Chow Yun-fat, SBS (born May 18, 1955) is an actor from Hong Kong. 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 Taiwan.
Personal lifeChow was born in Hong Kong, to a mother who was a cleaning lady and vegetable farmer, and a father who worked on a Shell Oil Company tanker. Of Hakka origins, he grew up in a farming community on Lamma Island 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 Kowloon when he was ten. At seventeen, he quit school to help support the family by doing odd jobs including bellboy, postman, camera salesman, and 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.
Chow has been married twice; first in 1983, to Candice Yu (Chinese: 余安安; pinyin: Yú Ānan), an actress from Asia Television Limited; the marriage lasted nine months. In 1986, Chow married Singaporean Jasmine Tan (simplified Chinese: 陈萫莲; traditional Chinese: 陳薈蓮; pinyin: Chén huilián). Currently, the couple 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.
CareerIt did not take long for Chow to become a household name in Hong Kong following his role in the hit series The Bund in TVB 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. His character's often tough demeanor and youthful appearance has earned him the nickname "Babyface killer".
The Los Angeles Times proclaimed Chow Yun-Fat "the coolest actor in the world." In the mid '90s, Chow moved to Hollywood 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."
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 Dragonball Evolution, Chow Yun-fat played Master Roshi.