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Famous Chinese Americans Entertainment: Acting

  Who What
Bruce Lee

b. 1940, San Francisco

Legendary martial arts actor. Bruce's parents were touring the US as part of an opera company when he was born. They soon returned to Hong Kong, where he was raised and became a child star. He also became quite skilled in kung fu. When he was 18, he returned to the US and enrolled in the University of Washington. He also started teaching kung fu to make money. By now he had developed his own style of kung fu, which he called Jeet Kune Do and opened his own school. Soon he dropped out of school and moved to Oakland to open his second school. He was cast in the role of Kato in the short-lived Green Hornet TV series. After being snubbed for the Kung Fu TV series, Bruce returned to Hong Kong where he filmed The Big Boss and Fists of Fury. He even scripted and directed his own film, Way of the Dragon (later retitled as Return of the Dragon). Hollywood finally called him back to star in Enter the Dragon, which would become the most successful; martial arts films of all time. Tragically, Bruce died of a brain edema before the movie's premiere. His wife edited Bruce's notes about his style of kung fu into a book titled Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

China Lee
b. 1942, New Orleans
Was the first Asian American to feature as Playboy's Playmate of the Month (August 1964). Prior to the Playboy appearance, she worked as a hairstylist and as a waitress before becoming a Playboy Bunny, traveling between various Playboy clubs to teach new bunnies the ropes. Subsequently she appearead in minor rioles in various Hollywood movies. She was married for a time to Mort Sahl.
Jason Scott Lee

b. 1966, Los Angeles

Jason was raised in Hawaii, where his family moved to when he was 2. He appeared in several TV movies before getting the lead role in Map of the Human Heart. He was then tapped to star in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story after he took a crash course on Jeet Kune Do. His next project, Rapa Nui, a film directed by Kevin Costner, was a failure. He did much better with Disney's The Jungle Book. jason also appeared as Aladdin in the Arabian Nights TV miniseries. He also starred in the Broadway revival of The King and I.

Jet Li

b. 1963, Beijing

Jet was trained in wu shu from a young age, winning many national championships. His first film was Shaolin Temple, which made an instant star. He acted in a few additional Chinese movies, even directing one before hooking up with Hong Kong director Tsui Hark, who cast him in the starring role for Once Upon a Time in China. It was a huge hit that where he would star in three of its five sequels. Other film credits include Swordsman II, Fist of Legend. He starred in his first American movie with Romeo Must Die, It was followed by Kiss of the Dragon, The One, Cradle 2 the Grave.

Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia

b. 1954, Taiwan
Brigitte started her career in Taiwanese romantic films. She is best known for her later roles in a series of very successful Hong Kong martial arts films, many of which were directed by Tsui Hark. These include Peking Opera Blues, Swordsman II, The Bride with White Hair, Ashes of Time. Her last film was Chungking Express.
John Lone

b. 1952, Hong Kong

John studied Peking Opera in Hong Kong and studied acting and music in Pasadena. He starred in and choreographed David Henry Hwang's FOB play, for which he won an Obie Award. He starred in the title role of Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor. Later film credits include Iceman, The Shadow, and The Hunted.

Lucy Liu

b. 1967, New York
Lucy Liu graduated from the University of Michigan. During her senior year there she won the leading role in a production of Alice in Wonderland even though she was auditioning for a supporting role. Lucy Liu played many small parts on TV shows before gaining fame with her role of Ling Woo in the Ally McBeal TV series. Her success brought roles in Payback and Shanghai Noon and even bigger success as one of the trio in Charlie's Angels.
Lisa Lu

b. 1931, Beijing

In the 1960s, Lisa appeared in several American movies starting with The Mountain Road before returning to Asia in the 1970s to star in a number of Hong Kong and Taiwan movies, including a memorable in The Empress Dowager. She also appeared in the short lived TV series The King and I. She was cast again as the Empress Dowager in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor. She also appeared in the screen adaptation of The Joy Luck Club.

Keye Luke

b. 1904, Guangzhou
d. 1991, Whittier, CA
Best remembered for his role as “Number One Son”, Lee Chan in the Charlie Chan movies of the 1930’s. He often had small parts in every movie that called for Chinese characters. He has appeared in 194 movies or television shows from 1934 to 1990, including the role of master Po in the Kung Fu series.