Sammo Hung


Actor, Director

About

Also Known As
Hung Gam Bo, Samo Hung, Sammo Hung Kam Bo, Samo Hung Kam-Bo, Hong Jin Bao, Hung Kam-Bo, Yuen Chu
Birth Place
Hong Kong
Born
January 07, 1952

Biography

While he has not yet wooed Western audiences with the success of his "younger brother" international superstar Jackie Chan, producer-director-actor Sammo Hung has been an even more important creative force in the development of contemporary Hong Kong film. Sadly, to the Western viewer, he may still be best known for fighting Bruce Lee at the start of "Enter the Dragon" (1973). In fact, l...

Family & Companions

Jo Yuen Ok
Wife
Married in 1973; divorced in 1994; mother of Hung's four children.
Joyce Godenzi
Wife
Actor. Born of Australian father and Chinese mother; awarded Miss Hong Kong in 1986; directed by (and sometimes acted with) Hung in films including "Eastern Condors" and "Spooky, Spooky"; met in 1986; married in 1995.

Biography

While he has not yet wooed Western audiences with the success of his "younger brother" international superstar Jackie Chan, producer-director-actor Sammo Hung has been an even more important creative force in the development of contemporary Hong Kong film. Sadly, to the Western viewer, he may still be best known for fighting Bruce Lee at the start of "Enter the Dragon" (1973). In fact, like Chan, he has achieved distinction as a director and producer in addition to being a popular performer. While both are comparable martial artists, Hung is generally acknowledged to be far superior as a director and storyteller, most notably in full-blooded kung fu films. Significantly he served as helmer on several of Chan's most memorable features including the landmark action comedy "Project A" (1984). When Chan directed himself, his films had great visual inventiveness but the pacing would sag in the middle and physical comedy and gags were emphasized over action. As a director, Hung brought harder-edged action scenes, a more brisk sense of timing, polished compositions and an inspired use of locations to their collaboration. Not known for his ego, he happily played second fiddle to his old school chum.

As a producer and director, Hung helped launch the careers of several HK stars including Michelle Khan (a.k.a. Michelle Yeoh), Yuen Biao and Leung Kar Yan. More often than not, they were better served by Hung's productions than by projects of their own. He breathed new life into the fighting females sub-genre in the 1980s by producing such landmark films as "Yes, Madam" (1985) which introduced the popular woman warriors Michelle Khan and Cynthia Rothrock as a distaff "buddy" cop team. He was also a major force in the horror-kung fu-comedy subgenre directing and acting in films like "Spooky Encounters" (1981), "Hocus Pocus" and "Mr. Vampire" (1985). The large-scale comedy "Shanghai Express" (1987) has been described as a Chinese equivalent of "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" as it is filled with stars, sight gags and stunts.

Behind-the-scenes, as the primary martial arts choreographer at the leading HK film studio Golden Harvest, Hung determined the fighting style employed by some of the industry's most popular stars. He had a gift for being able to take actors untrained as fighters and put them through their paces so convincingly as to fool even the most savvy HK audiences. Hardcore martial arts film fans treasure many of Hung's films including "The Iron-Fisted Monk" (his 1978 directorial debut), "Warriors Two" (1978) and, his own favorite directorial outing, "The Prodigal Son" (1981). The latter two are particularly notable as Hung's Wing Chun movies. This was a southern Chinese fighting style that rose to prominence in the West as word spread that Bruce Lee had received his basic training in this effective close-range fighting system that helped a smaller, weaker combatant defeat a larger, stronger opponent. Hung routinely instructed his writers to research the development of Chinese kung fu so as to find story ideas.

General wisdom pinpoints Hung's failure to achieve stardom outside of Asia on his plump physique--which incidentally, has not stopped him from being an awesome martial artist. Further clashing with Western ideals of male attractiveness, Hung has augmented his non-glamorous Everyman persona with haircuts reminiscent of The Three Stooges' Moe Howard. He tends to favor an innocent expression that gives him the appearance of a large child yet he often incurs facial bruising in his films' punishing fight scenes. Hung's early roles had him playing a screen "heavy" who menaced the more conventionally attractive stars. He did not start landing leads in Golden Harvest films until 1977 in films like "Sholin Plot" and his own "The Iron-Fisted Monk." Though loyal to Golden Harvest, Hung accepted an outside offer to helm, choreograph and star in "Enter the Fat Dragon" (1978), playing a swineherd who idolizes Bruce Lee. Hung also proved effective in dramatic roles such as a turn as a harsh instructor teaching young boys in a Peking Opera School in Stanley Kwan's "Painted Faces" (1988).

"Painted Faces" was loosely based on Hung's own childhood experiences learning at the Chinese Opera Research Institute where he studied mime, acrobatics, singing, kung fu and other techniques of Peking Opera under Sifu (Master) Yu Jim Yuen. He entered the school at age 10 and soon became the foremost member of the Seven Little Fortunes children's performance troupe. More than seven of these children (including Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao) grew up to become leading lights in the HK action film industry. Nicknamed 'Big Brother', he eventually aided in the martial arts instruction of his younger classmates and became the first member of his group to gain success as an adult working in the movies. Eventually Chan would emerge as the superstar of the group but even he continued to look to Hung for advice and encouragement.

Hung helped revitalize Chan's career as the helmer and co-star (with Biao) of "Project A" (1984), an uproarious pirate picture set in the early 1900s which set the mold for many of Chan's subsequent action comedies. One of the best of these was the follow-up "Wheels on Meals" (1984), also directed by Hung, a contemporary film that place the trio in Barcelona for an outlandish adventure. The three former classmates joined forces once again to play change-of-pace roles in the Hung-lensed "Dragons Forever" (1987), the least of their collaborations but still far superior to the standard HK action fare.

Ironically, Hung's best work as a director--the Eastern Western "The Millionaire's Express/Shanghai Express" (1985) and the war movie "Eastern Condors" (1987) and the 30s-set comedy-drama "Pedi-Cab Driver" (1990)--coincided with his commercial decline in the industry that he had served for some two decades. After a string of box-office disappointments, he left Golden Harvest in 1991 after a dispute with studio head Raymond Chow over the premature withdrawal from theaters of the Hung-produced thriller "Into the Fire." While continuing to produce films through his company Bojon, Hung failed to equal his early successes. His fortunes improved somewhat as the helmer of "Mr. Nice Guy" (1997), a long-awaited reteaming with Chan.

In 1998, CBS surprised many by scheduling "Martial Law," a one-hour comedy-drama built around Hung on Saturday nights. Preceding "Walker, Texas Ranger," the show, executive produced and occasionally directed by Stanley Tong, proved successful, appealing to the same demographics as "Walker." Hung, the only Asian headlining a primetime network series, soon found himself besieged by the press for interviews.

Filmography

 

Director (Feature Film)

Knock Off (1998)
Director
Mr. Nice Guy (1998)
Director
Once Upon a Time in China VI (1997)
Director
Pedi-Cab Driver (1989)
Director
Dragons Forever (1987)
Director
Eastern Condors (1987)
Director
My Lucky Stars (1987)
Director
The Millionaire's Express (1985)
Director
Heart of Dragon (1985)
Director
Wheels on Meals (1984)
Director

Cast (Feature Film)

14 Blades (2014)
A Simple Life (2012)
IP Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (2011)
Fatal Move (2008)
Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)
Twins Mission (2007)
Kill Zone (2005)
Zu Warriors (2005)
Maan Lone (2005)
Men Suddenly in Black (2004)
Himself
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Flying Dragon, Leaping Tiger (2004)
Luk Ching Yang
Warrior (2001)
Jackie Chan: Prisoner (2000)
Jackie Chan's Project A (1999)
Mr. Nice Guy (1998)
The Stunt Woman (1996)
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1996)
Hua Pi Zhi Yinyang Fawang (1992)
Project A (1991)
Touch and Go (Yi Chu Ji Fa) (1991)
Island on Fire (1991)
Bat Leung Gam (1990)
License to Steal (1990)
Pedi-Cab Driver (1989)
Painted Faces (1988)
Dragons Forever (1987)
My Lucky Stars (1987)
Eastern Condors (1987)
The Millionaire's Express (1985)
Heart of Dragon (1985)
Wheels on Meals (1984)

Writer (Feature Film)

The Millionaire's Express (1985)
Story By
Wheels on Meals (1984)
From Story

Producer (Feature Film)

The Final Test (1987)
Executive Producer
Happy Bigamist (1987)
Executive Producer
Killer's Nocturne (1987)
Executive Producer
Sworn Brothers (1987)
Producer
Jiangshi Xiansheng (1986)
Producer
The Island (Life and Death) (1985)
Producer
The Millionaire's Express (1985)
Executive Producer

Dance (Feature Film)

Ip Man (2010)
Choreographer
Ashes of Time Redux (2008)
Choreographer
Kung Fu Hustle (2005)
Additional Action Choreography

Stunts (Feature Film)

IP Man 2: Legend of the Grandmaster (2011)
Stunts
My Kingdom (2011)
Stunt Coordinator
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2011)
Stunts
Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon (2008)
Stunt Coordinator
The Medallion (2003)
Action Director
Double Team (1997)
Stunts
Once Upon a Time in China VI (1997)
Fight Choreographer
The Game of Death (1978)
Stunt Coordinator

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

Men Suddenly in Black (2004)
Other

Cast (Special)

Martial Arts -- The Real Story (2000)

Life Events

1960

Joined Sifu Yu Jim Yuen's Peking Opera School

1961

Film debut at age 11, "Education of Love"

1970

Hired by Golden Harvest studios as a martial arts choreographer

1973

Went to South Korea to study the martial art Hapkido directly under master Ji Han Jae

1977

First lead in a Golden Harvest picture

1978

Feature directorial debut, "The Iron-Fisted Monk", arguably the first kung fu comedy

1978

Directed "Warriors Two", the first of his two films featuring the Chinese fighting style Wing Chun

1978

With director Karl Maka and former actor-choreographer Lau Kar Wing, formed Gar Bo Films

1979

Accepted an offer from outside Golden Harvest to star as a swineherd who idolizes and impersonates Bruce Lee in the comedy "Enter the Fat Dragon"

1984

Directed and co-starred with former Chinese Opera classmates Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao in "Project A", one of Chan's most highly regarded films

1984

Directed and co-starred with Chan and Biao in "Wheels on Meals"

1987

Directed and co-starred with Chan and Biao in "Dragons Forever"

1991

Left Golden Harvest after 21 years following a string of box-office failures and a falling out with studio head Raymond Chow

1995

Served as stunt director on "Thunderbolt", a Jackie Chan racecar movie

1996

Directed Chan in the Australian-filmed feature "Mr. Nice Guy"; reputedly the first HK film to be shot in English

1998

US TV series debut as star of the CBS drama "Martial Law"

2004

Starred with Jackie Chan in the Disney live action feature "Around the World in 80 Days"

Family

Chin Tsi-ang
Grandmother
Actor, producer, executive. Born in 1909; was the first martial-arts heroine in Chinese films.
Hung Chung-ho
Grandfather
Director, producer, executive.
Timmy Hung
Son
Actor. Born c. 1974; mother, Jo Yuen Ok; had recurring role on "Martial Law".
Jimmy Hung
Son
Born c. 1975; mother, Jo Yuen Ok.
Sammy Hung
Son
Born c. 1979; mother, Jo Yuen Ok.
Stpehanie Hung
Daughter
Born c. 1983; mother, Jo Yuen Ok.

Companions

Jo Yuen Ok
Wife
Married in 1973; divorced in 1994; mother of Hung's four children.
Joyce Godenzi
Wife
Actor. Born of Australian father and Chinese mother; awarded Miss Hong Kong in 1986; directed by (and sometimes acted with) Hung in films including "Eastern Condors" and "Spooky, Spooky"; met in 1986; married in 1995.

Bibliography