers, Chow Yun-Fat grew up in a farming
community in a house with no electricity. As a child he was given
the nickname Gai Tsai ("Little Dog") by travelers to
whom his mother, assisted by her son, sold dim-sum early in the
morning before going to work in the fields. When Chow was ten
the family moved to Kowloon City, Hong Kong, a crowded city-within-a-city
that is connected to the Chinese mainland. His father worked
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