Lau Ching-wan

Though no matinee idol, Hong Kong thesp Lau Ching-wan has, as many have noted, “the look,” plus considerable screen presence and physical stature.

Like most of his colleagues in the territory, Lau works almost nonstop, cranking out between six and a dozen pics a year; his bigscreen oeuvre currently totals just north of 50.

In recent years, his range has been considerable: tough, burnt-out cops in “Black Mask” and “Full Alert”; a monosyllabic killer in “The Longest Nite”; a warm-hearted noodle-stall owner in “Beyond Hypothermia”; a father with a pesky kid in the comedy “My Dad Is a Jerk.”

To all of these roles, Lau has brought a depth and naturalness beyond their genre origins, and as H.K. filmmakers have moved beyond pure action pics to more character-driven fare, Lau has been in demand. When ace director Ringo Lam returned to Hong Kong last year to make “Full Alert,” one of his darkest action dramas to date, he turned to Lau to play the driven cop.

Lau, 34, came up through the fast-shooting ranks of TV and isn’t one to spend vast time on “preparing” a role. “Slow work doesn’t necessarily produce fine goods,” he says, turning a Chinese saying on its head. Since his breakthrough as a sax player in romantic meller “C’est la vie, mon cheri” in 1993, he’s one of the few H.K. actors to have recognizably matured and extended their range on screen.

“If you believe your character really exists in life, then you can act him,” is how Lau sums up his craft.

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