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WAYNE WANG (Director) is a key figure in the development of independent
filmmaking, alternating major Hollywood studio films such as "The Joy Luck
Club" with smaller, independent work like "Smoke" - and garnering
significant acclaim for both kinds of films. Wang most recently directed
"Chinese Box," starring Jeremy Irons and Gong Li.
Born in Hong Kong where his family had fled from China after the Communist
take-over in 1947, Wang graduated from Wah Yan Jesuit High School, then came to
the United States at 18 to study film at California College of the Arts and
Crafts in Oakland.
Wang's first feature film was his graduate student project, "A Man, A
Woman, a Killer," co-directed with Rick Schmidt. Then, returning to Hong
Kong with a Masters degree and a feature film under his belt, Wang went to work
at the public broadcasting outlet R.T.H. (Radio and Television Hong Kong), which
had become a launching pad for a whole group of young film school-trained
directors who were creating what came to be known as the "Hong Kong New
Wave." While there, Wang directed several episodes of the landmark
realistic drama series "Below the Lion Rock," about the daily lives of
ordinary Hong Kong citizens.
But Wang was frustrated by the cramped creative atmosphere and bureaucracy of
the Crown Colony and decided to return to the U.S. to do social work. He moved
into San Francisco's Chinatown and took a job working with new immigrants from
His experiences in Chinatown inspired Wang's second feature film, the
critically acclaimed "Chan is Missing," which used an enigmatic
thriller plot as a vehicle to explore social conflicts and political divisions
in the neighborhood. Made in 16mm black & white, for just $27,000, produced,
directed, written and edited by Wang, Chan is Missing was a decade ahead of the
recent wave of "micro-budget" successes like "El Mariachi"
Wang's third feature, "Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart," had its
world premiere in the Director's Forgtnight at the Cannes Film Festival and
received a British Academy Award nomination as Best Foreign Film.
Seeking a dramatic change of pace in both tone and subject matter, Wang then
directed the all-Anglo thriller "Slamdance," a neo-noir melodrama
starring Tom Hulce, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Virginia Madsen.
New York's Chinatown was both the setting and subject of Wang's next film
"Eat a Bowl of Tea," a period drama set in the 1940s and starring
Wang's wife Cora Miao and Russell Wong. This was followed by "Life is
Cheap...But Toilet Paper is Expensive," a gangster comedy filmed in Hong
Next came Wang's first film for a Hollywood studio, "The Joy Luck
Club," based on the best-selling novel by Amy Tan, then "Smoke,"
based on novelist Paul Auster's original screenplay, and starring Harvey Keitel,
William Hurt and Forrest Whitaker. The film won the Silver Bear Award at the
Berlin Film Festival and was nominated for France's Czsar Award for Best Foreign
Film. It was an enormous box-office success in Europe and Asia. Wang and Auster
also co-directed "Blue in the Face," a second story employing many of
the same actors and settings as "Smoke."
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