In today's celebrity culture, stars’ public images and their private lives are a popular topic of everyday discussion. From the newspapers, magazines and tabloids to the multimedia vehicles of film, television and the Internet, stars not only help to promote products and services, but also, as Christine Gledhill (1991: xiii) pointed out, signify various social and cultural values and personal desires. Since the mid-1980s, an increasing number of Hong Kong actors have entered the global film market and have transformed themselves from regional celebrities to transnational stars. Perhaps as a result of the success of Hong Kong action cinema in the global commercial film market, the majority of Hong Kong stars, such as Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and Michelle Yeoh, who have made their way into Hollywood and other major film markets outside East Asia, are those whose performances and images rely heavily on their control of their bodies and on their mastery of physical skills.
However, although these Hong Kong stars’ screen images as action heroes or martial artists have helped to (re)define the Chinese image created by early Hollywood and even to impel the evolvement of the cinematic representation of Chinese people beyond East Asia in recent years, the prevalence of on-screen Chinese action heroes and martial artists has also established a new stereotypical image of Chinese men and women as constantly performing kicks, punches, jumps, spins and other spectacular action stunts. This in turn narrows the general public's perception of Chinese (including Hong Kong) stardom in the global film market, as well as limiting job opportunities for Chinese actors outside East Asia.
In response to these observations, this book investigates the construction and circulation of Hong Kong actor Chow Yun-fat's star image across various entertainment industries and cultural markets. As with the aforementioned stars, Chow captured Hollywood's attention through his performances in action films. However, he is also known in Asia as a versatile actor who has starred in films spanning a wide range of genres, including but not limited to melodrama, comedy, thrillers and Westerns. This raises a question concerning the way in which stardom permeates across various cultural borders.