20 Sep 2016
RISING FROM THE EAST: Asian actors in Hollywood films
According to The Magnificent Seven director Antoine Fuqua (pictured above, top left), he wanted South Korean superstar Lee Byung-hun (pictured above, bottom left) in his action-packed flick “as soon as he walked into the room” at their first meeting.
“He was in New Orleans at the same time as me, and when someone asked if I would like to meet him, I said absolutely,” said the 50-year-old filmmaker at a press conference during the Sony Pictures Summit in Singapore back in June. He explained that Byung-hun, 46, first caught his eye as the star of 2005’s A Bittersweet Life.
In The Magnificent Seven, which is a remake of the 1960 Western of the same name and of 1954 Japanese film Seven Samurai, Byung-hun stars alongside a dazzling roster of top names (including Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke) as deadly assassin Billy Rock. Although Antoine admitted that he worried about the possibility of clashing egos, everyone ended up getting along just fine, and even went go-kart racing together (without Antoine, much to his dismay).
Byung-hun continued to impress Antoine during filming. “We worked really closely together to choreograph all the stunts, and he always had a lot of ideas… he’s so graceful and elegant, like a ballet dancer,” Antoine praised. “In fact, whenever he came into the room, Denzel would lean over and say to me, ‘Stay away from that guy, he’s the coolest guy in the room.’”
There was, however, one thing Antoine struggled with during the entire production: saying Byung-hun’s name right. As a result, he resorted to calling him “Mr. Lee” or “B.H.”, but he triumphantly nailed it during the media session. “He’s going to be so proud of me! (laughs)”
The Magnificent Seven marks Byung-hun’s sixth Hollywood venture, after two G.I. Joe movies, RED 2, Terminator Genisys and Misconduct. While he’s certainly one of the more illustrious examples, there are many other Asian actors and actresses who have risen from the east to make their mark in western pictures. Read on to meet some of them:
The Magnificent Seven is in cinemas today (September 22).
20 Sep 2016
From South Korea:
Rain, Bae Doo-na, Claudia Kim, Lee Joon-gi
Even those who live under a rock in regards to K-pop would be familiar with Rain, who has found huge success in both music and acting. Following his US debut in 2008’s Speed Racer, Rain became the first Korean-born actor to headline a Hollywood movie with Ninja Assassin the next year.
Doo-na, known back home for The Host and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, has collaborated with renowned directing duo the Wachowskis three times: Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending and Sense8; while Claudia (also known as Kim Soo-hyun, not to be confused with the actor) shared screen-time with superhero superstars Robert Downey Jr., Jeremy Renner and more in Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Soon to join his fellow Koreans with Hollywood roles is Scarlet Heart Ryeo heartthrob Joon-gi, who will play the baddie Commander Lee in upcoming zombie flick Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, alongside the franchise’s heroine Milla Jovovich.
Photos: TPG, Milla Jovovich/Instagram
20 Sep 2016
Fann Wong, Chin Han, Edmund Chen
Fann did us all proud when she became the first Singaporean actress to break into Hollywood when she played Jackie Chan’s sister in 2003’s Shanghai Knights, and received lots of praise from international media outlets. Edmund, who retired from acting to become an illustrator in 2009, also ventured into Tinseltown with a role as the titular character’s father in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li.
However, when it comes to little red dot natives who are really going far in the US of A, no one can hold a candle to Chin Han, who has worked with some of the biggest names in western showbiz and been involved in blockbusters such as The Dark Knight, Captain America: The Winter Soldier and most recently, Independence Day: Resurgence. He’s certainly come a very long way from his Masters of the Sea days!
20 Sep 2016
Michelle Yeoh, Adrian Pang
Our neighbouring nation has the honour of being the home country of Michelle, who is known for her butt-kicking skills in James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, as well as Memoirs of a Geisha, The Lady and more. Her achievements have secured her numerous titles, accolades and honours, including a spot on Hong Kong’s iconic Avenue of Stars.
Singapore-based, Malacca-born Adrian, on the other hand, got his showbiz start appearing in theatre and television shows in the UK before relocating and making a name for himself here. Last year, the Pangdemonium boss had a minor role opposite Chris Hemsworth in cybercrime thriller Blackhat, and he became the envy of many fans when a picture of him posing next to the hunky Australian was revealed.
Photos: TPG, Adrian Pang
20 Sep 2016
From Hong Kong:
Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Chow Yun Fat, Donnie Yen
Despite less-than-stellar attempts to break into the western market in the 80s, Jackie finally found blockbuster box office victory with 1998’s Rush Hour, which continued with Shanghai Noon and several others that cemented his status as one of Tinseltown’s most famous Asian superstars.
Just as renowned are former Wushu champ Jet, who has Hollywood titles like Romeo Must Die, The One, Cradle 2 the Grave and The Expendables trilogy under his belt; as well as Yun Fat, king of Hong Kong cinema and selfies, who starred in Anna and the King and as a Singapore pirate lord in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Mr. Ip Man himself Donnie broke into Hollywood when the directors of Highlander: Endgame and Blade II were so impressed with his fight scene choreography, that they offered him cameo roles. In August 2015, the exciting news of Donnie’s casting in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (as a Jedi!) was confirmed, and he was also later announced as the main villain in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage.
20 Sep 2016
Fan Bingbing, Li Bingbing, Zhang Ziyi, Kris Wu
Two of the nation’s best-known Bingbing’s are now also on western viewers’ radars. While Fan Bingbing has always captivated with her glamorous style choices on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet over the years, she gained additional recognition when she played Blink in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past. Li Bingbing’s Hollywood debut took place three years earlier in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, and she’s been adding more English-language titles to her growing résumé ever since with Transformers: Age of Extinction and Resident Evil: Retribution.
Even more renowned in the west is new mum Ziyi, whose part in Rush Hour 2 propelled her even higher into superstardom. She would later return to Hollywood for Memoirs of a Geisha and The Horseman, and is set to tackle JJ Abrams’ sci-fi thriller God Particle next year.
Set to make his Hollywood debut is former EXO member Kris in xXx sequel The Return of Xander Cage, which also stars Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson, Donnie Yen and more. The Chinese-born Canadian citizen will then move on to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets alongside Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.
Photos: TPG, Kris Wu/Instagram
20 Sep 2016
Lee Hom, Jay Chou, Godfrey Gao
While Lee Hom and Jay are primarily known for their musical contributions, both singing superstars have also expanded into the world of acting, both on their home soil and beyond. While the former got his taste of Hollywood in Blackhat (with Adrian), the latter was recently in his second American production, Now You See Me 2 (where he displayed an improved grasp on the English language, if we do say so), after his western onscreen debut in 2011’s The Green Hornet.
Tall and handsome Godfrey had been dabbling in modelling and acting for almost a decade before he landed his first Hollywood role as the guyliner-rocking Magnus Bane in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. He recently revealed that he may have more American productions on his plate, so we’re definitely keeping a keen eye out for those!
20 Sep 2016
Ken Watanabe, Tadanobu Asano, Rinko Kikuchi, Tao Okamoto
In addition to being household names in their native Japan, Ken, Tadanobu and Rinko have also become pretty familiar with western audiences as well, thanks to their roles in high-profile pictures like The Last Samurai and Inception (Ken), Marvel’s Thor franchise (Tadanobu) and Babel (which made Rinko the first Japanese actress to be nominated for an Oscar in half a century).
Tao, an established fashion model, may be a little newer to the acting scene, but she has slowly been gaining more exposure and experience since her onscreen debut in The Wolverine. Her most recent onscreen venture was as Mercy Graves in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, where she rocked spectacles and skin-tight dresses like only she can.
20 Sep 2016
Freida Pinto, Irrfan Khan, Amitabh Bachchan
Rags-to-riches tale Slumdog Millionaire was the talk of movie town thanks to its multiple achievements - including winning eight Academy Awards - and almost universal acclaim. And to think that it was also leading lady Freida’s film debut! Since then, the Mumbai-born former model added more top flicks to her résumé including Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Immortals and more.
Irrfan is also far from a stranger to screens in the UK and Hollywood, having appeared in everything from The Amazing Spider-Man to Jurassic World. The actor, who is also a household name in his home country, will next be seen alongside Tom Hanks in Inferno.
Living Indian screen legend Amitabh Bachchan needs no introduction: the 73-year-old has starred in almost 200 Indian films over a span of over 40 years - which is why we found it a bit surprising that he didn’t make his Hollywood debut (as Meyer Wolfsheim in 2013’s The Great Gatsby) much sooner.
20 Sep 2016
Tony Jaa, Krystal Vee
A nasty lawsuit with a Thai film company didn’t stop Tony’s second Hollywood venture Furious 7 (after 2014’s Skin Trade) from being released and scoring big in his home country. The Ong Bak star’s next English project will be in xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Half-Thai, half-British model Krystal’s first Hollywood role was in Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li, before she went on to headline indie film The Lazarus Papers, followed by The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption. She was most recently seen in short film Star Trek: Captain Pike as Captain Julie Decker.
Photos: TPG, Krystal Vee/Facebook