Acting and directing were not on Jay Chou’s mind when he first began his music career nearly two decades ago. But over the years, he has accumulated several memorable film and TV roles locally in Asia and in Hollywood. And, between music ventures, he has sat in the film director’s chair.
“I was born to believe in myself and complete my work on my own,” Chou said in a 2012 interview, discussing his work in acting and directing. “Once I understand how something works, I like to do it myself.”
His screen career began in 2005, when Chou made his film debut with the release of car-racing action feature “Initial D,” an on-screen adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name, directed by Hong Kong’s Andrew Lau and Alan Mak (“Infernal Affairs”).
The singer-songwriter from Taiwan was cast to play the film’s lead role, an emotionally reserved high school student who delivers tofu in his father’s Toyota Sprinter Trueno AE86, and turns out to be a gifted street racer. His performance won Chou his first acting awards, the best new performer in both the Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Film Awards.
Then he went on to take part in Zhang Yimou’s (“House of Flying Daggers”) period epic “Curse of the Golden Flower” in 2006, starring opposite the renowned Chow Yun-fat (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”) and Gong Li (“Leap”). Chou not only earned a best supporting actor nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards, he also received a confidence boost from the acclaimed Zhang on taking a step up from acting. After watching several Chou-directed music videos, Zhang told media that “Chou may surpass me in the accomplishment of my art in the future.”
Nearly a year later, Chou’s film directorial debut “Secret” was released. Starring Gwei Lun-mei and Anthony Wong Chau-sang, Chou served as co-writer, director and male lead. He also wrote original music for the film. The heart-wrenching time travel romance went on to win the outstanding Taiwanese film of the year at the Golden Horse Awards. His second feature, musical drama “The Rooftop,” came out in 2013.
The subsequent years saw Chou aiming to expand his acting footprint by taking up roles in Hollywood. In 2011, he was cast as Kato in Michel Gondry’s superhero feature “The Green Hornet,” starring opposite Seth Rogan, after auditioning for the role on Skype. It was a coveted role previously played by Bruce Lee in a 1960s TV adaptation. Thefilm earned $228 million worldwide and MTV’s NextMovie.com named Chou as a breakout star to watch.
In 2016, Chou appeared in heist thriller “Now You See Me 2” directed by Jon Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”), joining a star-studded ensemble cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman.
Nowadays, the streaming world beckons. Chou has starred in Netflix’s reality show “J-Style Trip,” which sees the star and his A-list friends on a globe-trotting journey featuring music and magic – his other passion. The first season came out in 2020, and it is understood that Chou may be working on a second season. He is also working on new film projects that will center around contemporary art.