Born into a third-generation family of Beijing opera performers in 1945, in Guangzhou (Canton) China, Yuen Wo Ping has deep roots in the central traditions of Hong Kong action cinema. Along with his eleven brothers and sisters he learned stage-based martial arts techniques from his famous father, opera performer and movie actor Simon Yuen Hsiao-tien. And when Simon was invited to Hong Kong in the early '50s, to bring some Beijing-style elegance to the rough-hewn local brand of kung fu cinema, he brought his children into the business. Yuen Wo Ping and his three younger brothers quickly found work as stunt men and background fighters in the long-running 1950s series of black-and-white B pictures about Cantonese folk hero Wong Fei-hong, starring Kwan Tak-hing. After working as a martial arts choreographer for several of Hong Kong's top action directors, Yuen began directing films for innovative producer Ng Sze-yuen in the mid-70s. In an industry where fads in entertainment come and go with blinding speed, Yuen Wo Ping has proven to be amazingly adaptable, scoring major box office hits as a director in three successive decades. In the late'70s he helped make Jackie Chan a star, directing the kung fu comedian's first major hits, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow and Drunken Master, in which Chan played Wong Fei-hong as an impish young troublemaker and Wo-ping's father, Simon Yuen, took the title role as Wong's tipsy teacher. After bringing a new level of polished craftsmanship to period martial arts films like The Magnificent Butcher (1979) and Dreadnaught (1981), in which aging '50s star Kwan Tak-hing reprised his trademark role as Wong Fei-hong, Yuen brought a jazzy kung fu flavor to several contemporary cop movies---notably the three films in the popular Tiger Cage series, which brought fame to Iron Monkey co-star Donnie Yen. When fantasy-laced swordplay films came back into vogue in the 1980s, Yuen served as a co-producer and Martial Arts Choreographer on the first two films in Tsui Hark's Once Upon a Time in China series, in which Jet Li stepped into Wong Fei-hong's lethal slippers. When Ang Lee chose Yuen Wo Ping to design the high-flying fight sequences in his groundbreaking swordplay smash Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, he insisted that the Master's work a year earlier on The Matrix had not been a deciding factor. Lee's touchstones were such recent Yuen classics as Wing Chun (1994), and Fist of Legend (1994), in which Michelle Yeoh, Donnie Yen and Jet Li had done their best work. Master Yuen is currently hard at work in Australia, staging action sequences for two sequels to The Matrix, which are being completed back-to-back.
Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.
Yuen Woo-Ping Facts
|Also known as||Yuen Wo Ping|
|Birthplace||Guangzhou, People's Rep. of China|