Today, Every Year: Francis Ng Turns 50

December 22, 2011 at 8:47 am 6 comments

The birthday boy on his half-centennial

Just a quick fangirl shout-out to Francis Ng Chun-Yu, whose fiftieth birthday is this week. Francis has had a remarkably long and vigorous career that spans four decades (!), from his humble beginnings as a bit player at TVB back in the 1980s through various villainous and supporting roles in the early 90s to his current status as one of Hong Kong’s most popular and well-known actors. He’s part of an amazing generation of male Hong Kong acting talent that came of age in the 1990s, many of whom are also turning fifty this year or in the next few years. Andy Lau Tak-Wah and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang were also both born in 1961—soon to follow are Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (b. 1962), Stephen Chow Sing-Chi (b. 1962), Jet Li (b. 1963) and Lau Ching-Wan (b. 1964). Tony Leung Kar-Fai and Simon Yam each turned fifty a few years ago. All of these actors are still working today, although some of their output has decreased since the heyday of Hong Kong cinema back in the 1990s, and all of them are at the top of their game in terms of skill, talent, charisma, and screen presence.

Francis in naugahyde, Laughing Gor 2 premiere, Dec. 20, 2011

What’s perhaps less evident from this list is the dearth of similar talent in the generation of Hong Kong actors following them. The decline in Hong Kong film production in the past fifteen years since the 1997 handover has mightily impacted the development of stars of note, as indicated by the diminishing talent pool among younger actors. Of Hong Kong movie stars in their forties only Louis Koo Tin-Lok is a legitimate leading man, and his acting chops are nowhere near as masterful as the aforementioned group. Of actors in their thirties Daniel Wu and Nicholas Tse Ting-Fung ably fill the movie star niche, but their range and output have yet to reach the scale and impact of the class of 1961-64.

What’s also notable is that, although all of the abovementioned fiftyish movie kings are actively working today, only a handful of their female counterparts are likewise gainfully employed. Most female Hong Kong stars of the same generation have either retired (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia; Joey Wang; Chingmy Yau), or moved to television (Anita Yuen; Cheung Man). Anita Mui Yim-Fong died of cervical cancer in 2003. Of those female stars who came of age in the 1990s only Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Sandra Ng Kwan-Yu, and Michelle Yeoh are still working, although Maggie hasn’t really starred in a film since 2004.

Micheal Tse & Francis Ng meet the press, Laughing Gor 2 premiere, Dec. 20, 2011

So hats off to Francis on the anniversary of his solstice birth—show business is a cruel mistress and it’s a testament to his talent, determination, and savvy that he’s survived so long as a top star. Fingers crossed that he’s on the silver screen for at least four more decades to come.

UPDATE: Okay, I just realized that I accidentally left off Donnie Yen (b. 1963) in my above list. I’m not a huge Donnie fan but he is a big deal now so he’s gotta be included. But it also points out the glaring hole in the martial arts movie world–who will follow Donnie? Wu Jing? Andy On? Collin Chou, for god’s sake? Slim pickin’s–

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Entry filed under: francis ng, hong kong, hong kong movies, movies. Tags: , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. dleedlee  |  December 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Perhaps, part of the blame lays in the lack of current HK directors to bring out and develop the actors. Besides seeking a payday, not for nothing everyone’s “going North”.

    Reply
    • 2. valeriesoe  |  December 25, 2011 at 2:03 am

      Yup, it’s all related to the economic realities of moviemaking and distribution in Asia. Before Singapore, Taiwan, China, Korea etc. developed their own commercial movie industries, HK movies were what people watched. Nowadays it’s much less centralized so there’s much less money going into HK productions (unless they’re China co-productions). Even Johnnie To’s got a Beijing office now & his new movie will supposedly star Sun Honglei, Louis Koo, and (hopefully) Guey Lun-Mei. Follow the money!

      Reply
  • 3. Susan Blumberg-Kason  |  December 27, 2011 at 2:03 am

    I love it! These male actors are the ones I came of age with. Also some older ones like Chow Yun-fat, Danny Lee, Ti Lung, and Eric Tsang. I do like Daniel Wu and Louis Koo, but totally agree with you that the the class of 61-64 outshines them until proven otherwise.

    Reply
    • 4. valeriesoe  |  December 29, 2011 at 9:56 pm

      Chow Yun-Fat was my first HK movie star crush & he’ll always be the gold standard for all HK movie kings, IMHO. And he’s still working at age 56!

      Reply
  • 5. Keith  |  April 17, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    How about the younger Leung ka fai?

    Reply
  • 6. Apple Cake  |  May 9, 2012 at 8:16 am

    I was never attracted to HK movies or TV series, not even since Chow Yuen Fatt days ( even when my family was crazy over them). I enjoyed just a handful of Chow Yuen Fatt movies, less than 5, I guess. Was it because of the big gap in production quality between the West and Asian movies then, I do not know. Recently however, I start to enjoy Louis Koo Movies and TV series. I also start to watch some of those Andy Lau, Tony Leung movies. None are as good though. Movies can easily get outdated. The ones people call Classic may not necessarily be that classic. Each only speaks to its generation as movie brings about nostalgia. Now when we talk about acting, many people, the audience and perhaps even the fair judges of the movie awards tend to migrate toward those highly emotional characters, many prominent actors are clever in staying within the range of roles that they already have a handle on. Then further more, Andy Lau like the Tom Cruise of the East is clever in turning to productions and produce politically correct movie to generate attention. That is a talent he has, but I do not think much in terms of acting. I think that sums up for the rest, an actor may not be so good at his or her skill, but many are good in promoting themselves. I felt that when I watched some of them talking on You Tube, what charmer, but mind you, I do not imply here any hypocracy. Many sincerely try their best but talent is not with all. How did Chow Yuen Fatt captured the audiences, intensity in his acting! I am fascinated with Louis Koo movies (ok no doubt he has a perfect look ) because of the diversity of his roles. I do not know if this can be considered a credit. No fancy ( I am a middle aged woman and not a movie buff ) no nostalgia here, just plain fascination with an actor who is nothing else but a professional actor as up to this moment. No fanciful words, nothing personal.

    Reply

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