One of Hong Kong’s highly regarded and popular actresses, Maggie Cheung has had an impressive body of work with more than eighty projects since entering the entertainment industry in the early 1980s. First gaining national fame as the first runner-up for Miss Hong Kong 1983, the England-raised beauty went on to achieve widespread popularity as the ever-suffering girlfriend of Jackie Chan in the well-liked action/comedy film “Police Story” (1985) and the installments “Police Story II” (1988) and “Supercop” (1992). A versatile performer, Cheung perfectly showcased her dramatic flair in such vehicles as the Wong Kar-Wai films “As Tears Go By” (1988), “Days of Being Wild” (1991), “Ashes of Time” (1994), “Full Moon in New York” (1990, won a Golden Horse Award), “Red Dust” (1990, earned a Golden Horse Film Festival Award) and “Song of the Exile” (1990). She attained more praise for her role in “The Actress” (1992), where her portrayal of 1930’s actress Ruan Ling-yu garnered the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival Award and a Hong Kong Film Award. It was her next big screen outing, however, that brought the well-respected performer to the attention of international audiences. She starred as herself in Olivier Assayas' “Irma Vep” (1996), which became a hit on the international film festival circuit.
Following noteworthy performances in “Comrades, Almost a Love Story” (1996), “The Soong Sisters” (1997) and Wong Kar-Wai's “In the Mood for Love” (2000), as well as an English-language feature debut in “Chinese Box” (1997), the five-time Best Actress winner of the Taiwanese Golden Horse Film Award enjoyed true worldwide prominence with the successful martial arts film “Hero” (2002), opposite Jet Li. Two years later, she won a Cannes Film Festival Award for Olivier Assayas' “Clean” (2004), an accomplishment that made her the first Chinese actress to win the honor.
Cheung has been separated from her filmmaker husband, Olivier Assayas, since May 2001. She was once romantically involved with actor Tony Leung. The two first met professionally when they both worked for the short-lived TV series “Sun sap si hing” (1984). Talking about her working relationship with Leung, she said, “Funnily enough, everyone thinks we have worked together so many times but I worked with him when I was 19 years old for a TV drama. We were both working for television at the time, but since then I had not worked with him again. We have been in the same films together but not the same scene. So actually ‘In the Mood for Love’ was our first movie.”
Currently residing in Beijing, Cheung met her present boyfriend, a German architect named Ole Scheeren, in Beijing last year in June. At the time, she had just split up with her boyfriend of four years, French businessman Guillaume Brochard.
A former model, the first runner-up for Miss Hong Kong 1983 became the spokesmodel for LUX shampoo and Hermes. She has served as a member of the jury at such festivals as the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival, the 1999 Venice Film Festival and the 2007 Cannes Film Festival.
Childhood and Family:
“I think it comes from far away inside me, to be strong to survive everything that comes my way. I think, going back to the beginning, feeling like an alien in an English school when I was eight that set up my pride very early on. I think I'm very defensive, but I'm trying not to be like that any more.” Maggie Cheung
Maggie Cheung was born in Hong Kong on September 20, 1964. Her parents immigrated to England when she was eight years old. Becoming the only Asian pupil, Maggie found comfort by frequently changing her looks by dying her hair and wearing distinctive clothes. After completing secondary school, the 18-year-old moved back to Hong Kong but found herself a stranger there because she could no longer understand her native language. The following year, Maggie, who wanted to become a hairdresser as a child, tried her luck in the Miss Hong Kong pageant and ended up being crowned First Runner Up.
On December 26, 1998, Maggie was married to Paris-born writer and director Olivier Assayas. They divorced in May 2001 after having been together for nearly three years.
Hong Kong-born, England-raised Maggie Cheung returned to her native land at age 18 and began a career in modeling. Appearances in television commercials soon followed. During that same period, she also supported herself by working as a salesgirl at a Japanese department store. A year after her move, Cheung competed in the 1983 Miss Hong Kong beauty pageant contest, for which she was awarded first runner-up and Miss Photogenic. Later that same year, she became a semi finalist at the Miss World pageant. In 1984, she broke into the cinematic industry with a supporting part as Monica in the Shaw Brothers Studios comedy/drama “Behind the Yellow Line,” directed by Taylor Wong.
More acting assignments followed, including roles in such unremarkable movies as “Prince Charming” (1984), “Christmas Romance” (1985), “Happy Ghost III” (1986), “Happy Fat New Year” (1988) and “Love Hungry Suicide Squad” (1988). She was also seen in TV series like “Rainbow Around My Shoulder” and “Police Cadet” (both 1984). However, Cheung did not score a major break until director/actor Jackie Chan cast her as girlfriend May in his popular action/comedy film, “Police Story” (1985). She went on to reprise the role for the sequels “Police Story II” (1988) and “Supercop” (1992), but despite the films significantly boosting her career, she found herself being stereotyped as a damsel-in-distress or comic
In an effort to break free from being typecast, Cheung appeared in more dramatic roles. In 1989, under the direction of Wong Kar-Wai, she was nominated for a Best Actress Award at the Hong Kong Film for her dramatic portrayal of the cousin of Andy Lau in Kar-Wai's crime/drama, “Wong gok ka moon/As Tears Go By” (1988). The movie was also her initial collaboration with the acclaimed director. She further proved herself an outstanding dramatic actress with her portrayal of Lee Fung-Jiau in the Stanley Kwan-directed “Ren zai Niu Yue/Full Moon in New York” (1990), from which she won a Taiwan Golden Horse for Best Actress. She then had a scene-stealing role in the controversial film “Gun gun hong chen/Red Dust” (1990), which again won her a Golden Horse Film Festival Award, and gained kudos in Ann Hui's family conflict drama, “Song of the Exile” (1990) and “A Fei zheng chuan/Days of Being Wild” (1991), a period drama that reunited her with director Wong Kar-Wai. She continued working in comedies or action films by working in such projects as the sequel “A Better Tomorrow III: Love and Death in Saigon” (1990), opposite Chow Yun-Fat, and the unmemorable “The Twin Dragons” (1992), which reunited her with “Police Story” star Jackie Chan.
Cheung's next huge breakthrough arrived when the “Full Moon in New York” director, Stanley Kwan, hired her to play the starring role of Ruan Ling-yu in his docudrama” Yuen Ling-yuk/The Actress” (1992). Her portrayal of the 1930s actress was critically applauded and she was awarded a Hong Kong Film award for Best Actress and a Silver Berlin Bear for Best Actress from the Berlin International Film Festival. The next year, she joined forces with fellow action stars Anita Mui and Michelle Yeoh for the action flick “The Heroic Trio” (1993), where they were cast as comic book heroic women.
1994 saw Cheung work with director Wong Kar-Wai for a third time in a period drama called “Ashes of Time.” She then traveled to France to film the comedy “Augustin” (1995), which was directed and written by Anne Fontaine and starred Jean-Chrétien Sibertin-Blanc in the title role. After its premiere in France in June 1995, the film was released in America in November that same year.
Cheung, however, did not attract international attention until the following year when she starred as herself in “Irma Vep” (1996), helmed and written by her soon-to-be-husband Olivier Assayas. The fantasy drama became a favorite on the worldwide festival circuits. Returning to Hong Kong, Cheung again received extensive praise for playing Qiao Li in the romance “Tian mi mi/Comrades, Almost a Love Story” (also 1996), where she picked up Best Actress awards from the Golden Horse Film Festival, the Hong Kong Film, the Hong Kong Film Critics Society, the Asia-Pacific Film Festival and the Golden Bauhinia.
After winning a Best Actress award from the Hong Kong Film for the historical “Song jia huang chao/The Soong Sisters” (1997), opposite Michelle Yeoh and Vivian Wu, Cheung made her English language film debut with “Chinese Box” (1997), directed by Wayne Wang. Playing Jean, a mysterious young woman, the actress was able to hold her own against her more famous costars Jeremy Irons and Gong Li. Cheung closed out the decade by reprising her role as Ling in the Anne Fontaine installment “Augustin, King of Kung-Fu” (1999).
Entering the new millennium, Cheung was reunited with Wong Kar-Wai for the art house hit “Fa yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love” (2000), which was released in the United States in 2001. Brilliantly starring as Su Li-zhen/Mrs. Chan, she took home a Golden Horse Film Festival and a Hong Kong Film for Best Actress. The same year, she could also be seen in the romance “Love at First Sight” and the French short “Bel hiver, Le.” Cheung's next major big screen feature was Zhang Yimou's martial epic, “Hero” (2002), where she costarred with Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung Chiu Wai. One of the highest grossing films in the history of Asian cinema, the film went on to achieve the same commercial success in the American market following its release in 2004 by grossing more than $18 million in the first week of its release. Also a critical hit, “Hero” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and a Golden Globe in the same category and earned honors from such major film festivals as the Berlin International Film Festival and the Toronto Film Critics Association. The success of the film cemented Cheung's reputation as an international star.
Cheung scored another victory with the musical drama “Clean” (2004), written and directed by former husband Olivier Assayas. Her portrayal of Emily Wang won the actress a Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival as well as nominations at the César and the Chlotrudis Awards. Also in 2004, she again teamed up with Wong Kar-Wai for the award-winning drama “2046,” which reunited her with “Chinese Box” co-star Gong Li and “Hero” co-stars Zhang Ziyi and Tony Leung Chiu Wai.
More recently, in 2007, Cheung was awarded a Shanghai International Film Festival award for Outstanding Contribution to Chinese Cinema.
“I'm quite happy nowadays, even when I've got no work to do. I can stay home for a whole week, do nothing but cook. And believe it or not, I can make both Chinese and western style food, such as fried eggplant, steamed ribs, beefsteak and salad.” Maggie Cheung
Shanghai International Film Festival: Outstanding Contribution to Chinese Cinema, 2007
Montréal World Film Festival: Grand Prix Special des Amériques, 2005
Cannes Film Festival: Best Actress, “Clean,” 2004
Hong Kong Film: Best Actress, “Fa yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love,” 2001
Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Actress, “Fa yeung nin wa/In the Mood for Love,” 2000
Hong Kong Film: Best Actress, “Song jia huang chao/The Soong Sisters,” 1998
Asia-Pacific Film Festival: Best Actress, “Tian mi mi/Comrades: Almost a Love Story,” 1997
Hong Kong Film: Best Actress, “Tian mi mi/Comrades: Almost a Love Story,” 1997
Hong Kong Film Critics Society: Best Actress, “Tian mi mi/Comrades: Almost a Love Story,” 1997
Golden Bauhinia: Best Actress, “Tian mi mi/Comrades: Almost a Love Story,” 1997
Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Actress, “Tian mi mi/Comrades: Almost a Love Story,” 1997
Hong Kong Film: Best Actress, “Yuen Ling-yuk/The Actress,” 1993
Berlin International Film Festival: Silver Berlin Bear, Best Actress, “Yuen Ling-yuk/The Actress,” 1992
Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Supporting Actress, “Gun gun hong chen/Red Dust,” 1990
Hong Kong Film: Best Actress, “Bu tuo wa de ren/ A Fishy Story,” 1990
Golden Horse Film Festival: Best Actress, “Ren zai Niu Yue/Full Moon in New York,” 1989