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Chow Yun-Fat SBS ( ; born May 18, 1955) is a Hong Kong Film Award-winning actor. He is best known in Asia for his collaboration with filmmaker John Woo in heroic bloodshed genre films A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard-Boiled; and to the West for his role as Li Mu-bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He mainly plays in dramatic films and has won three Hong Kong Film Awards for "Best Actor" and two Golden Horse Awards for "Best Actor" in Taiwanmarker.

Early life

Chow was born in Hong Kongmarker, to a mother who was a cleaning lady and vegetable farmer, and a father who worked at a Shell Oil Company tanker. Of Hakka origins, he grew up in a farming community on Lamma Islandmarker in a house with no electricity. He woke up at dawn each morning to help his mother sell herbal jelly and Hakka tea-pudding on the streets and in the afternoons he went to work in the fields. His family moved to Kowloonmarker when he was ten. At seventeen, he quit school to help support the family by doing odd jobs - bellboy, postman, camera salesman, taxi driver. His life started to change when he responded to a newspaper advertisement and his actor-trainee application was accepted by TVB, the local television station. He signed a three-year contract with the studio and made his acting debut. With his striking good looks and easy-going style, Chow became a heartthrob and a familiar face in soap operas that were exported internationally.


It did not take long for Chow to become a household name in Hong Kong following his role in the hit series The Bund in 1980. The Bund, about the rise and fall of a gangster in 1930s Shanghai, made him a star. It was one of the most popular TV series ever made in Hong Kong and was a hit throughout Asia.

Although Chow continued his TV success, his goal was to become a big screen actor. His occasional ventures onto the big screens with low-budget films, however, were disastrous. Success finally came when he teamed up with director John Woo in the 1986 gangster action-melodrama A Better Tomorrow, which swept the box offices in Asia and established Chow and Woo as megastars. A Better Tomorrow won him his first Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Film Awards. It was the highest grossing film in Hong Kong history at the time, and it set the standard for Hong Kong gangster films to come. Taking the opportunity, Chow quit TV entirely. With his new image from A Better Tomorrow, he made many more 'gun fu' or 'heroic bloodshed' films, such as A Better Tomorrow 2 (1987), Prison on Fire, Prison on Fire II, The Killer (1989), A Better Tomorrow 3 (1990), Hard Boiled (1992) and City on Fire an inspiration for Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs.

Chow may be best known for playing honorable tough guys, whether cops or criminals, but he also starred in comedies like Diary of a Big Man (1988) and Now You See Love, Now You Don't (1992) and romantic blockbusters such as Love in a Fallen City (1984) and An Autumn's Tale (1987), for which he was named best actor at the Golden Horse Awards. He brought together his disparate personae in the 1989 film God of Gamblers (Du Shen), directed by the prolific Wong Jing, in which he was by turns suave charmer, broad comedian and action hero. The film surprised many, became immensely popular, broke Hong Kong's all-time box office record, and spawned a series of gambling films, as well as several comic sequels starring Andy Lau and Stephen Chow.

The Los Angeles Times proclaimed Chow Yun-Fat "the coolest actor in the world." Being one of the biggest stars in Hong Kong, Chow moved to Hollywoodmarker in the mid '90s in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to duplicate his success in Asia. His first two films, The Replacement Killers (1998) and The Corruptor (1999), were box office disappointments. In his next film Anna and the King (1999), Chow teamed up with Jodie Foster, but the film suffered at the box office. Unable to play down the Asian stereotype, Chow took advantage of it by accepting the role of Li Mu-Bai in the (2000) film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It became a winner at both the international box office and the Oscars. In 2003, Chow came back to Hollywood and starred in Bulletproof Monk in yet another Asian stereotyped role of a martial art expert. In 2006, he teamed up with Gong Li in the film, Curse of the Golden Flower, directed by Zhang Yimou.

In 2007, Chow was cast as the pirate captain Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. His character, however, was omitted when the movie was shown in mainland China. His character was criticized as demeaning as it "vilifies and humiliates the Chinese." Despite the censorship, the unedited version of the movie was freely sold on the black market without government intervention because viewers wanted to see Chow Yun-Fat, whose star status went beyond typecasting in Asia.

Chow had often wished to be regarded as a serious dramatic actor in Hollywood. Unfortunately, he often landed in roles that stereotyped him as an Asian action hero.

In the live action version of Dragonball Evolution, which received badly in the USA and grossed $57 million worldwide, Chow Yun-Fat played Master Roshi.


On June 26, 2008, Chow released his first photo collection in Hong Kong, which includes pictures taken on the sets of his films. Proceeds from sales of the book were donated to Sichuanmarker earthquake victims. Published by Louis Vuitton, the books were sold in Vuitton's Hong Kong and Paris stores.

Personal life

Chow was married twice; first to Candice Yu ( ) in 1983, who was an actress from Asia Television Limited. The marriage lasted nine months. In 1986, Chow married Singaporean Jasmine Tan ( ). Currently, they have no children, although Chow has a goddaughter, Celine Ng, a former child model for Chickeeduck and other companies.Chow has acknowledged having cosmetic surgery on his eyelids in 1989 to reverse a drooping effect.


Chow has appeared in over 80 films and 24 television series.

Awards and Nominations

Hong Kong Film Awards (13 Best Actor Nomintions, 2 Best Supporting Actor Nominations, 2 Best Original Film Song Nominations)

Video games


  1. Yun-Fat Chow Biography (1955-)
  3. Film chat: Chow Yun-Fat - CHOWING THE FAT; HOW EASTERN HERO CHOW YUN-FAT CAME TO HOLD THE WEST HOSTAGE. BY ANNA DAY.(Features) | Article from The Mirror (London, England) | Hi...
  4. The Boston Globe: "Hong Kong feels like a movie set because it is", July 15, 2007
  7., 'Crouching Tiger' actor launches book for benefit of Chinese earthquake victims
  8., 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' star Chow Yun-fat publishes photo collection
  9. Chow Had Eyelid Job The Straits Times, February 24, 2009

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