Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, one of the most popular singers in Asia and star of many hit Hong Kong films, jumped to his death in Hong April 1. He was 46.
Cheung jumped from the 24th floor of the landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in the Central district early in the evening. HK’s Cable Television reported Cheung had left a note saying he was suffering from emotional problems.
Cheung acted in about 60 movies and released numerous albums as a singer. Much loved across Asia for his music, he was perhaps better known to audiences worldwide as the star of such international hits as Chen Kaige’s “Farewell, My Concubine” and John Woo’s “A Better Tomorrow,” Cheung was a major heartthrob and one of the region’s most popular movie stars.
Cheung also was one of the few Asian male stars to play openly gay characters. He came out as gay himself in the late ’90s. Among his best known pics was Wong Kar-wai’s 1997 hit “Happy Together,” a gay love story.
The youngest of 10 children of a tailor, Cheung attended Leeds U. in England before returning to his native Hong Kong. He entered a music competition in 1976, finishing second.
In 1981, his album “The Wind Blows On” established him as a major Cantopop star.
His acting career took off in 1986 when he was cast opposite Chow Yun-Fat in Woo’s breakthrough actioner “A Better Tomorrow.”
He quickly became one of the busiest film stars in Hong Kong, working as both an action hero and a romantic leading man. He appeared in two “Better Tomorrow” sequels, as well as “Once a Thief” and the Ronny Yu-helmed fantasy hit “The Bride With White Hair,” before taking his most famous part, as an opera singer specializing in female roles, in the 1993 Oscar-nominated “Farewell My Concubine.”
He was a regular contender for actor honors at the Hong Kong Film Awards, winning best supporting actor for “On Trial” in 1983 and best actor in 1991 for Wong Kar-wai’s “Days of Being Wild.”
Cheung drew on his musical talents for Peter Chan’s 1994 gender-bending tuner “He’s a Woman, She’s a Man,” winning several awards for his perf of the song “Chase.”
His final film was last year’s supernatural thriller “Inner Senses,” for which he snared yet another best actor nom at the Hong Kong Film Awards, to be held Sunday.
— David S. Cohen and Wendy Kan