Although he has occasionally been dubbed “the Cantonese James Dean” and “the Tom Cruise of the East”, neither moniker does Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau justice. The reason, to put it simply, is that Lau’s celebrity and achievements are incomparable to anyone else’s in the world. Period. With over 120 movies to his name, Andy reached a career milestone when he was awarded his first Best Actor award at the 19th Hong Kong Films Awards for his powerhouse performance as a dying criminal in the thriller Running Out Of Time.
:: how andy started ::
17-years-old Andy started his acting career in 1981 when he signs up for TVB’s Artiste Training Course. However, for the first two years, he was only given minor TV roles. In 1983, Andy finally made his mark with The Emissary. Huge TV serial hits like Return Of The Condor Heroes and The Duke Deer followed, marking his arrival as a major TV idol.
With his increase in popularity, TVB promotes and contemporaries Leung Chiu Wai, Miu Kiu Wai, Wong Yat Wah and Tong Chan Yip collectively as the Five Tigers, successfully turning them into heart-throbs of the day.
In 1987, sensing Andy’s potential, TVB wanted him to sign a five-year contract which he refused, and TVB retaliated by putting him in ‘cold storage’, deliberately denying him any exposure on TV for 13 months. Andy fell into depression valley as he gained 17kg, tipping the scales at 80kg. But he decided to fight back by plugging headlong into movies. Andy left TVB in 1988 to pursue an acting career in the movie industry.
:: andy lau – the movie star ::
In 1982, Andy co-starred in his first movie – Boat People. Chow Yun-Fat was initially cast for the role – To Minh but he declined the offer. Andy was recommended by Chow Yun-Fat, George Lam (leading male actor in Boat People) and cameraman David Chung to director Ann Hui and producer Xia Meng despite being not well-known at that time due to his limited acting experience of minor roles on television and in the movie Once Upon a Rainbow but the trio had collaborated with Andy that left them good impression. With his performance in Boat People, Andy got himself nominated for Best New Performer in the 2nd Hong Kong Films Awards (HKFA) in 1983 but he did not win, losing out to Season Ma, fellow nominee of the same movie.
In 1983, he got his first leading role in On the Wrong Track directed by Clarence Fok because of his role as Yang Guo in the popular TV serial The Return of the Condor Heroes.
Being “frozen” by TVB, Chow Yun-Fat helped Andy to get movie roles. He got to starred 2 movies namely Rich and Famous and Tragic Hero with Chow Yun-Fat which in turns launched Andy’s movie career. In the mid-80s, Andy began appearing in feature films, often co-starring alongside the likes of Jackie Chan, Chow Yun-Fat, Yuen Biao and Sammo Hung. He appeared in everything from historical dramas to bloodshed action genres to martial arts and comedies.
Andy was thrust into movie superstar-dom after earning international recognition and acclaim for his starring role in Wong Kar Wai’s directorial debut, As Tears Go By. He received the Best Actor award at 1989′s prestigious Golden Dragon Ceremony and was nominated for Best Actor in the 8th HKFA for his role in Wong Ka Wai’s As Tears Go By.
With the success of As Tears Go By, a string of hit movies in a wide range of genres that includes action, comedy, drama and sci-fi followed. In the same year, he was nicknamed “14 Smiles” when he made 14 movies in 1988.
Andy has a prolific film output between 1986 – 1991 as 58 movies are filmed during this period among the more than 120 movies (Filmography) he made in his movie career. It’s not unusual to see two Andy Lau films screening concurrently at the cinemas. He became a box-office draw second only to Chow Yun-Fat.
Throughout his career, he has worked with such prominent directors as Wong Kar Wai, Johnnie To, Ringo Lam, Lawrence Ah Mon, Ann Hui, Wong Jing, Derek Yee, Feng Xiaogang, Tsui Hark, Alan Mak, Andrew Lau and Zhang Yimou.
In 1995, his movie – Full Throttle made over HK$30 million in the box-office and became one of Andy’s #1 box-office hit. In 2000, Needing You broke records on its opening weekend and knocked Mission:Impossible 2 out of the #1 spot (while both in their second weeks of screening) before becoming the highest grossing box-office hit in Hong Kong for the year 2000 with a box office taking of HK$35 million. In 2001, Andy’s Love On A Diet and Full Time Killer had a higher box-office takings when compared to Hollywood blockbuster Pearl Harbor during the summer holidays.
Running Out Of Time was chosen for the opening for the 23rd Asian American International Film Festival to a sold out audiences in New York. Andy also appeared in person to introduce the film and sign autographs for hundreds of his fans. After Running Out Of Time, Andy had several more collaborations with director Johnnie To, these movies obtained good box office takings and reviews.
Full Time Killer made its premiere at Toronto International Film Festival. After the screening, America’s film distributor like Columbia Pictures Industries Inc, Miramax and New Line Cinema had contacted TeamWork to discuss on the possibility of getting the distributing rights of the movie in America. Full Time Killer was nominated by the Hong Kong Film Association representing Hong Kong to vye for one of the 5 nomination spots for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2002 Oscars Films Awards, but it didn’t made it.
Although under the influence of his lawsuits in 2002, it didn’t affect Andy’s love for movies as his movie, Infernal Affairs collected HK$54,120,000, the movie also won major awards in several film awards ceremonies. Infernal Affairs later spanned into a trilogy.
Miramax Films sealed a pact to acquire North American rights to distribute the stylish crime drama in Italy, Spain and Latin America, excluding Mexico. Warner Bros. Pictures won a feverish bidding war, the remake – The Departed was directed by Martin Scorsese, written by William Monahan and stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg.
:: his acting awards and achievements ::
Andy won the Best Actor award in prestigious Taiwan’s Golden Dragon Awards in 1989 for his collective contributions to Ng Siyuan’s The Unwritten Law (1986), David Lai Tai Wai’s Sworn Brothers (1986), David Lai and Taylor Wong’s Tragic Hero (1986) and Rich and Famous (1986).
Andy did not won any other major acting awards thereafter despite several nominations for Best Actor at the 8th HKFA in 1989 for As Tears Go By; 11th HKFA in 1992 for Lee Rock; 15th HKFA in 1995 for Full Throttle and another Best Actor nomination at the Golden Bauhinia Awards in 2000 for Running Out Of Time.
In 2000, Andy finally reached a career milestone when he was awarded his first Best Actor award at the 19th HKFA for his powerhouse performance as a dying criminal in the thriller Running Out Of Time directed by Johnnie To.
From then on, Andy is at long last recognized as an actor in his own right with another Best Actor award for A Fighter’s Blues at the 6th Bauhinia Films Awards in 2001 and a first Chinese Blockbuster Award with Sammi Cheng for Needing You at the 7th Blockbuster Entertainment Awards.
Several Best Actor nominations followed at the 20th HKFA for A Fighter’s Blues in 2001; nominated for the first time in Taiwan’s 2001 Golden Horse Film Awards and 21st HKFA in 2002 for his role in Love On A Diet; nominated for Infernal Affairs in Golden Bauhinia Awards in 2002, 22nd HKFA and Golden Horse Film Awards in 2003, he failed to win despite coming out tops in several online votings.
In 2004, hardworking Andy finally was rewarded with his second Best Actor award at the 23rd HKFA and Hong Kong Film Critics Association’s Best Actor for Running On Karma.
On his third nomination in the Golden Horse Film Awards in 2004, he was finally crowned Best Actor for his role in Infernal Affairs III.
In 2005, Andy became Hong Kong’s Top Box Office Actor 1985-2005 with a total box office of HK$1,733,275,816 for shooting 108 films during the period. He came out top against first runner-up Stephen Chow (HK$1,317,452,311) and second runner-up Jackie Chan (HK$894,090,962). He told reporters: “I’ve never imagined that would be as much as $1.7 billion!”
In June 2006, Andy collected his Honorary Fellow Member at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts’ 22nd award presentation ceremony, it was to honor his success and contribution to arts. Past Honorary Fellows includes Jackie Chan (1998), Chow Yun Fat (1999), Siu Fong Fong (2000), John Woo (2002), Anthony Wong and Stanley Ho (2004).
Andy was awarded the Asian Filmmaker of the Year in the 2006 Pusan International Film Festival after initiating a project Focus First Cuts to finance films from fledging Asian directors as films in this project left trails in film festivals of Venice, Rome, Cannes, Toronto, America, Japan and Korea.
In the 1st Asian Film Awards held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre on 20 March 2007. Andy was presented a special award – Nielsen Box Office Star of Asia Award despite losing out in his Best Actor nomination for A Battles of Wits.
Andy also won the Best Supporting Actor award for his performance as a drug lord in Protege in the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards.
:: the next step in Hollywood? ::
Andy also signs American company ICM as agent to be on the lookout for possible Hollywood roles. Asking price per movie is reportedly US$1 million. “I hope to break into the foreign market. In the eyes of foreigners, I am always regarded as a good-looker.”
However, earning a living there like fellow Hong Kong colleagues Jackie Chan and Chow Yun Fat has not crossed his mind. “Lots of scripts appear in my life from Hollywood…not the one that I want. Most of them are action-packed movies, I don’t think they can make better than us. Without a good script, I would rather stay in Hong Kong than go to Hollywood and wait. I feel that we now have to fight Jackie Chan and Jet Li for a piece of the movie market,” he said.
“If you are still capable, I think you should still work for your home base. I don’t understand why it require to film a Hollywood movie in order to break into the Hollywood market, you could if you concentrate on filming Hong Kong movies just like Crounching Tiger and Hidden Dragon, furthermore in its original Mandarin dialogue without dubbing. Actually it was really hard to film without using your mother tongue language, its not use if you could not acted out the feeling. It looks like they are using the Chinese to fight the Chinese market.”