Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Hong Kong's Most Beautiful Leading Men, According to CNN

Three journalists from CNN's Hong Kong bureau recently sat down and compiled an intriguing list of "the most talented, charismatic leading men of Hong Kong cinema". They came up with a selection of nineteen actors, headed by the late and sadly missed Leslie Cheung (张国荣, pinyin: Zhāng Guóróng) - a timely choice as we approach the 7th anniversary of his death.

Cheung was only 46 and still at the height of his career when he committed suicide on April Fool's Day, 2003. Like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, two other tragic and troubled stars who met untimely demises, Cheung has if anything become even more of a cult figure after his death. Already a superstar in his lifetime, he won numerous Best Actor and Best Singer trophies, and in 2000 was named by China's national TV network, CCTV, as Asia's Biggest Superstar.

Cheung was born in Hong Kong in 1956 and endured an unhappy childhood, including a less than pleasant stint in an English boarding school. He got his first break as a singer, performing on a talent show in 1977 and earning a recording contract with Polydor Records. His entertainment career had an unpromising beginning however, with mediocre record sales and an acting debut in a soft porn film. But a combination of persistence and talent won out in the end, and by the mid 80s he was one of Hong Kong's biggest selling pop stars.

The period spanning the mid 80s to the end of the 90s is considered by many as Hong Kong's Golden Age of cinema, and Leslie Cheung was one of the foremost actors of that time. His film credits include A Better Tomorrow and its sequel, A Chinese Ghost Story and its sequel, The Eagle Shooting Heroes and Days of Being Wild for which he won Best Actor at the Hong Kong Film Awards. In 1993 he gave another memorable performance in the mainland production Farewell My Concubine, and in 1994 another Best Actor award, this time from the Hong Kong Film Critics Society for Ashes of Time.

Openly gay in his later years, he progressed from teen idol to serious artist known for taking on risky and emotionally challenging roles. He moved on to directing, but this next stage was cut short when he finally lost his ongoing battle with depression and from the 24th floor of a Hong Kong hotel jumped to his death.

Number 2 on CNN's list of Most Beautiful Men from Hong Kong Cinema is another impossibly photogenic star, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (梁朝伟, pinyin: Liáng Cháowěi). As well as being blessed with matinee idol good looks, which he combines with a soulful almost melancholy presence, Leung is one of Hong Kong's most decorated actors. He has won Best Actor five times at the Hong Kong Film Awards, and taken home the Golden Horse and Golden Bauhinia Best Actor awards three times each.

At number 3 is another Tony Leung, Tong Leung Ka-Fai (梁家辉 , pinyin: Liáng Jiāhuī) - affectionately known as Big Tony to distinguish him from his namesake. It's perhaps a surprising choice with his unconventional good looks and chiselled features. Moreover his versatility meant he was as often as not playing bumbling bespectacled sidekicks or devious crooks rather than traditional leading role heroes. Now in his fifties, Leung Ka-Fai was most recently seen in last year's blockbuster Bodyguards and Assassins.

Representing the new generation at number 4 is Daniel Wu (吴彦祖, pinyin: Wú Yànzǔ). The 35 year-old Californian born actor started his career as a model. In his early career his roles were very much in the teen idol category, but Wu has constantly strived to break out of that teenybopper mould with some ambitious and unconventional role choices. Wu's many caps include writer, director and producer, and he has also set up the social networking site for artists, Alivenotdead.com.

One of Hong Kong's greatest action stars, Chow Yun-Fat (周润发: Zhōu Rùnfā), rounds out the top 5. The towering giant with the languid, easy-going demeanour actually started his career as a soap opera star. In 1980 his career reached new heights when he starred in the gangster series The Bund in which he played a 1930s triad leader. By the mid-80s he was one of Hong Kong film's biggest names with the action blockbusters A Better Tomorrow and City on Fire, then in 1989 starred in what was at the time Hong Kong's biggest grossing film God of Gamblers. Unfortunately he never quite made the leap to international superstar - his Hollywood films were by and large mediocre offerings.

The full list of "19 Most Beautiful Men from Hong Kong cinema" comprises:
1. Leslie Cheung (张国荣)
2. Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (梁朝伟)
3. Tony Leung Ka-Fai (梁家辉)
4. Daniel Wu (吴彦祖)
5. Chou Yun-Fat (周润发)
6. Lui Kei (吕奇)
7. Nicholas Tse (谢霆锋)
8. Patrick Tse (谢贤)
9. Aaron Kwok (郭富城)
10. Kenny Bee (锺镇涛)
11. Danny Chan (陈百强)
12. Ti Lung (狄龙)
13. Daniel Chan (陈晓东)
14. Ekin Cheng (郑伊健)
15. Andy Lau (刘德华)
16. Leon Lai (黎明)
17. Louis Koo (古天乐)
18. Bruce Lee (李小龙)
19. Donnie Yen (甄子丹)

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