Chow Yun-fat (周潤發), SBS (born 18 May 1955), previously known as Donald Chow, is a Hong Kong actor.
When Chow appeared in the 1980 TV series The Bund on TVB, it did not take long for him to become a household name in Hong Kong. The series, about the rise and fall of a gangster in 1930s Shanghai, was a hit throughout Asia and made Chow a star.
Although Chow continued his TV success, his goal was to become a big-screen actor. However, his occasional ventures into low-budget films 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 set a new standard for Hong Kong gangster films. 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 has 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, a broad comedian and an 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 often tough demeanor and youthful appearance of Chow Yun-Fat’s characters has earned him the nickname “Babyface Killer”. Chow Yun-fat at the premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End in 2007 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. Chow accepted 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 2006, he teamed up with Gong Li in the film Curse of the Golden Flower, directed by Zhang Yimou.
In 2007, Chow played the pirate captain Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. However, his part was omitted when the movie was shown in mainland China, where government censors felt that Chow’s character “vilified and humiliated” Chinese people.
In the poorly received film Dragonball Evolution, Chow Yun-fat played Master Roshi. In 2014, Chow returned to Hong Kong cinema in From Vegas to Macau. For the part, he lost 13 kg within 10 months. In October 2014, Chow supported the Umbrella Movement, a civil rights movement for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. His political stance eventually resulted in censorship by the Chinese government. In February 2015, Chow reprised his role as Ken in the sequel From Vegas to Macau II. He was paid 5 million USD (39 million HKD) for the film. [wikipedia]