June 26, 2008
From Hollywood to Ho Chi Minh City
A gifted martial artist, a passionate filmmaker and a devoted husband, Dustin Nguyen says he learned what he couldn’t learn in school by going out into the world.
Born in 1962 in the former Saigon, Nguyen first became known for his role in the hit TV show 21 Jump Street alongside Johnny Depp in the late 1980s.
He learned quickly that actions speak louder than words.
“Filmmaking is my true passion and I’ve learned a great deal from being an actor,” he says.
“It’s given me practical experiences I wasn’t taught in school.”
Nguyen, who immigrated to the US in 1975, obtained his greatest recognition when he co-starred alongside Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett in the critically acclaimed Little Fish in 2005.
“I didn’t expect to get the role as there are many better options than me,” says Nguyen.
“I guess I was lucky…the character I played shares some similar characteristics with me.” The film won five Australian Film Institute Awards after premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival.
It went on to become the number-one film in Australia.
Son of Vietnam
Though Nguyen says he first began performing as a martial artists when he was young, his true desires lie in dramatic parts.
“I love getting involved in a complicated role,” he says.
“That’s why I’ve come back to Vietnam to make my dream a reality. I want to be a part of the our nation’s movie industry.”
In Dong Mau Anh Hung (The Rebel), which marked his return after to the After becoming one of the few successful Vietnamese actors in American television, Dustin Nguyen has come home to direct his first feature film, Monk on Fire.
motherland after 30 years in the US, Nguyen played his first villain, in which he was able to explore his darker side.
An uncut version of the film will be released on DVD in the US late this year.
Nguyen is currently working on Huyen Thoai Bat Tu (The Legend Is Alive), which he describes as an “amazing feature.”
In the film, directed by Luu Huynh, Nguyen plays a victim of Agent Orange who deals with his pain alongside a loving mother.
“The film has given me a new taste for acting. I’ve never experienced a role like this and I’m ready for the challenge.”
As for Lua Phat (Monk on Fire), Nguyen’s first shot as a writer-director, the filmmaker says: “My dream is to make films about the country and people of Vietnam. I am proud to be born here.”
Nguyen says he’s excited about finally directing.
“Staying behind the camera is like giving birth to a child. You have to work hard and be truly passionate about what you are making.”
Spoken like a true auteur.
Nguyen and his wife, the former model and actress Angela Rockwood-Nguyen, have been together through thick and thin.
Several years ago, Rockwood-Nguyen was paralyzed in a car accident two months before their wedding.
The couple has stuck beside each other and their love has only grown stronger.
“Misery finds its way to those who just sit around and make comparisons,” says Nguyen.
“But we’ve learned precious lessons about cherishing the love we have as well as the life we live. Things are going to turn out better when you know how to deal with difficulties. You lose something just to gain another.”
The Nguyens have since become involved with The Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center.
They have worked closely with the foundation and recently became the spokespersons for The Paralysis Resource Center (PRC)’s Minority Communities Outreach Campaign, which aims to increase awareness of and access to the PRC amongst minority communities in the US
Thanks to their contributions, the organization’s website is available in Vietnamese, opening up opportunities for the Vietnamese community, both at home and abroad, to obtain the assistance and information they need to cope with disabilities.
Reported by Kim