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Biography #2 (for Bulletproof Monk)

Chow Yun-Fat spent his childhood during the late 1950's in a fishing village on Lamma Island in Hong Kong. He moved to the city when he was ten, and at the age of 17 quit school to work at odd jobs. At the urging of a friend, he enrolled in an actor's training course at TBV Hong Kong's most powerful television station. A year later he graduated and signed with TBV as a contract player.

Chow's abilities 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 household name in his native Hong Kong. Several years later Chow created another craze with the 1981 series The Bund in which he played a gangster in 1930's Shanghai. This time he became a household name in every Southeast Asian country.

Chow started making feature films in 1977. His big break came in 1982 when new wave director Ami 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 as the first 'serious' film to be both a critical and commercial success. It also established Chow as a movie star of the first magnitude.

In 1985 Chow won the Best Actor award at the Asian Pacific Film Festival and Taiwan's Golden Horse Award for his performance in Leong Po-Chie's drama Hong Kong, 1941. The next year, John Woo cast him in A Better Tomorrow.

A Better Tomorrow took in 35 million Hong Kong dollars in Hong Kong alone, and Chow won his first Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Academy Awards. He played the character's twin brother in the Woo-directed sequel, A Better Tomorrow 2, and showed how he acquired his prowess with a gun in the 1989 prequel, A Better Tomorrow 3, directed by Tsui Hark.

The genre Woo and Chow launched, substituting guns for kung-fu in modern versions of ancient Chinese stories of violent morality, gave new life to Hong Kong's action cinema and defined a new kind of hero for the '80s and '90s. Chow and Woo continued their collaboration with The Killer, Once A Thief, and Woo's phenomenal farewell to Hong Kong, Hard Boiled.

Another key Chow collaborator was Ringo Lam, whose first film with Chow, City On Fire, won Chow his second Best Actor award at the Hong Kong Oscars, inspired Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, and led to three subsequent Chow-Lam collaborations: Wild Search, Prison On Fire, and Full Contact. Other Chow hits include Wong Jing's God of Gamblers, Witch from Nepal, The Eighth Happiness, Tiger on the Beat, and Treasure Hunt.

Throughout a career that already spans seventy films, Chow has always welcomed the opportunity to play in quality dramas, including 1986's Love Unto Waste; Mable Chen's tragicomic An Autumn's Tale; and Johnny To's All About Ah Long, which won Chow his third Hong Kong Oscar in 1989.

Chow made his American film debut in 1998's hit actioner The Replacement Killers, directed by Antoine Fuqua. It was followed by The Corruptor, co-starring Mark Wahlberg, and the epic drama Anna and the King, co-starring award-winning actress Jodie Foster. Chow went on to star in the Academy Award-winning film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon with director Ang Lee and co-star Michelle Yeoh.

Bio courtesy MGM for "Bulletproof Monk" (12-May-2003)


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