Hong Kong celebrities: Maggie Cheung
Maggie Cheung is one of the most recognised Hong Kong actresses of all time. Though known by some for her action roles, Cheung is actually a brilliantly versatile performer, with a host of romantic, comedy, art-house and drama roles to her name. Though born in Hong Kong in 1964, Cheung's family moved to the UK in 1971. She spent much of her teens there before returning to Hong Kong at 18, where she became a model and beauty queen. In the latter field she was incredibly successful, winning Miss Photogenic and reaching the semi-finals of Miss World in 1983.
During this time Cheung appeared in many Hong Kong films, though here roles were rarely serious. For example, she starred as Jackie Chan's girlfriend in the first three Police Story movies. Though massively successful, these films gave Cheung little to do besides look pretty beside Chan. In 1988, however, critics took note of her role in maverick director Wong Kar-wai's As Tears Go By. As well as proving her acting chops, her next major roles would also show off Cheung's other major talent: languages.
Having been raised in both Hong Kong and the UK, and spent significant time in Paris, Cheung is a fluent speaker of Mandarin, English and French. In the films Centre Stage and Clean she would use all these languages, proving her credentials as a star that could play all over the planet.
Her global appeal is attested to by the adoration Cheung receives at film festivals the world over. She has been a jury member at the Berlin, Venice, Hawaii, Cannes and Marrakech film festivals. She won the best actress award at Cannes in 2004 for her performance in Clean. Two years later, she became the first ever actress to appear, in photograph, on the official Cannes poster.
Since then Cheung has stepped back from the limelight, retiring from acting and pursuing a new vocation as a film composer, while also devoting time to philanthropy and editing. In 2010 she was made UNICEF's Ambassador for Children. Few film stars, in the history of the medium, have ever mixed the daring with the popular, the hip with the Avant-garde, quite like Maggie Cheung.