Chow Yun-fat

Chow Yun-fat SBS (born 18 May 1955), previously known as Donald Chow,[1] is a Hong Kong actor known in Asia for his collaborations with filmmaker John Woo in the action heroic bloodshed–genre films A Better Tomorrow, The Killer, and Hard Boiled, and in the West for his roles as Li Mu-bai in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sao Feng in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. 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.

Chow Yun-fat

Chow Yun-fat in 2007
Native name
Born (1955-05-18) 18 May 1955
ResidenceHong Kong
Other namesDonald Chow
Alma materCity University of Hong Kong
Years active1973–present
Candice Yu
(m. 1983; div. 1983)

Jasmine Tan (m. 1986)
  • Chow Yung-Wan (father)
  • Chan Lai-fong (mother)
Hong Kong Film AwardsBest Actor
1987 A Better Tomorrow
1988 City on Fire
1990 All About Ah-Long

Golden Horse AwardsBest Actor
1985 Hong Kong 1941
1987 An Autumn's Tale

TVB Anniversary AwardsMy Most Memorable Male Leading Role
1999 The Bund

Chinese name
Traditional Chinese周潤發
Simplified Chinese周润发

In 2014, Chow was the second-highest earning actor in Hong Kong, earning HK$170 million (US$21.9 million).[2] His reported net worth is HK$5.6 billion (US$714 million).[3]

Early life and education

Chow was born in Lamma Island, Hong Kong, to his mother Chan Lai-fong (陳麗芳) who was a cleaning lady and vegetable farmer, and his father Chow Yung-Wan (周容允), who worked on a Shell Oil Company tanker.[4][5][6][7] Chow grew up in a farming community on Lamma Island, in a house with no electricity.[8][9][10] He woke up at dawn each morning to help his mother sell herbal jelly and Hakka tea-pudding on the streets; in the afternoons, he went to work in the fields. His family moved to Kowloon when he was ten. At 17, he left school to help support the family by doing odd jobs including bellboy,[11] postman, camera salesman and taxi driver. His life started to change after college 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. Chow became a heartthrob and familiar face in soap operas that were exported internationally.


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.[12] 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, directed by the prolific Wong Jing, in which he was by turns a 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's characters has earned him the nickname "Babyface Killer".

The Los Angeles Times proclaimed Chow Yun-Fat "the coolest actor in the world".[13] 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.[14]

In the poorly received[15] film Dragonball Evolution, Chow Yun-fat played Master Roshi.[16]

In 2014, Chow returned to Hong Kong cinema in From Vegas to Macau.[17] For the part, he lost 13 kg within 10 months.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]


On 26 June 2008, Chow released his first photo collection in Hong Kong, which includes pictures taken on the sets of his films. Proceeds from the book's sales were donated to Sichuan earthquake victims. Published by Louis Vuitton, the books were sold in Vuitton's Hong Kong and Paris stores.[21][22]

Personal life

Chow has been married twice; first was in 1983 to Candice Yu, an actress from Asia Television; the marriage lasted nine months. In 1986, Chow married Singaporean Jasmine Tan. The couple gave birth to a stillborn daughter in 1991. Chow has a goddaughter, Celine Ng, a former child model for Chickeeduck, McDonald's, Toys'R'Us and other companies.


Chow has appeared in over 121 films and 24 television series.

Video games

Awards and nominations

Hong Kong Film Awards

(14 Best Actor nominations, two Best Supporting Actor nominations, two Best Original Film Song nominations)


As of 2018, Chow's net worth stands at HK$5.6 billion. Chow also said he would donate 99% of his wealth to charity via setting up a foundation to help the needy.[23][24]

See also

  • Hong Kong portal
  • Biography portal
  • Film portal


  1. Yang, Jeff (2003). "Frequently Asked Questions and Additional Information". Once Upon a Time in China: A Guide to Hong Kong, Taiwanese, and Mainland Chinese Cinema. New York City: Atria Books. p. 275. Retrieved 13 May 2016 via Google Books.
  2. "Louis Koo is 2014's highest-earning celebrity". Yahoo! News Asia. 2014-12-29. Archived from the original on 2014-12-30. Retrieved 2014-12-29.
  3. "Chow Yun-fat lives on just $100 a month, will leave entire $714 million fortune to charity". 2018-10-15.
  4. "Chow Yun-Fat". Archived from the original on 15 May 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  5. Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica, The (14 May 2018). "Chow Yun-fat". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved 15 May 2018.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. "Yun-Fat Chow Biography (1955-)". Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  7. "A man of melodrama: Action films made Chow Slightly-Fat famous, but 'The Corruptor' star says he's an actor". The Kansas City Star. 1999-03-15. p. D4. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  8. "Honorary Doctor of Letters - Mr CHOW Yun-fat" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-26. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  9. Slotek, Jim. "Martial parts". Archived from the original on 2012-07-27.
  10. "Film chat: Chow Yun-Fat - Chowing the Fat; How Eastern Hero Chow Not-Fat came to hold the West hostage. By Anna Day. (Features) Article from The Mirror (London, England)". Questia Online Library. 2003-04-18. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  11. Boland, Rory (2007-07-15). "Hong Kong feels like a movie set because it is". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  12. Hughes, Justyn (2012-10-20). "Chow Yun Fat: Profile". Retrieved 2019-09-01.
  13. Smith, RJ (1995-03-12). "the coolest actor in the world : In This Country, Chow Yun-fat Is Only a Cult Figure. But the Hong Kong Action Star Has a Global Audience That Has Made His Movies International Blockbusters. With China About to Take Back the Crown Colony, He Has His Eye on the United States". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2011-06-26.
  14. "Chow's 'Pirates' scenes cut in China". 2007-06-17.
  15. Nordine, Michael (2016-05-04). "'Dragonball Evolution' Writer Apologizes to Fans for the Poorly Received Film". IndieWire. Retrieved 2017-12-12.
  16. Lee, Nathan (April 10, 2009). "Possess Glittery Magic Orb, Do Martial Arts, Save World". The New York Times.
  17. "From Vegas to Macau".
  18. 張 I, 潔 (2014-01-25). "周潤發公開減肥秘訣 10個月激減13公斤 I". 信息時報. Archived from the original on 2014-02-02. Retrieved 2014-01-30.
  19. "". 2014-10-28.
  20. "Chow Yun Fat, Louis Koo, Chilam Cheung Digging Gold Mines". 2014-12-26.
  21. "Crouching Tiger actor launches book for benefit of Chinese earthquake victims". Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2010-09-23.
  22. " | 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' star Chow Yun-fat publishes photo collection". Archived from the original on 2011-03-12.
  23. "Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat to donate 99% of his wealth". Archived from the original on 2016-12-23. Retrieved 2016-12-23.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  24. "Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-Fat to give £542 million fortune away". Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2018-10-17.
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