Asian celebrities who cracked Hollywood

Get ready for an invasion of international stars on the big screen, coming soon to a theatre near you

Asian celebrities who cracked Hollywood
Asian celebrities who cracked Hollywood
05 Jan 2018

Asian celebrities who cracked Hollywood

Liu Yifei made headlines last month after Disney announced that she would be playing the female lead in the upcoming movie, Mulan, making her the first ever Chinese celebrity to star in a mainstream Hollywood movie. The actress is just one of the latest Asian celebrities to achieve an international breakthrough, following the footsteps of veteran actors like Jackie Chan, Zhang Ziyi and Rain. From action to romance to comedy movies, we look at the list of stars who have appeared on the big screen and who now have made a name for themselves worldwide.

Read on for more!

Photos: PBE Media

Liu Yifei
Liu Yifei
05 Jan 2018

Liu Yifei

Hollywood debut movie: The Forbidden Kingdom (2008)

Upcoming Hollywood movies: Inversion (2018), Mulan (2019)

Liu Yifei beat out nearly 1,000 hopefuls for the lead role of Mulan in a year-long worldwide search, in Disney’s upcoming live-adaption of the classic Chinese tale, Mulan.

Reactions to Yifei’s casting have been mostly positive on social media. Disney’s choice to cast an Asian individual in the role of Mulan is also seen as a sign that the movie giant, who has been criticised in the past for whitewashing (i.e. casting Caucasian actors for Asian roles, such as selecting British actress Naomi Scott to play Princess Jasmine in Aladdin) is looking to step away from their old practices, and will—hopefully—help set a new precedent in Hollywood.

The 30-year-old actress will also appear in the sci-fi film Inversion this year, and will play a physicist who tries to save the earth from a loss of gravity alongside “a street-wise American con man” played by Samuel L. Jackson.

Mulan is set for a release in 2019 and will also be the first Hollywood movie that has a Chinese storyline which focuses on a female protagonist. 

Photo: PBE Media


Related:
Liu Yifei to star in Disney’s Mulan

Michelle Yeoh
Michelle Yeoh
05 Jan 2018

Michelle Yeoh

Hollywood debut movie: Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)

Upcoming Hollywood movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2017)

Notable achievements: Nominated for Best Fight at the MTV Movie Awards for Tomorrow Never Dies

Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh shot to fame in 1997, after being one of the first few Asian actresses to have taken on a leading James Bond Girl role in Tomorrow Never Dies. Her co-star, Pierce Brosnan was impressed with her acting, and even called her a "female James Bond" who was “serious and committed about her work".

Following various other movies like Memoirs of a Geisha, and Sunshine in 2005 and 2007 respectively, Michelle later also earned a spot in the hit fantasy action film The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor in 2008, which was nominated for Best Action/Adventure Film at the National Movie Awards.

The 55-year-old actress was most recently cast in March to play the role of family matriarch Eleanor Young in Jon M. Chu's film adaptation of Kevin Kwan's book Crazy Rich Asians

Photo: PBE Media

Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan
05 Jan 2018

Jackie Chan

Hollywood debut movie: Rush Hour (1998)

Upcoming Hollywood movies: Shanghai Dawn, Rush Hour 4 (TBA)

Notable achievements (to list a few): Received his first ever honorary Oscar at the Eighth Annual Governors Awards in 2016; bagged the award of Favorite Butt Kicker for The Karate Kid at the Kids Choice Awards; and recognised as Favorite Action Star at the People’s Choice Awards in 2011

Hong Kong veteran actor Jackie Chan has certainly become a household name after his character in the Rush Hour instalments, Inspector Lee, became a fan favourite. Aside from his kungfu skills and performances of his own stunts in the movie, Jackie gained further popularity from his appearance in the well-received Western action comedy Shanghai Noon, which was later called for a sequel, Shanghai Knights, featuring Singaporean actress Fann Wong.

He later went on to star in other action movies such as The Forbidden Kingdom in 2008, and most recently The Karate Kid, in 2010. The actor will also reprise his respective roles in two upcoming Hollywood films, Rush Hour 4 and Shanghai Dawn.

Photo: PBE Media

Jet Li
Jet Li
05 Jan 2018

Jet Li

Hollywood debut movie: Lethal Weapon 4 (1998)

Notable achievements: Bagged the award of Best Villain in Lethal Weapon 4 and the award for Best Fight in Romeo Must Die at the MTV Movie Awards in 1999 and 2000 respectively

One of the first Chinese actors ever to make it into Hollywood, Jet Li was previously involved in various martial arts films in China before making his American film debut. Despite it being his first time playing a villain in a film, his performance received positive reviews, earning him another role of a mafia hitman in the box office hit, Romeo Must Die.

Jet’s latest appearance was in The Expendables instalment in 2010 after a one-year hiatus, where he teamed up with action stars Sylvester Stallone and Jason Statham, and portrayed a mercenary in the first film The Expendables.

He reprised his role briefly in following films, The Expendables 2 and The Expendables 3, which premiered in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

The actor has also had roles in other various movies, such as The One, Kiss of the Dragon, Cradle 2 the Grave and The War.

Photo: PBE Media, Altfg

Zhang Ziyi
Zhang Ziyi
05 Jan 2018

Zhang Ziyi

Hollywood debut movie: Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Upcoming Hollywood movies: God Particle (2018), Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)

Notable achievements: Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture Drama at the Golden Globes and for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the BAFTA Awards for her role in Memoirs of a Geisha

This well-known Chinese actress was one of the first few Asian stars to break into the Hollywood industry in the early 2000s. After playing her first villain role in Rush Hour 2, she managed to achieve international fame by portraying a Japanese Geisha called Sayuri in the 2005 historical drama, Memoirs of a Geisha, which led to her receiving much positive feedback and being nominated for several awards.

Ziyi then portrayed one of the four horsemen in the psychological horror film The Horsemen, opposite Dennis Quaid, in 2009 and was most recently cast in J. J. Abrams's science fiction thriller God Particle, and Godzilla: King of the Monsters.

Photo: PBE Media

Donnie Yen
Donnie Yen
05 Jan 2018

Donnie Yen

Hollywood debut movie: Shanghai Knights (2003)

Upcoming Hollywood movies: IP-Man 4 , American Revenge (2018)

Notable achievements: His character in Rogue One was voted as “the most well-liked” by audiences in an official poll on the Star Wars webpage

Hong Kong actor Donnie Yen’s first major Hollywood role came when he played the antagonist against fellow actor Jackie Chan in the action movie Shanghai Knights in 2003. He also recently portrayed the blind warrior Chirrut Îmwe in the Star Wars anthology film Rogue One in 2016.

Donnie then starred in xXx: Return of Xander Cage last year, and the film received positive responses from critics and general audiences and ranked first in its opening weekend with USD$61.9 million (approximately S$83 million), even crossing the USD$100 million mark (approximately S$134 million) in just six days. His role has been commended greatly by Los Angeles Times, which have credited him as the highlight of the movie and praised him for stealing every scene that he was in.

Photo: PBE Media

Rain
Rain
05 Jan 2018

Rain

Hollywood debut movie: Speed Racer (2008)

Notable achievements: Won the ‘Biggest Badass’ award at the MTV Movie Awards in 2010

South Korean star Rain impressed the directors with his portrayal as the fighter-racer, Taejo Togokahn, in the action-comedy film Speed Racer back in 2008. His outstanding performance then landed him the main role of Raizo in the martial arts-thriller film Ninja Assassin the following year, making him the first Korean-born actor to play a main character in a Hollywood movie.

The 35-year-old actor subsequently made an appearance in the thriller The Prince back in 2013, starring alongside renewed celebrities such as Bruce Willis and John Crusack.

Rain has put his Hollywood career on hold at the moment as he intends to focus on the Korean market, following his absence due to his enlistment in the military. However, he once expressed that he was “very unsatisfied with my Hollywood career” and has plans to do a few more films should the opportunity arise.

Photo: PBE Media

Lee Byung Hun
Lee Byung Hun
05 Jan 2018

Lee Byung Hun

Hollywood debut movie: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Notable achievements: Became the first South Korean actor to imprint his hand and foot prints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the first South Korean actor to present an award at the 2015 Oscars

South Korean actor Lee Byung Hun may have only been an emerging actor when he landed his first Hollywood role of Storm Shadow in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in 2009 but he shot to international stardom almost immediately, clinching the Popular Star Award at the 30th Blue Dragon Film Awards for his role. He reprised his role as Storm Shadow once again in the sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation three years later and subsequently made an appearance in the action film RED 2 the same year.

The 47-year-old actor was also the only Asian celebrity in an all American cast in his most recent Hollywood movie, where he played one of the seven cowboys in the crime film The Magnificent Seven last year.

Photo: PBE Media

Fan Bingbing
Fan Bingbing
05 Jan 2018

Fan Bingbing

Hollywood debut movie: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Upcoming Hollywood movies The King’s Daughter (2018)

Notable achievements: Named China’s most influential celebrity three times by Forbes, and is currently listed as the highest-paid celebrity in the Forbes China Celebrity 100 list, with an estimated net worth of RMB 300 million (approximately S$61 million)

Chinese actress Fan Bingbing may only have had a cameo of a doctor’s assistant on Iron Man 3, but caught the audience’s attention with her performance. She was subsequently casted in the American superhero film X-Men: Days of Future Past and impressed many with her portrayal of the mutant ‘Blink’, so much so that she went on to sign a four-year X-Men movie contract with 20th Century Fox after.

Bingbing was also initially supposed to star in The Meg, a thriller premiering next year that also features Jason Statham, but had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts. The actress has an impressive record in the film industry and has participated in many foreign-language films, such as the French film Stretch and the Korean film My Way, both in 2011.

Photos: PBE Media, MoviePilot

Angelababy
Angelababy
05 Jan 2018

Angelababy

Hollywood debut movie: Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

Chinese actress Angelababy shot to international stardom after playing the supporting role of Agent 47’s handler, Diana Burnwood, in her debut action movie. She then went on to play Rain Lao, a Chinese pilot and lieutenant in the 2016 sci-fi film Independence Day: Resurgence, which won the award of Best International Film at the Jupiter Awards this March.

Following her marriage to fellow actor Huang Xiaoming in 2015 and the birth of her first child ‘Little Sponge’ the subsequent year, she appears to have no plans to slow down or to take a break.

Photo: PBE Media, SBS

Hannah Quinlivan
Hannah Quinlivan
05 Jan 2018

Hannah Quinlivan

Hollywood debut movie: S.M.A.R.T. Chase (2017)

Upcoming Hollywood movie: Skyscraper (2018)

Taiwanese actress Hannah Quinlivan made her debut playing agent ‘A’ (also known as J. Jae Anh) in the S.M.A.R.T team, alongside Orlando Bloom and Lynn Hung, in the British-Chinese action thriller film S.M.A.R.T. Chase this year.

Her next major movie will be in an action-thriller flick, Skyscraper, which also features the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Byron Mann and more. Despite filming her audition tape for the role in her confinement room, three days after she giving birth to her second child, Romeo, she managed to edge out the competition, with the director complimenting her hard work and creativity.

Photo: PBE Media, Martial Arts Action Cinema

Kris Wu
Kris Wu
05 Jan 2018

Kris Wu

Hollywood debut movie: xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017)

Chinese singer-actor Kris Wu appears to have ventured into acting from singing,  as he starred in the action film xXx: Return of Xander Cage last January, playing an important member of lead actor Vin Diesel’s team.

He also had a role in the sci-fi movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets last July, opposite Cara Delevinge and Ethan Hawke.

Photo: PBE Media, SBS

Special mention: Cast of Crazy Rich Asians
Special mention: Cast of Crazy Rich Asians
05 Jan 2018

Special mention: Cast of Crazy Rich Asians

Premiering: August 2018

Crazy Rich Asians is an upcoming Hollywood film that features an all-Asian cast consisting of several well-known local and international stars. Notable actors such as Constance Wu, Michelle Yeoh and Ken Jeong will be appearing in the movie.

British-Malaysian actor Henry Golding will be making his Hollywood debut as the male lead, and Singapore actor Pierre Png as well as Malaysian-born actor Ronny Chieng will also appear on the big screen for the first time.

Crazy Rich Asians also stars Gemma Chan, Henry Shum Jr., Jimmy O. Yang, Fiona Xie, Chris Pang and Sonoya Mizuno, to list a few.

Photo: Ronny Chieng/Instagram

Related:
RISING FROM THE EAST: Asian actors in Hollywood films
JOURNEY FROM THE WEST: Hollywood stars in Asian films

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