21 Jump Street’ star Dustin Nguyen is back in action

The actor from Orange County, who blazed a trail in the 1980s, has roles in three new movies.

The Orange County Register

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HE’S BACK: Actor Dustin Nguyen, who first gained attention in the TV show “21 Jump Street,” has become a busy actor in independent films, with three new releases.

Flash back to 1987. “21 Jump Street” was one of the hottest new shows on television, showcasing the talents of young heartthrobs Johnny Depp and Dustin Nguyen.

For Depp, already a rising star, it would be a launching pad for enormous big-screen success.

For Nguyen, who played Officer Harry Truman Ioki, it was rare opportunity in the national spotlight during a time when there were hardly any Asian Americans on television or in the movies.

Flash forward to 2003. Johnny Depp has become a household name, playing lead roles in quirky cult favorites and humungous Hollywood blockbusters. His swashbuckling turn as the irreverent Captain Jack Sparrow in “Pirates of the Caribbean” catapults him to the rarefied air of billion-dollar superstardom.

Meanwhile, in 2003, Nguyen was struggling to get bit parts on low-rated TV shows. Bigger, meatier roles on film and television passed him by. He even dropped out of acting for a while. He was also dealing with a personal tragedy – the paralysis of his wife after a major car accident.

“From 2001 to 2004, I pretty much got out of the business,” said Nguyen, 45, during a recent visit to Orange County. Nguyen lived in Costa Mesa for a few years and attended Orange Coast College. His parents still live here.

“I literally stopped acting. In a lot of ways, I did disappear. … I was very disillusioned with the kind of roles that were out there available to people like me.”

Flash forward to fall 2007. Dustin Nguyen is back. He’s got significant roles in three current independent films, including one that hits Southern California theaters this weekend.

“Finishing the Game,” a comedy directed by Orange County’s Justin Lin (“Better Luck Tomorrow”), is about the fictional search for the next Bruce Lee.

In the mockumentary, Nguyen plays Troy Poon, a veteran Asian American actor who has seen his share of good and bad roles and refuses to accept a part as a stereotypical, Bruce Lee-wanna-be kung fu hustler. In many ways, the earnest Poon mirrors Nguyen’s own career. Over the years, he’s turned down his share of Oriental villain and Chinese takeout delivery boy parts.

“It’s the reality of the business that a lot of people don’t want to talk about,” said Nguyen, who was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1962 and moved to the U.S. when he was 11. “The availability of good work, and good, positive employment opportunities wasn’t out there. What was difficult for me, having done something like ’21 Jump Street,’ it was very difficult for me to do things that were beneath that standard that was set by that show. There just weren’t a lot of opportunities.”

But the doors have opened for him lately. In addition to “Finishing the Game,” Nguyen can be seen playing the powerful nemesis Sy in “The Rebel,” a Vietnamese-language martial arts drama directed by Buena Park’s Charlie Nguyen (no relation). He also portrays the lead Kim in “Saigon Eclipse,” a romantic drama directed by Othello Khanh.

In 2005, he starred alongside Cate Blanchett in “Little Fish,” a big hit in Australia. He just finished shooting “The Gauntlet,” a horror film scheduled for release next year.

Nguyen’s return to the silver screen could be construed as a comeback for the veteran actor, whose father was a longtime actor in Vietnam.

“I’m not sure what comeback means, but if it means that I’m in people’s consciousness, I guess that’s what it is for me,” he said. “I think I’m at a juncture in my career – I’m older now, the roles I’ve done have been in a different category now.”


When Nguyen first appeared on “21 Jump Street,” he was 24 and a rarity – an Asian American on network TV, playing an undercover cop who, like Depp, could pass as a high school or college student. Through 1990, he played a Japanese American police officer who was later revealed to be Vietnamese American.

Since then, broadcast television has made some progress, but it’s still rare to see Asian Americans play significant characters in prime time.

“I remember growing up – you had Sulu from ‘Star Trek’ and Ioki from ’21 Jump Street,’ ” director Lin said. “He gets the business. I also feel like he’s got a lot of dignity. Someone with that kind of class – that’s very rare.”

Glen Mimura, professor of film and media studies at UC Irvine, said Nguyen’s character on “21 Jump Street” was multifaceted and could not be reduced to mere ethnicity.

“It was unique at that time,” Mimura said. “It was a role that simply presented an Asian American male as a nonstereotypical Asian, and a role that wasn’t emasculated. His career, by and large, has been one of roles that more or less defied stereotypes.”

Roger Fan, who stars as Breeze Loo, another Bruce Lee wanna-be in “Finishing the Game,” says Nguyen has served as a role model for younger Asian Americans trying to make it in a fickle business.

“He’s had a really amazing career,” Fan said. “He’s done something that no Asian American actor has been able to do. He’s played and been paired with normal, cool characters in mainstream productions. He may not necessarily have hit the brightest shining star ever, but his star shines pretty darn bright and it’s been shining for a long time.”

Nguyen acknowledges that his roles on “21 Jump Street” and later in the comedy series “V.I.P.” were rare and significant. But back in the late ’80s, he wasn’t really thinking about representing a race.

“The honest truth is, initially I never thought of the significance of it. I was just so happy to land that job. … There’s a certain sense of responsibility that was sort of thrust on me. I’m not a political animal. But as time goes by, I realize how rare it is to have an Asian American male on prime time television.”


In 2001, Nguyen’s fiancé, model Angela Rockwood, got into a serious car accident that left her paralyzed from the neck down.

Nguyen became her primary caregiver, and the two married soon after.

“Everything just completely changed because of that one incident,” the actor said. For a couple years, he put his career on hold as he took care of her.

Rockwood regained some movement in her upper body, but still cannot move her legs. In recent years, the two have become ambassadors for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is dedicated toward finding a cure for spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis.

“When you’re surrounded by people who are challenged in some way, whether it’s physical or mental, I think you learn a lot, in terms of what my role is, where I fit in this society and in this world,” Nguyen said. “You learn that there are other things more important than what movie you’re in, how people perceive you and your public image.”

The couple are part of the Reeve foundation’s minority outreach program, sharing information with Asian Americans affected by paralysis.

“The Asian community as a whole sort of views paralysis, or major illness, as something to be ashamed of, embarrassed by. They tend to keep it within their family and suffer silently.”

Nguyen said he aims to raise awareness of the foundation’s resource center, which provides information about rehabilitation, active living, rights and grants. The information is free and available in Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean.

“It’s not easy. I would never say that it is. But if you can be an instrument of hope and inspiration, it’s a lot more fulfilling. Don’t get me wrong. I love making movies and I love what I do. But (paralysis) gives you some perspective.”


Dustin returned to Vietnam for the first time in decades to shoot and later promote his film, “The Rebel.”

The Vietnamese press, which largely had ignored him for 20 years, applauded his gray-haired, villainous performance and treated him like a superstar.

“I was very surprised and I’ll tell you why,” he said. “Most Vietnamese in Vietnam have sort of negative connotations with overseas Vietnamese coming back, and I was one of them. Most Vietnamese Americans that come back, and I wasn’t the first one, they tend to be a bit on the arrogant side. So the amount of scrutiny initially was very high. We were all very nervous about how we were going to be perceived.”

Nguyen and his fellow castmates and filmmakers made a conscious effort to review their Vietnamese, conduct interviews in that language and avoid English. It was tough for Dustin, who described his vocabulary as being at a 10- or 11-year-old level.

He said the journalists realized he was trying hard to communicate in his mother tongue and cut him some slack. Plus, they genuinely liked the movie.

“When we got lucky and the film became a big hit there and people connected with it, it was a big relief for me. It was a big surprise.”

Nguyen says he’s enjoying this period in his career. He’s got his own production company in Vietnam. He’s also traveling from city to city, promoting “Finishing the Game,” and interacting with hundreds of Asian American fans who recall and celebrate his breakthrough role as Officer Harry Ioki.

“Creatively, this is the most fulfilled I have ever felt in my career,” he said. “I think I made some conscious decisions about taking charge of my own creative destiny. I’m a little less concerned about being in the mainstream radar. Ironically, in the last two years, I have been in non-Hollywood films, and those are the best roles I’ve ever had in my career.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-6026 or rchang@ocregister.com

Honorarium for Vietnamese actors
09:37′ 22/11/2007 (GMT+7)

Truong Ngoc Anh was paid VND40 million for a role in You and Michael Jackson in 2002

VietNamNet Bridge – Vietnamese actors and actresses often don’t want to disclose their honorarium but according to published information, a leading actor or actress in a feature film receives around VND20 million ($1,250).


For a television film, often a series, a leading actor can earn VND2 million ($125) per episode and around VND40 million ($2,500) for a 20-volume series. Since the series is shot over several months, the pay is not enough.


Kinh Quoc, who has been in many TV series, said: “I’m invited for many films but I cannot live by honorarium. Whenever a film closes, I have spent the entire honorarium already.”


Along with the development of private film studios, pay for actors also rises. Previously Lasta was considered to offer the highest pay but it is now exceeded by M&T Pictures and HK Film.


According to inside sources, the highest pay for a TV series so far is VND5 million per episode for actor Huy Khanh in Wild Sunflower, 33 episodes by director Vo Tan Binh; and actress Ha Kieu Anh in 30-episode Love Game of Chess by director Tran Canh Don. Both films are invested in by M&T and produced by HK.


Luong Manh Hai and Minh Thu, leading actor and actress in Tropical Snow, also produced by M&T and HK, were paid VND100 million ($6,250) for 30 episodes.


Though the pay for TV actors and actresses is surging, their incomes are still too low compared with honorarium of singers.


While the pay for actors and actresses in TV series is on the rise, that for those in feature films is decreasing. In the golden age of “instant noodle” films in the ‘90s, movie stars like Ly Hung, Diem Huong, Viet Trinh were paid from VND20 to VND30 million per film ($1,250-1,875). Truong Ngoc Anh received up to VND40 million ($6,600) for You and Michael Jackson by director Luu Huynh in 2002. Over ten years later, My Duyen and Minh Thu earned just VND15 million ($900) for Bar Girls.


Justly, this is the law of market. In the ‘90s, Ly Hung, Viet Trinh and Diem Huong were considered the guarantee for success of any film. Now, the conception “movie star” no longer exists so the pay for actors cannot compare to the past.


For state-owned movies, nobody pays attention to revenue from the films so the names of actors, the number of viewers is unimportant and as a result, actors are paid poorly.


In the age of market movies, when private companies also produce films, honorarium for actors seems to be higher but it is not worthy of their sweat. Some films are invested in by overseas Vietnamese, but since these films are co-produced by state-owned film firms, actors are paid at the same level for state-owned films.


For example, Ngo Thanh Van and Hua Vi Van took VND20 million for their leading roles in Saigon Love Story by Vietnamese American director Ringo Le. However, according to Hua Vi Van, he received several thousand more USD to attend film introduction ceremonies in the US.


Honorarium is now paid on routine, not for the name and profit brought about by actors in the film. The revenue of Bar Girls is over VND13 billion ($812,000) but when actor Anh Vu asked for higher pay for the second part of the film, Street Cinderella, his role was transferred to another actor.


Pay for actors based on a certain percentage of film profit is popular abroad but in Vietnam it is not applied.


Professional movies needs fairness


A professional movie industry needs many factors but one of the most important things is having “movie stars” who can lure audiences. Pay for actors is not simply income but the measurement of their fame and professional level.


Minh Thu and My Duyen (right) received VND15 million each for Bar Girls



In Hollywood, the Republic of Korea or China, actors are paid for their names and their attraction and the pay is the result of fair bargaining between actors and producers. Sometimes, producers pay highly but their films are unsuccessful. However, the actors’ pay will be lower in the next film. That’s the rule of a professional movie market.


In Vietnam, the number of feature films produced each year is few so actors are not familiar or don’t dare bargain with producers. There are some workshops on how to professionalise the Vietnamese movie industry but with several films and unfair treatment on actors, the local movies cannot reach professionalism.


Actors have their say


Quyen Linh: Pay for actors has increased a little bit but I think it is still irrational if it is compared to income of stage players (VND500-700,000/night) or singer (VND10-30 million/show). Actors have to work hard but their salary can’t compensate them for their sweat. Pay must be higher so actors can devote their minds to films.


Quoc Thai


I can live by my career, playing in films, dramas and working as an MC as well. However, the gap between income of Vietnamese actors and foreign colleagues is extremely wide.


Viet Trinh


Salary of actors nowadays is lower than in the ‘90s and it is much lower than that of actors in neighbouring countries. In Singapore, pay for a leading role in one film is enough to live for several years but in Vietnam, a film is not finished yet but the actor is out of money. So all actors have to do other jobs to earn their living.


Minh Thu


Salary! Frankly, I suffer losses from film to film. It is easy to prepare costumes for a role of a poor girl but if I play a rich and fashionable one, I have to pay much for costumes. Though I’m paid higher than my colleagues, but with my carefully investment, it is not high at all.


Kinh Quoc


Actors, even stars, can’t live by their salary so most of them have other jobs to nurture their passion for movies.


Ly Hung


Vietnamese films have little investment so actors sympathise with producers and they accept the pay.


(Source: Nghe Sy)

By Charles Nguyen

Kieu Chinh in “Journey from the Fall”

If critics were to award “Journey from the Fall” actress Kieu Chinh with a Lifetime Achievement Award — which they’ve done once already — some serious thought should be dedicated to a question: Which of Chinh’s lives deserves more applause?

After all, the life of Chinh — winner of the 2003 Vietnamese International Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award and current recipient of the 2006 San Diego Asian Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award — is the life of over 100,000 others. In 1975, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese-born civilians, fearing reprisals after decades of war, fled to America and began anew.

In hindsight, Chinh’s work-life before the war was much like her current one. In Vietnam, she was a respected actress, culled by directors and producers to play strong, leading female characters. But it has been a long climb since 1975, Chinh says.

See Kieu Chinh in our opening night film, “Journey from the Fall”, on Thursday, Oct 12 at 7 PM and in person at the Gala Awards Dinner on Saturday, Oct 14.

“In Vietnam, I was known,” she says, in the calm but firm matriarchal tone that befits many her characters. “Before the war, I never had to audition. Even if I did, there wouldn’t be the amount of competition that there is here.”

At the tender age of 18, Chinh received her first starring role in the Vietnamese-produced “The Bells of Thien Mu Temple.” By the 1960s, she was a starlet in high demand for both Vietnamese and American productions. In 1964, Chinh even starred alongside tough-guy Burt Reynolds in “Operation C.I.A.” Then, with the war escalating, actress Tippi Hedren of “The Birds” fame sponsored Chinh’s immigration to and citizenship in America.

Since then it has been all work, Chinh laughs; her resume proves the point. Chinh has touched almost all acting genres, with extended stints in soap operas (“Dynasty”) and tearjerkers (“Touched by an Angel”) to leading roles in film.

Kieu Chinh as Suyuan Woo in “The Joy Luck Club”

It’s Chinh’s most recognized portrayal that speaks to her acting prowess. In the “Joy Luck Club,” Chinh played Suyuan Woo, a driven but commandeering mother that is forced to abandon her children in China, then tries to cultivate a new family life in America. Chinh nailed the audition with Wayne Wang and Amy Tan — an impromptu session Chinh said she had only because she was in the same building for other business — and played Woo with a sort of dignified grace Chinh believed the character deserved.

But there was one hitch: Chinh didn’t speak Woo’s language. It was an obstacle Chinh has dealt with many times in her American career. In “M*A*S*H*,” Chinh played a Korean. For a one-time gig on “Fantasy Island,” Chinh was billed as an “Oriental woman.” But while crowds of Asian American actors try to break ethnic barriers, Chinh may have transcended them.

“When someone asks me to speak Chinese for a job, I speak Chinese and when someone asks me to speak Korean, I will do the same,” she says, with a chuckle that suggests language acquisition should be effortless. “Acting is something human, so the characters’ culture or race doesn’t stop me from connecting with them on some base level.”

Chinh’s adaptability wasn’t needed, however, for her latest role in “Journey from the Fall,” which the actress calls the most personally touching work she has done.

In the film, helmed by first-time feature director Ham Tran, Chinh plays an immigrant mother stricken by grief after she leaves her son in a Vietnamese postwar concentration camp.

“This story is about the pain and separation of war,” Chinh says. There is a rare waver in her voice, reserved for the times she speaks of the war. “I could feel my character because I meet her daily in my friends, my relatives and myself.”


Vietnamese-French TV anchor and singer Marjolaine Bui-The has taken the plunge as an actress and is shooting for her first film in Ho Chi Minh City.

The presenter of Greg le Millionnaire, one of the most popular programs on the leading French channel TFI, is starring in a film made by expatriate Vietnamese director Othello Khanh for which shooting started last week.

The 25-year-old acts as Vanessa in Saigon Eclipse, a film based on the Story of Kieu, an epic Vietnamese poem written by Nguyen Du in the early 19th century. It deals with a worrying phenomenon in the Vietnam of today: trafficking of women.

The film narrates the tale of Kieu (played by Truong Ngoc Anh), a beautiful and talented actress, who is making a film with Kim (Dustin Nguyen), a hot young Hollywood director who returns to his native Vietnam to become a part of the new wave of Vietnamese cinema.

The film is produced by Kieu's uncle Henry and her mother Tu (Nhu Quynh). The fragile family balance is disrupted when Kieu falls in love with Kim and Henry loses all at the gambling tables.

Enter Vanessa, a foreign beauty, who is hired to be Kieu's stand-in, and heads begin to turn in her direction more than they should. She also becomes Kieu's best friend.

Henry resorts to shady ways to pay off his debts and the story plunges into the murky realm of human trafficking.

Bui-The told Thanh Nien that Vanessa bore many resemblances to her real life – she too is a Westerner of Vietnamese origin who goes back to her roots and discovers interesting things there.

Born and brought up in France, she is also a singer who has signed an exclusive one-year deal with Sony Music and released her first album Geisha last year.

The beauty, whose parents are Vietnamese, said Sony Music recently proposed an extension of the contract but she had decided to temporarily stop singing to concentrate on the film in Vietnam.

After Saigon Eclipse she plans to continue her film career but declined to comment on her plans.

Reported by Tram Anh – Translated by Thu Thuy


Singaporean star Edmund Chen arrived in Ho Chi Minh City Thursday to act in a film made by Vietnamese-French director Othello Khanh.

Chen is scheduled to be here until late May for Saigon Eclipse, a film based on the "Story of Kieu", the epic Vietnamese poem written by Nguyen Du in the early 19th century.

Starting his career in the late 1980s, Chen is known for his roles in many television and feature films like Turn Left, Turn Right; The Hotel; The Eye; Brotherhood; A Sharp Pencil; Where Got Problem; and Yellow Wedding.

Overseas Vietnamese actors return home for roles
10:34′ 22/03/2006 (GMT+7)

Soạn: AM 731673 gửi đến 996 để nhận ảnh này
Johnny Tri Nguyen.

VietNamNet – Recently, many overseas Vietnamese actors have been returning to Vietnam to take roles. How have they been received?


Recently, names such as Johnny Tri Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen, Helen Thanh Dao, and Nguyen Van Long have appeared in local newspapers. They are new faces in the national cinema industry.


Johnny Tri Nguyen, a professional cascadeur in Hollywood, is perhaps the “noisiest” case. Nguyen’s voice appears continuously in the media, together with his first film in Vietnam, Hon Truong Ba Da Hang Thit (Truong Ba’s soul in the butcher’s body).


As Tri Nguyen revealed, his main target in returning to Vietnam was to produce his own film, Dong Mau Anh Hung (Hero’s Blood), which will be based on the Vietnam-France war in 1930. It will be produced as a Hollywood action film.


Tri Nguyen said that another actor, Dustin Nguyen, will also be in Dong Mau Anh Hung. Dustin Nguyen is the son of actor Xuan Phat and dancer My Le, who were famous in HCM City in the 1970s. Dustin Nguyen has been working as a director for 20 years. The two are both expected to become domestic stars.


Model/actress Helen Thanh Dao is another artist performing in domestic films. But unlike Tri Nguyen and Dustin Nguyen, Thanh Dao does not have any acting experience.


Fortunately, just a few months after returning to Vietnam, she received two important roles from local film producers. According to the predictions of directors, Thanh Dao will soon be a movie star in Vietnam.


Tri Nguyen, Dustin Nguyen, and Thanh Dao are the most recent overseas Vietnamese actors to return to Vietnam. A few years ago, Vietnamese-Norwegian model Ngo Thanh Van returned home. She soon became a queen on local catwalks, and a famous movie and music star. In 2004, Van took a role in an Asia MTV Television serial film. Van will also take a leading role in Tri Nguyen’s film Dong Mau Anh Hung.


Domestic cinema is also attracting other overseas Vietnamese actors, such as Nguyen Van Phuong, Trizzi Phương Trinh, Miss Vietnam in Australia, Duy Thanh Lap, and others.


According to experts, Vietnam cinema lacks performers. Overseas Vietnamese actors promise to solve the problem. They earn faith from local directors with their professionalism and international knowledge. They also do well in scenes involving driving or martial arts, which are weaknesses of local actors.


Now, many Vietnamese private film companies are planning to invite overseas Vietnamese actors to participate in their projects.


(Source: TN)

Exclusive: M:i:III‘s Mysterious Maggie Q!

Source: Edward Douglas

March 21, 2006

I’ll be the first to admit that I really didn’t know very much about Maggie Q when I was offered the chance to interview her. Despite having dedicated many hours of my life watching Hong Kong action films, I wasn’t very familiar with her work, but apparently, the Hawaiian born actress is a bonafide Asian superstar having modeled and starred in films in China and Japan.

Under the guidance of Jackie Chan, Maggie got prominent roles in some of his Hong Kong films, as well as a small part in his 2001 sequel Rush Hour 2. Maggie’s upcoming role in the J.J. Abrams-directed threequel Mission: Impossible: III, once again starring Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, will probably do for Maggie’s career what the last movie did for Thandie Newton. With her martial arts background, she’ll certainly be getting more into the action, and as we can see in the pictures, she’ll do it while being dressed to kill!

Check out this exclusive interview with the Vietnamese-American beauty as she answers some of ComingSoon.net’s Q’s. If she’s as lively in action as she was in this interview, then America should get ready to welcome this Asian action star back home!

CS: You have an interesting background, born in Hawaii to a Vietnamese mother. So how did you end up going to Japan and China for modeling and acting?
Maggie Q: It was just a simple matter of I graduated from high school and I needed money to go to university, and the only way to do that was not to go to school and work 9 to 5. I had a scholarship across country and I had a lot on my plate. So simply, I couldn’t make ends meet, so I had to find a way to make some money and come back home, but I ended up not going home. I’ve been over there for about nine years.

CS: And when you went there, you didn’t speak any Chinese or Japanese so how did you get along over there?
Maggie Q: No, nothing at all. Well, in the beginning, it was really difficult. Obviously, when you uproot and go anywhere, it’s going to be difficult, but then it not only was a language barrier, but kind of a culture shock, too. It took a lot of work to ingratiate myself into this culture that wasn’t innately mine, but somehow, Asia managed to embrace me, and I was lucky enough to get in there. I don’t know how that happened, but it just did. It was very strange.

CS: Did you start as a model and then get into acting?
Maggie Q: Well, a little bit. I never really had photos or anything like that. I kind of did it on a whim because I needed extra money, and then I only really modeled for a year. Then, in ’98, got my first TV series in China, and then after that, I’ve been acting ever since.

CS: How did you end up getting a role in “Rush Hour 2″? Was that through Jackie Chan?
Maggie Q: That was a real fluke accident. (laughs) Well, Jackie is my boss in Hong Kong. He’s the person who manages me and I’m under his company, and I’ve been trained by his people for action films and stuff. That was Jackie’s film, and because Jackie was our boss and we knew all the people he worked with, the director had asked me if I would do a little cameo for the Asian audience, and I was like, “No, I don’t want to do it!” and then he kind of told Jackie on me that I wasn’t going to do it, and then he was like, “Maggie, you have to do it!” So that was how I had to do that little thing.

CS: Getting into “Mission: Impossible: III,” were J.J. Abrams or Tom Cruise familiar with your Asian movies or were they fans?
Maggie Q: Mmm… I don’t know how familiar they were with what I had done previously. The funny thing that I’ve noticed in Hollywood now that I’m here is that a lot of people really don’t care what you’ve done before they meet you. They want to see what you can do now. And so, when I came into that audition, it really wasn’t about anything that I’d done… “Oh, we’ve seen that or we’ve seen that, and we think you’re great!”… It was like, “This is what we want you to do right now, can you do it? Can I see in you what I want for the character?” It was really more about the audition.

CS: How did you hear about the role? Was it an open casting call that your agent found for you?
Maggie Q: Well, initially, I sent a tape to them and then didn’t hear back for weeks, so I thought it was over. I thought that was it. Oh, well, it doesn’t really matter. And then weeks later, after traveling all over Europe, I get back to Hong Kong one day and they’re like “We need you in L.A. tonight.” I was like, “Oh My God!” so I had to fly over, within hours of getting the call, and I went in for my audition, and they had me do three scenes, and they were like, “Welcome to the film!”

CS: Isn’t that like a 24-hour flight?
Maggie Q: Oh, my God, it’s like ridiculous! When you come to L.A. from Asia, you hit jet lag at like 3:00 on the dot. You hit a wall that you can’t come back from. And guess what time my audition was? 3:00 the next day, so I went in with jet lag and fever, and it was not a good situation, but luckily, somehow we were able to pull it off.

CS: Well, that’s certainly grace under pressure. Maybe if they figured you were that good when jetlagged, you’d be even better with some rest.
Maggie Q: Exactly! (laughs) J.J. was like, “I’m sorry I have to do this to you. I can’t believe I’m doing this to you, but Paula Wagner needs to see if you’re good enough.” Because Tom was off promoting “War of the Worlds,” so he couldn’t see my audition directly, so he needed Paula to tell him, “Okay, yeah she’s good,” or “No, she isn’t.”

CS: Gotcha. So what exactly is your role in the movie?
Maggie Q: I play one of the team members along with Tom and Ving Rhames and Johnny Rhys Meyers. We play an IMF team.

CS: Does that mean you’re able to use some of your action training?
Maggie Q: Totally! Well, the great thing is that I’m able to use a little bit of that, but the wonderful about working with a director like J.J. is that you get to do so many things. I mean, what you can expect when you see the film is not just to see action, but you’re going to be really involved in these characters, ’cause I think he’s really great. Everybody is going to stand out and do their own thing. You’re going to see so many sides to these people. It’s going to be cool.

CS: So you get to go undercover and play different characters, too?
Maggie Q: Exactly! Different languages, different looks, blah blah blah… things like that. It’s going to be like what you would expect to see in the old black and white TV series. It’s going to be a really great team effort.

CS: Had you had a chance to see the other movies before you got the part?
Maggie Q: Oh, yeah. Who hasn’t? (laughs) I think the first one was more of the team thing, and then the second one kind of came away from that a bit, and then the third one, we’re going back to that again, which I think audiences are going to enjoy a lot.

CS: How has it been working with J.J., considering he has the action experience with Jennifer Garner on “Alias,” so how has he been directing action scenes with you?
Maggie Q: J.J.? Period. Whether it’s action or acting or whatever, J.J.’s the man! He is an unbelievable person, and he’s so frickin’ talented that you can’t even stand it! Know what I mean? He’s got talent comin’ out of all areas! He’s the easiest person to work with… he’s calm, he’s entertaining, he’s kind. I mean, it’s kind of a hard act to follow after working with J.J. He kind of just makes everything happen. This is his first feature and you’re going to be BLOWN AWAY that this is his first feature.

CS: Very cool. And how’s it been working with Tom? I assume you do a lot of scenes with him since you’re on his team.
Maggie Q: Oh, definitely. Yeah, yeah. He’s the greatest! I think a lot of the misconceptions about Tom is that whenever I see things or read anything about Tom that’s not positive, the only thing I can think of is that they just don’t know him. There’s nothing that I could see or have experienced while being around Tom that has been negative. He’s a really great guy, and he’s a generous person to work with, and you couldn’t ask for a better co-star. You really couldn’t. He treats everyone as his equal, and I appreciate that a lot, because we’re lucky to be there.

CS: I assume because you work together and he’s married at this point, there isn’t any romance between the two of you in the movie.
Maggie Q: Nah, I don’t get any kind of action.

CS: Not even anything between you and Ving Rhames?
Maggie Q: Noooooo… the Vingster? No! Ving is like my brother! If there’s any joking any kind of anything going on, it would be between me and Johnny Rhys Meyers.

CS: That’s not bad. You could do worse than that.
Maggie Q: No, not at all. Johnny is the greatest. I love him! It’s just kind of joking, because the team members all act like brothers and sisters.

CS: And you’re the only woman on the team?
Maggie Q: I am! Ever! I think. I don’t think they’ve had one in any of the films! So I’m kind of happy, and I’m pretty excited about that!

CS: Where did you end up filming your scenes?
Maggie Q: I shot in Rome, actually all over Italy, and we shot in L.A, and then we shot in China, so we’re all over for this one.

CS: And you’re done shooting everything already?
Maggie Q: Oh, we’re totally done! I just finished doing some ADR, and the film is really coming together and it’s almost done. We’re really excited. It’s coming out really soon and we’re going to start premiering it next month. They haven’t confirmed where, but I know they’re going to start promoting it and everything in April.

CS: Any idea what you’re going to do next once you’re done promoting the movie?
Maggie Q: Well, that’s a good question. There’s a few things on the table right now that I have not really committed to yet, but a few really fun things that I’m actually really excited about. But once that happens, I will definitely talk about it the minute I can.

CS: Are you pretty much doing American movies now or will you be going back and forth to China like Jackie does?
Maggie Q: I’d like to do both, to be honest. The point of the matter is to just kind of do good work and enjoy what I’m doing, and wherever that is, that’s what I’m going to do.

CS: Have you gotten comfortable enough with your Chinese that you don’t have to do it phonetically any more?
Maggie Q: Well, yes and no. It’s kind of like… at the end of the day, I am American and that is what I am. This is the first time where I’ve been in a market where I can be completely comfortable and confident with my language, because in the past, it’s always been a huge struggle. I think that’s one of the things that excites me about being here is that I can actually intellectualize things that I couldn’t before. That’s a big plus for me and that would be a reason to stay here.

ComingSoon.net also has your exclusive first look at a new Stunt Featurette, which you can view in QuickTime here! Mission: Impossible: III kicks off the summer on May 5.

The conflicted career of actress Anna May Wong

Sunday, February 26, 2006

AMERICA was founded by explorers and built by pioneers and we continue to salute their spirit. Inventors, innovators, iconoclasts — these have always been our heroes, whether their adventures took place along a dusty wagon trail or in a New Jersey laboratory.

What isn’t often written about is how lonely being first can be.

Anna May Wong was born of two cultures, and made singular strides in both of them. As a young Chinese woman, she broke with timeless tradition to pursue an independent life and career. As a young American actress, she broke the Hollywood color line to establish herself as a sex symbol and star. She blazed trails.

Yet her successes were bittersweet. Her family viewed her fame with suspicion, at best. Her Hollywood bosses stereotyped her as a China Doll, or Dragon Lady. The Chinese press mocked her as a sell-out. And although her career spanned more than 40 years, when she died in 1961, at 56, she was largely forgotten.

Lately, she’s been remembered.

Two years ago, “Piccadilly,” a 1929 silent and one of her best films, was restored and re-released and “Anna May Wong,” a popular biography, was published. At least two documentaries about Wong’s life are in production and beginning March 4, the Museum of the Moving Image begins a seven-week retrospective of her films, including many rare and restored titles.

It is an overdue appreciation.

“I think what she says now to us is different from what she seemed to say in the ’70s, when she was seen as a dupe of Hollywood,” says Shirley Jennifer Lim, whose books include “A Feeling of Belonging: Asian-American Women’s Public Culture” and an upcoming study of Wong and Josephine Baker. “Today, people see her as being a much more complex figure … Even though there were gender and racial stereotypes, her characters still had power.”

Born in California in 1905, to a family that had come to America during the first Gold Rush, Wong grew up in Los Angeles, where her father owned a laundry. Prosperous enough to be able to live outside of Chinatown and send his children to good schools, Wong Sam Sing expected a family of dutiful daughters and ambitious sons.

Anna May turned out to be a surprise.

In love with the movies from an early age, she cut classes to sneak off for the latest chapter of “The Perils of Pauline.” By 12 — already demurely pretty, with a heart-shaped face and graceful hands — she was modeling for local department stores. She got her break two years later, when Metro Pictures — still years away from the mergers that would make it MGM — came to Chinatown to shoot location sequences for “The Red Lantern.” The teenage Wong begged her way into some extra work.

Her career had begun.

“She was a quick learner,” says biographer Graham Russell Gao Hodges, who writes of how that first movie crew dubbed her CCC — for Curious Chinese Child. “She had watched Alla Nazimova on ‘The Red Lantern,’ so she was aware of Method acting long before Strasberg. She knew how to put herself forth and she was strikingly beautiful. There was something uncanny about her.”

Wong soon moved on to bigger parts, and bigger movies. She was the star of “The Toll of the Sea,” a new version of “Madame Butterfly”; she was the duplicitous Mongol slave in Douglas Fairbanks’ epic “The Thief of Baghdad,” one of the silent era’s best-remembered hits.

Yet the two roles summed up the actress’ limited options. She could play the victim, and end tragically; she could play the villainess, and end badly. It was a pattern that Hollywood would later repeat with other minorities, as it grudgingly made room for African-American actors in the ’50s, or started featuring gay characters in the ’60s. It was as if some silent bargain had been made with the bigots; you let us put these people on screen, and we’ll be sure they suffer.

The bias was even more painful, and personal, offscreen.

“The young Chinese-Americans born in the U.S., who lived in L.A., they would report seeing her in her fur coats, looking every inch the movie star, our movie star,” says Lim, an associate professor of history at SUNY-Stony Brook. “But to the older generation, being an actress was not that many steps above being a prostitute. And although the money from her films supported Wong’s family, even put her brothers through college, they were somewhat ashamed of her.”

There was institutionalized prejudice as well, racist edicts that effectively kept this third-generation American a second-class citizen.

“At the time, the law prohibited her from marrying a white man,” says Hodges, a professor of history at Colgate University. “The law also essentially prohibited her from marrying a citizen of another country — if she did, she lost her own citizenship … And the chance of her marrying an Asian-American and still continuing her career as an actress was highly unlikely.”

Wong — who stayed single, but had affairs with several filmmakers, including “Dracula” director Tod Browning — could do little to change her family’s opinions, or the laws. But she did what she could to change the culture.

Even when the parts she was given were mere stereotypes, Wong insisted on culturally appropriate hairstyles, costumes and attitudes. Even faced with filmmakers who knew little of Asia, Wong showed them choreography from the Cantonese troupes she had seen as a child, or suggested bits of folklore for the scripts. Onscreen, she tried to make her characters as authentically Chinese as she could.

Offscreen, she lived her life as a modern American woman, enjoying Jazz Age music and fashion. If the fan magazines of the period liked to use her for an easy, condescending laugh — more than one marveled at an Asian-American who spoke in the slang of a flapper — Wong was clever enough to use them, too. She posed in stylish, Western clothes, and gave frank interviews about the censorship that prohibited her from kissing a white actor on screen.

Yet as hard as she worked, her career seemed stalled. There was a certain amount of fame, to be sure, and money, but the parts were often window-dressing, Chinatown characters inserted to give the film a bit of “atmosphere.” “Mr. Wu,” a new Lon Chaney film about an interracial romance, seemed promising, but Wong only got a supporting part; the lead went to a white actress in “Oriental” makeup. The next year, Wong left for Europe. She was 23.

“I think I left America for Europe because I was tired of dying so often,” she said later. “Pathetic dying seemed to be the best thing I did.”

She was talking, ostensibly, about the melodramas that invariably required her to exit the movie in time for the white actress to get the man. But she was also dying a little emotionally, still living behind her family’s laundry, under her father’s eye. She was also dying a little spiritually, forever stuck in the role of exotic curiosity.

Europe, however, offered a second life. In Germany, in 1928, she made “Song,” a tragic romantic-triangle drama which gave her several dancing numbers and a white co-star. In England, the next year, she starred in “Piccadilly,” a backstage melodrama. Even as the plots retained much of the same defeatist East-is-East nonsense that Wong had faced in Hollywood, they were huge leaps forward for her as an actress.

Wong was making her own leaps forward as a person too, living her own life in sophisticated Europe. She developed a taste for cocktails, and late-night parties. Chummy pictures of her with Marlene Dietrich in Berlin suggest she may have developed a fondness for pretty women, too.

“The ’20s produced the modern woman,” says Hodges, who says he could neither prove nor disprove the rumors of bisexuality. “Anna May lived up to that and pushed the boundaries even further.”

After two years, however, Wong returned home, eager to capitalize on her European successes. She had a Broadway hit on “On the Spot,” an Edgar Wallace thriller; she teamed with Dietrich in 1932 for the ultra-stylish “Shanghai Express,” making an impression as the determined Hui Fei. It was, notably, the first time since she had played Tiger Lily in the 1925 “Peter Pan” that her character survived the picture. Wong was poised for the next opportunity.

It never came.

There was a good part waiting for her in “The Son-Daughter,” based on a David Belasco play. It went to Helen Hayes. There was a new version being planned of “Madame Butterfly.” The studio wanted Sylvia Sidney. Even less prestigious films were considered too important for Wong; the leading female role in “The Hatchet Man,” a Tong thriller, went to Loretta Young. (Edward G. Robinson, of all people, was cast as the Chinatown assassin.)

The ugly fact remained that, although Hollywood had been shamed into nearly abandoning blackface, “yellowface” was still considered appropriate. (It almost still is — as recently as the early ’80s, Peter Ustinov was starring in a Charlie Chan movie and Peter Sellers was ending his career playing Fu Manchu.) “It went on for years,” says Lim. “You see Mickey Rooney in ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys,’ or pictures of Shirley MacLaine in geisha makeup, and you think it can’t be … It has a lot to do with the way Asian-Americans are racialized, seen as foreigners.”

For Wong, the final insult came in 1936 with “The Good Earth,” MGM’s epic adaptation of the Pearl S. Buck novel about Chinese peasant life. The role of O-Lan, the persevering heroine, was one Wong longed to play; the studio preferred the German actress Luise Rainer. Perhaps if Wong was interested, the studio said, she might be right for Lotus, the little flirt who leads poor O-Lan’s husband astray.

Wong turned them down, and not quietly either.

“If you let me play O-Lan I will be very glad,” she reportedly told production chief Irving Thalberg. “But you are asking me, with my Chinese blood, to play the only unsympathetic role in the picture.” It was bad enough, she said, to have Caucasians playing Asian heroes. But to cast an Asian as the sole villain was simply too much. MGM, unmoved, simply cast all the principal roles with Caucasians. (The Chinese actors they tested, a white executive later explained, didn’t look Chinese enough.)

Wong would never be offered another part in an MGM movie, or even another big film; she finished out the ’30s in smaller movies at Warners and Paramount and then slid further to Poverty Row studios like PRC. To add insult to injury, her sacrifices went unappreciated; the Chinese press harped incessantly on the “dishonor” she had brought on her people by playing disreputable characters.

If the criticism had any effect, it only spurred Wong to redouble her efforts. If her new films were often crudely made, at least her characters were brave and capable (she plays a doctor in “King of Chinatown,” a guerilla in “Lady from Chunking”). Offscreen, she became a tireless wartime fundraiser, even auctioning off her gowns to raise money for Chinese refugees.

Without a studio contract, though, she had no regular source of roles, and once the war ended, there was no need for movies trumpeting the heroic Chinese people. By 1949, China was Communist, and once again the enemy, and Anna Mae Wong was middle-aged. There were a few TV spots, and one final movie, “Portrait in Black,” in 1960. Wong played the maid. She died the next year. Her family did not mark the grave.

“It had been two decades since her last major appearance,” says Hodges. “But she had made good investments, she owned a home in Santa Monica, and when she died, she left an estate of $100,000. I think she did drink a lot, especially toward the end. There was always a depressive quality about her. But she didn’t fall apart, like some of the silent stars. The contrast with someone like Louise Brooks, who truly lived a tragic life, is striking.”

It is true that, by many standards, the story of Anna May Wong is a happy one. The daughter of a laundryman, she grew up to travel, meet important people and find some fame as a performer. A proud Chinese-American, she helped both countries during World War II, and when she left the screen, it was with a nice home, money in the bank and her self-respect. Even her most critical Chinese relatives — or dismissive American employers — would have to acknowledge that she had been a genuine success, and a true pioneer.

But like the most daring of pioneers, she lived and died alone. And if there is a true tragedy, it is that so many of the people who followed don’t even realize they’re walking a trail she blazed.

You can contact film critic Stephen Whitty at (212) 286-4298 or at swhitty@starledger.com.

Award recipients helped give voice to all Asian-Americans

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, March 2, 2006

Esther Wu Angela Oh may well be remembered as the woman who stood up for Koreans during the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

I can still recall her appearance on Frontline to discuss the issue.

“But I didn’t set out to be the spokeswoman for Koreans,” the Los Angeles-based lawyer said. “It was a chaotic time. It was not a riot but more of an implosion of all that was happening at that time. I stood up for all people who were on the edge at that time – the unemployed, the disenfranchised and the poor – everyone whose voices were not being heard.

“I want to be remembered as the voice who pointed out that America at that time needed to move beyond the black-and-white paradigm of race relations in this country,” she said in a telephone interview this week.

But she conceded that most would remember her as a champion of the Koreans in this country.

Not necessarily a bad legacy, she admits. But it is not the complete story.

Ms. Oh is a recipient of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Legacy Award, which will be presented March 11 at the Fairmont Hotel Dallas.

As national AAJA president, I’ve been working with the local chapter to help organize this fundraising event, which will honor five Asian-Americans whose exemplary achievements have changed the world we live in and have inspired future generations.

Others who will be recognized are Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sabeer Bhatia, lawyer Bill Lann Lee and actors George Takei and Lou Diamond Phillips.

We chose them not only because of their commitment and dedication to the Asian-American community, but because they are unsung heroes. Their true legacies are often masked by fame.

Mr. Phillips is probably best known for his work in La Bamba, Stand and Deliver and Courage Under Fire. But to many World War II veterans, Mr. Phillips is a real-life hero. The University of Texas at Arlington graduate, who was born in the Philippines, has been speaking out on behalf of veterans of Filipino descent who are still fighting for military benefits.

Mr. Phillips narrated An Untold Triumph, a documentary about the 7,000 men of the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments of the Army who fought in World War II and were later known as Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s “secret weapon.”

Mr. Takei is known to many baby boomers as Sulu on the television series Star Trek. But in reality he was one of the first Asian-Americans on a regular television series who did not portray a servant – a houseboy, a gardener or a cook.

The man who journeyed into the final frontier with Captain Kirk spent much of his childhood behind barbed wire at Camp Rohwer in Arkansas and Camp Tule Lake in California. Mr. Takei and his family were among the tens of thousands of people living in the U.S. who were placed in Japanese internment camps during World War II.

Bill Gates made Microsoft a household word, but it was Mr. Bhatia who helped develop a Web-based e-mail system that is now known by almost everyone who uses a computer. Mr. Bhatia co-founded Hotmail Corp. in 1996 and later sold it to Mr. Gates for about $400 million. Today, the Silicon Valley entrepreneur is CEO of Navin Communications.

Mr. Lee became the highest-ranking Asian-American law enforcement official in the U.S. when President Bill Clinton named him assistant attorney general for civil rights in 1997 – no small accomplishment for the son of Chinese immigrants who ran a laundry.

In his speeches, Mr. Lee, who has devoted much of his life to fighting hate crime, often talks about his father, who suffered the brunt of racial slurs because of his poor English. And how for many years the family could not purchase a home because of their ethnicity.

These five people have opened many doors for Asian-Americans. Unfortunately, too few people know the stories behind their successes.

The Legacy Awards Banquet will be held at 7 p.m. March 11 at the Fairmont Hotel, 1717 N. Akard St. in Dallas. Tickets are $200 and benefit AAJA’s scholarship and journalism training programs. For more information, call 469-438-5627 or visit http://www.aaja.org. E-mail ewu@dallasnews.com

Terence Yin

March 12, 2006

Terence Yin Chi Wai

Terence Yin Filmography

Terence Yin Chi Wai

Terence Yin Terence Yin Chi Wai

(Yin Chi Wai, Wan Chi Wai, Wan Tze Wai)

Actor, Singer, Model

Born: May 19, 1975 Languages: Chinese, English

Height: 5’10” Weight: 155 lbs Education: University of California at Berkeley (1997)

Terence Yin characterizes the new breed of Asian-American actors who are making a splash

in Hong Kong. Yin shares the same management (JC Group) with Daniel Wu, Maggie Q,

and Edison Chen. His peers (who also include Stephen Fung, Lee Ann, Amanda Strang

and Jaymee Ong) have more than their Western upbringing in common- they’re frequent

co-stars and personal friends. Unlike the others, Yin has developed a knack for playing villains

in a string of youth oriented HK pictures. Terence has a distinct genetic connection to HK

cinema as well. His mother is 60’s Eurasian actress Jenny Hu, and his father is former Shaw

Brothers director Kang Wei. After retirement, the two migrated to California where Terence

was raised.

Terence made his film debut in Yonfan’s gay drama Bishonen (1998). Yin’s work has included

drama, action and triad genre roles, almost all supporting. His first starring credit was in

Jamie Luk’s 2000 romance Home Sweet Home, followed by lead roles in triad films

Gold Fingers and Mist in Judge, opposite Ti Lung. Terence released his first album,

Determination, in 2000, and took modeling jobs.

As his career took shape, a few of his films were set in Japan or featured Japanese cast

members- (Final Romance, Bullets of Love, and Color of Pain). Yin has deliberately

developed a Japanese following, co-starring in two of Takashi Miike’s movies- City of Lost

Souls and Dead or Alive Final.

In 2003 Terence Yin played Simon Yam’s younger brother in Paramount’s summer

blockbuster Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. He co-stars in Jackie Chan’s

New Police Story as yet another villain.

2002 Black Mask 2: City of Masks
1998 Bishonen
2001 Bullets of Love
2002 Color of Pain
2003 Colour of the Truth
2000 Dial D For Demons
2001 Final Romance
1999 Gen-X Cops
2000 Gold Fingers
2000 Home Sweet Home
1998 Hot War
2000 Lavender (c)
2001 Martial Angels
1999 Metade Fumaca
2001 Mist in Judge
2004 New Police Story
2004 Police Love Affairs
2005 PTU File- Death Trap
1999 Rave Fever
2000 Skyline Cruisers
2003 The Trouble-Makers

c = cameo

Terence Yin -American Films

Terence Yin Chi Wai

2003 Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Terence Yin Japanese Films

Terence Yin Chi Wai

2000 The City of Lost Souls *
2001 Dead or Alive Final

1 aka The Hazard City

Terence Yin Korean Films

Terence Yin Chi Wai

2001 Hi, Dharma! *

* Cantonese voice dubbing for HK release

Picture of Terence Yin in Bisonen

Terence in Bishonen (1998).