Hong Kong celebrities: Chow Yun-fat
Next to Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-fat is probably the most famous living Hong Kong actor in the world. Having made his name in hit crime series The Bund in 1980, Chow made the transfer to the big screen as the leading man in John Woo's mid-80s crime/ action flicks that tore up Asian cinema and changed action movies the world over.
The first blast form the Woo/Chow canon was A Better Tomorrow
in 1986, an ultra low budget production that, defying all expectations, took the box office by storm and made its leading man and director bona-fide superstars. The duo followed this up with a hugely successful sequel and then the massively influential The Killer in 1989, often cited as the greatest action movie of all time by aficionados.
Chow's later Hong Kong movies continued in the same vein – Hard Boiled, City on Fire, Prison on Fire: high octane, bullet blasted genre pictures referred to in some quarters as ‘gun fu'. Chow's character was generally a tough, dangerous, though honourable guy who, as a cop or criminal, was pushed to violent acts by the madness around him. That is not to say, however, he didn't have range. He also starred in two romantic blockbusters like An Autumn's Tale in 1987 and kid's films like Diary of a Big Man in 1988.
Chow's ability to play a range of different leading men was the central conceit of one of his biggest ever successes, 1989's God of Gamblers, in which he played a character who switched between being a romantic charmer a stoic action hero and a comedic entertainer. The film went on to break box office records all over Asia.
His attempts to launch himself in the West proved, initially unsuccessful, with a string of English language, American-set bombs in the late 90s. Chow turned this around, however, with his phenomenal performance in Ang Lee's martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, in 2000, which went on to win Academy Awards and smash the international box office.
Chow Yun-fat has, over the 4 decades of his phenomenal career, marked himself out as one of the world's most consistently watchable, endlessly reinventable and brilliantly charismatic screen presences.