ANNA AND THE KING
A winner of numerous
acting awards, CHOW YUN-FAT (King Mongkut) has made a career of versatility,
being equally at home in action thrillers, slapstick comedies and tragic dramas.
In the late 1950s, Chow
spent his childhood in a fishing village on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. He moved
to the city when he was ten years old, and at the age of 17 quit school to work
at odd jobs. At the urging of a friend, he enrolled in an actors' training
course at TVB — Hong Kong's most powerful television station. A year later,
he graduated and signed with TVB as a contract player.
Chow's charisma and
acting ability propelled him to leading man status in just a few short years. In
1976, Chow starred in the 128-episode drama series "Hotel," which made
him a top television star and a household name in his native Hong Kong. In 1981,
Chow created another craze with the series "The Bund," in which he
played a gangster in 1930s Shanghai. This time he became a household name in
every Southeast Asian country.
Chow started making
feature films in 1977, and has starred in over seventy films. His big break came
in 1981 when "new wave" director Ann Hui teamed with him in "The
Story of Woo Viet." At that time, cheap kung-fu pictures were flooding and
destroying the market. "The Story of Woo Viet" became a milestone in
Hong Kong's cinema history because it was the first "serious" film
to be both a critical and commercial success.
In 1984, Chow starred
in Pochih Leong's "Hong Kong 1941," for which he won best actor
awards in the Asia Pacific Film Festival in Tokyo as well as the Golden Horse
Awards in Taiwan.
In 1986 he made twelve
pictures, a record for a leading actor. One of these was John Woo's "A
Better Tomorrow," which made cinema history: It not only broke all
box-office records in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand,
Indonesia, South Korea and Chinatowns all over the world, it also made a
superstar out of Chow. It garnered him his first Best Actor Award at the Hong
Kong Academy Awards, but more importantly, he created a phenomenon unseen before
in Asia. Audiences everywhere cheered whenever Chow appeared on the screen.
Young men began wearing the same dark glasses and long overcoats as his
character did in the film. To them, Chow was a hero, and also their pal.
Other major films in
which Chow starred in the years immediately following include Stanley Kwan's
"Love Unto Waste," Tony Au's "Dream Lovers," Mabel
Cheung's "An Autumn's Tale," Ringo Lam's "City on
Fire" (Best Actor Award at Hong Kong Oscars) and "Full Contact,"
Johnny Tu's "All About Ah Long," Tsui Hark's "Love &
Death in Saigon," John Woo's "The Killer," "Once A
Thief" and "Hard-Boiled," and many more. Chow won two additional
Best Actor awards at the Hong Kong Academy Awards for "City on Fire"
and "All About Ah Long."
In February 1990, the
Art Institute of Chicago mounted a Chow Yun-Fat retrospective, at which he also
made a personal appearance. The same retrospective was also picked up by the
Asia Society in New York and the American Film Institute in Washington, D.C. It
was the first time Chow received recognition outside of Asia.
Other Chow hits include
Wong Jing's "God of Gamble
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