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Joan Chen

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Basic Information

Joan Chen



Date of Birth: 26 April 1961
Place of Birth: Shanghai, China
Birth Name: Chong Chen
Height: 5' 4" (1.63 m)







Biography

Joan Chong Chen (Chinese name: simplified Chinese: 陈冲; traditional Chinese: 陳冲; pinyin: Chén Chōng; born April 26, 1961) is a Chinese American actress, film director, screenwriter and film producer. She became famous in China for her performance in the 1979 film Little Flower and came to international attention for her performance in the 1987 Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor. She is also known for her roles in Twin Peaks, Red Rose White Rose, Saving Face and The Home Song Stories, and for directing the feature film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.


Biography

Early life and career

Chen Chong was born in Shanghai, China to a family of pharmacologists. (Her grandparent Changshao Zhang was educated at UCI and was later a visiting student at Harvard). She and her older brother, Chase, were raised during the Cultural Revolution. At the age of 14, Chen was discovered on the school rifle range by Jiang Qing, as she was excelling at marksmanship. This led her to be selected for the Actors' Training Program by the Shanghai Film Studio in 1975, where she was discovered by veteran director Xie Jin who chose her to star in his 1977 film Youth (Chinese: 青春; pinyin: Qīngchūn) as a deaf mute whose senses are restored by an Army medical team. Chen graduated from high school a year in advance and at the age of 17, entered the prestigious Shanghai International Studies University, where she majored in English.

Acting career

Chen Chong first became famous in China for her performance alongside Tang Guoqiang (Chinese: 唐国强) in Zhang Zheng's (Chinese: 张铮) Little Flower (Chinese: 小花; pinyin: Xiǎo Huā) in 1979, for which she won the Hundred Flowers Award (Chinese: 百花; pinyin: Bǎi Huā Jiǎng). Chen portrayed a pre-Maoist revolutionary's daughter, who, reunited with her brother, a wounded Communist soldier, later learned that his doctor was her biological mother. Little Flower was her second film and she soon achieved the status of China's most loved actress; she was dubbed "the Elizabeth Taylor of China" by Time magazine for having achieved stardom while still a teenager.

In addition, Chen is famous in China for her role in the 1979 film Hearts for the Motherland (Chinese: 海外赤子; pinyin: Hǎiwài Chìzǐ). The film directed by Ou Fan (Chinese: 欧凡) and Xing Jitian (Chinese: 邢吉田) depicts an overseas Chinese family that returns to China from southeast Asia out of their patriotic feelings but encounter political troubles during the Cultural Revolution. The songs, "I Love You, China" (Chinese: 我爱你中国) and "High Flies the Petrel" (Chinese: 高飞的海燕), sung by Chen's character, are perennial favorites in China. In 1981, Chen starred in Awakening (Chinese: 甦醒; pinyin: Sūxǐng), directed by Teng Wenji (Chinese: 滕文骥).

At age 20, Chen moved to the United States, where she studied filmmaking at California State University, Northridge.

Her first Hollywood movie was Tai-Pan, filmed on location in China. She went on to star in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor in 1987 and the David Lynch/Mark Frost television series Twin Peaks. In 1993 she co-starred in Oliver Stone's Heaven & Earth. She portrayed two different characters in Clara Law's Temptation of a Monk (Chinese: 誘僧; pinyin: Yòu Sēng): a seductive princess of Tang dynasty, and a dangerous temptress. The award-winning film was adapted from a novel by Lilian Lee.

In 1994 she came back in Shanghai to star in Stanley Kwan's Red Rose, White Rose (Chinese: 紅玫瑰白玫瑰; pinyin: Hóng Méigui Bái Méigui) opposite Winston Chao, and subsequently won a Golden Horse Award and a Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award for her performance.

Tired of being cast as an exotic beauty in Hollywood films, Chen moved into directing in 1998 with the critically acclaimed Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl (Chinese: 天浴; pinyin: Tiān Yù), adapted from the novella Heavenly Bath (Chinese: 天浴; pinyin: Tiān Yù) by her friend Yan Geling. She later directed Autumn in New York, starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder, in 2000.

In the middle of the 2000s, Chen made a comeback in acting and began to work intensely, alternating between English and Chinese-language roles.

In 2004, she starred in Hou Yong's family saga Jasmine Women (simplified Chinese: 茉莉花开; pinyin: Mòlìhuā Kāi), alongside Zhang Ziyi, in which they played multiple roles as daughters and mothers across three generations in Shanghai. She also starred in the Asian American comedy Saving Face as a widowed mother, who is shunned by the Chinese-American community for being pregnant and unwed and therefore has come to live with her lesbian daughter.

In 2005, she appeared in Zhang Yang's family saga Sunflower (Chinese: 向日葵; pinyin: Xiàngrìkuí), as a mother whose husband and son have a troubled father-son relationship over 30 years. She then starred in the Asian American independent film Americanese and in Michael Almereyda's Tonight at Noon, the first part of a two part project, scheduled to be released in 2009

In 2007, Chen was acclaimed for her performance in Tony Ayres' drama The Home Song Stories. She portrayed a glamorous and unstable Chinese nightclub singer who struggles to survive in seventies Australia with her two children. Chen. The role earned her four awards including the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress and the Golden Horse Award for Best Actress. The same year saw her co-starring in two other acclaimed films: Ang Lee's Lust, Caution, opposite Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, and Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises, opposite Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, for which she received an Asian Film Award for Best Supporting Actress.

In 2008, she starred alongside Sam Chow (Chinese: 邹爽) in Shi Qi (Chinese: 十七; pinyin: Shíqī), directed by Joe Chow (Chinese: 姬诚; pinyin: Jī Chéng), as a rural mother of a 17-year-old in eastern Zhejiang province. The same year Joan Chen portrayed in Jia Zhangke's 24 City a factory worker once fancied because she resembled Chen herself in the 1979 film Little Flower, but who missed her chance at love.

Chen narrated the MP3 audio guide Louis Vuitton Soundwalk Shanghai City Guide, one of the three audio guides for Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong) produced by Louis Vuitton and Soundwalk, and released in June 2008.

She then co-starred in Bruce Beresford's 2009 adaptation of the autobiography of dancer Li Cunxin Mao's Last Dancer, along with Wang Shungbao and Kyle MacLachlan.

In 2009, Chen starred alongside Feng Yuanzheng (Chinese: 冯远征) and Liu Jinshan (Chinese: 刘金山) in the Chinese TV series Newcomers to the Middle-Aged (Chinese: 人到中年), directed by Dou Qi (Chinese: 斗琪), in which she played a female doctor facing middle-age problems. She also played the part of goddess Guan Yin in the 2010 Chinese TV adaptation of Journey to the West, directed by Cheng Lidong (Chinese: 程力栋).

In October 2009 Joan Chen was the curator of the first Singapore Sun Film Festival, whose theme was The Art of Living Well. She selected and curated five films for screening during the festival: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Dead Man Walking, Hannah and Her Sisters, Still Life (Chinese: 三峡好人; pinyin: Sānxiá hǎorén) and Edward Scissorhands.

In 2010, Chen joined the cast of Leehom Wang's directorial debut Lian ai tong gao (Chinese: 恋爱通告; pinyin: Liàn ài tōng gào)., Alexi Tan's Color Me Love (alongside Liu Ye), Ilkka Järvilaturi's Kiss, His First (alongside Tony Leung Ka-fai and Kwai Lun-mei) and veteran acting coach Larry Moss' Relative Insanity (along with Juliette Binoche). In May 2010, she was set to star and direct one of the three parts of the anthology film Seeing Red.

Personal life

Chen married her second husband, cardiologist Peter Hui, on January 18, 1992. She was formerly married to actor Jimmy Lau from 1985 to 1990. Joan and her current husband have 2 daughters and live in San Francisco, but spend part of every year in Shanghai, China with Joan's family, so their daughters can be familiar with Chinese culture. Chen began the process of adopting twin girls from Nan Ning in 1998, but cancelled the adpotion proceedings after becoming pregnant with her daugther.

During her early years in California Chen attended California State University, Northridge. In 1989, she became a naturalized citizen of the United States. On April 9, 2008, Chen wrote an article entitled "Let the Games Go On" on the Washington Post, about the politicization of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

Charitable work

In May 2008, Chen appeared alongside James Kyson Lee and Amy Hanaialiʻi Gilliom in a public service announcement for the Banyan Tree Project campaign to stop HIV/AIDS-related stigma in Asian & Pacific Islander communities.

In October 2008, Chen made the cover of Trends Health magazine alongside actresses Ke Lan (Chinese: 柯蓝) and Ma Yili (Chinese: 马伊琍) to promote the Chinese Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Prevention campaign.

On January 8, 2010, Chen attended alongside Nancy Pelosi, Nicole Kidman and Joe Torre the ceremony to help Family Violence Prevention Fund break ground on a new international center located in the Presidio of San Francisco intended to combat violence against women and children. During the ceremony, Chen performed an excerpt from the documentary play, "The Thumbprint of Mukhtar Mai" (presented as part of "Seven").

On January 15, 2010, Chen was set to appear, along with other Asian American personalities in a series of videos supporting the Center for the Pacific Asian Family.

Filmography

Actress

Year English title Chinese title Role Notes
1977 Youth 青春 Qīngchūn Shen Yamei / 沈亞妹
1979 Little Flower 小花 Xiǎo Huā Zhao Xiaohua / 赵小花 Hundred Flowers Award for Best Actress

Yugoslavia Film Festival Award for Best Actress

Hearts for the Motherland 海外赤子 Hǎiwài Chìzǐ Huang Sihua / 黃思華 aka Overseas Compatriots, A Loyal Overseas Chinese Family
1981 Awakening 甦醒 Sūxǐng Su Xiaomei / 蘇小梅
1985 Miami Vice Lin Episode 1.2 The Golden Triangle
1986 Goodbye My Love 惡男 È Nán Ling Ti
Tai-Pan May-May
1987 The Last Emperor 末代皇帝 Mò Dài Huángdì Empress Wan Rong / 婉容皇后
1989 The Blood of Heroes Kidda
1989 Wiseguy Maxine Tzu TV series — 1 episode All or Nothing
1990 Twin Peaks Jocelyn 'Josie' Packard TV series — Series regular (2 seasons, 1990–1991)
1991 Wedlock Noelle
1992 Turtle Beach Minou
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me Jocelyn 'Josie' Packard scenes deleted
Nightmare Cafe First customer Episode 1.1 Nightmare Cafe
1993 Heaven & Earth Mama
Temptation of a Monk 誘僧 Yòu Sēng Princess Hong'e (Scarlet) / 公主紅萼

Lady Qingshou (Violet) / 青绶夫人

Tales from the Crypt Connie Episode 5.4 Food for Thought
1994 Golden Gate Marilyn
Red Rose, White Rose 紅玫瑰,白玫瑰 Hóng Méigui, Bái Méigui Wang Jiao-Rui / 王嬌蕊 Golden Horse Award for Best ActressHKFCS Award for Best Actress

Nominated — HKFA for Best Actress

On Deadly Ground Masu
1995 The Hunted Kirina
Wild Side Virginia Chow
Judge Dredd Ilsa Hayden
1996 Precious Find Camilla Jones
1997 Homicide: Life on the Street Elizabeth Wu Episode 5.15 Wu's on First?
1998 The Outer Limits Major Dara Talif Episode 4.24 Phobos Rising
1999 Purple Storm 紫雨風暴 Zǐ Yǔ Fēngbào Shirley Kwan
2000 What's Cooking? Trinh Nguyen
2004 Avatar Madame Ong
Jasmine Women 茉莉花开 Mòlìhuā Kāi Mo's Mother

Mo

Saving Face Hwei-Lan Gao (Ma)
2005 Sunflower 向日葵 Xiàngrìkuí Zhang Xiuqing
2006 Americanese Betty Nguyen
2007 The Home Song Stories 意 Yì Rose Hong / 洪玫瑰 Golden Horse Award for Best ActressIF Award for Best ActressTFF Award for Best ActressAFI Award for Best ActressFCCA Award for Best Actress

Nominated — AF Award for Best Actress Nominated — APS Award for Best Actress

The Sun Also Rises 太阳照常升起 Tàiyáng Zhàocháng Shēngqǐ Dr. Lin / 林大夫 AF Award for Best Supporting Actress
All God's Children Can Dance Evelyn
Lust, Caution 色,戒 Sè, Jiè Mrs. Yee / 易太太
2008 The Leap Years Li-Ann (age 49) aka Leap of Love
Shi Qi 十七 Shí Qī Ma SIFF Press Prize for Most Attractive Actress
24 City 二十四城记 Èr shí sì chéng jì Gu Minhua "Xiao Hua" / 小花
2009 Mao's Last Dancer Li Cunxin's mother
Newcomers to the Middle-Aged 人到中年 Réndào Zhōngnián Tian Wenjie / 田文洁 TV series
2010 Journey to the West 西游记 Xī Yóu Jì Guan Yin / 观音 TV series
Tonight at Noon Joan post-production (filmed in 2005)
Love In Disguise 恋爱通告 Liàn ài tōng gào in production
Color Me Love 爱出色 Ài chū sè in production
2011 Kiss, His First shooting set to begin in June 2010
Relative Insanity Pearl shooting set to begin in Summer 2010
Seeing Red also director - announced

Director

Year English title Chinese title Other notes
1998 Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl 天浴 Tiān Yù Golden Horse Award for Best DirectorMons International Love Film Festival Grand PrizeNational Board of Review International Freedom AwardParis Film Festival Special Jury PrizeFLIFF Jury Award for Best Drama

Nominated — Golden Bear Award Nominated — Paris Film Festival Grand Prize Nominated — Chlotrudis Award for Best Director

2000 Autumn in New York
2011 Seeing Red also starring - announced

Writer

Year English title Chinese title Other notes
1998 Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl 天浴 Tiān Yù Golden Horse Award for Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium shared with Geling Yan

Producer

Year English title Chinese title Other notes
1995 Wild Side Associate producer
1998 Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl 天浴 Tiān Yù Producer, Executive producer

Nominated — Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature Over $500,000 shared with Alice Chan Wai-Chung

Other media

  • 2008: "Shanghai," narrator--an audio walking tour by Louis Vuitton and Soundwalk

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Film Result
1980 Hundred Flowers Awards Best Actress Little Flower Won
Yugoslavia International Film Festival Best Actress Won
1994 Asian American International Film Festival Asian Media Award for significant contribution to Asian American media Won
Golden Horse Awards Best Actress Red Rose, White Rose Won
1995 Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actress Nominated
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Won
1998 Golden Horse Awards Best Director Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl Won
Best Screenplay Adapted from Another Medium shared with Geling Yan Won
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Berlin Bear Nominated
Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival Jury Award Won
1999 Paris Film Festival Grand Prize Nominated
Special Jury Prize Won
Mons International Love Film Festival Grand Prize Won
National Board of Review International Freedom Award Won
2000 Independent Spirit Awards Best First Feature Over $500,000 shared with Alice Chan Wai-Chung Nominated
Chlotrudis Awards Best Director Nominated
2007 Golden Horse Awards Best Actress The Home Song Stories Won
Hawaii International Film Festival Achievement in Acting Won
Asia Pacific Screen Awards Best Performance by an Actress Nominated
Inside Film Awards Best Actress Won
Torino Film Festival Best Actress Won
Australian Film Institute Awards Best Actress Won
2008 Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards Best Actress Won
Asian Film Awards Best Actress Nominated
Best Supporting Actress The Sun Also Rises Won
Shanghai International Film Festival Press Prize for Most Attractive Actress Shi Qi Won

Other recognition

  • In 1992 People magazine chose her as one of the 50 most beautiful women in the world.
  • Chen inspired indie rock band Xiu Xiu, named after her film Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl.
  • Chen was chosen by Goldsea Asian American Daily as one of the "100 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time".

Trivia

  • US citizen since 1988. Has one elder brother, Chuan Chen, an artist who goes by the professional name of Chase Chenoff.
  • Cancelled proceedings to adopt a child when she became pregnant with daughter Angela Frances. [October 1998]
  • Joan was first spotted by Ching Chiang, the wife of Mao Zedong at a Chinese rifle range. She then recommended Joan to movie producers.
  • While preparing to shoot a period piece called "Fu Song" (2002), she discovered she was pregnant. She took a break from the film and eventually gave birth to a second daughter. [2002]
  • Selected by Self magazine as one of "The Nine Best Bodies for the 90s".
  • Measurements: 34C-24-35 1/2 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
  • Member of the jury at the Berlin International Film Festival. [1996]
  • Her Chinese first name "Chong" means "charge on!" and "to rush".
  • Chosen by People magazine as one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the world. [1992]
  • She is referred to as Chen Chong in Mandarin and Chan Chung in Cantonese.
  • Speaks Mandarin, English and Shangainese.
  • Is friends with Amy Tan.
  • Is friends with Wayne Wang.
  • She went to film school with author Anchee Min in Shanghai. In 1984 she helped Min emigrate from China to the US and is mentioned in Min's autobiography, "Red Azalea".
  • Inspired indie rock band 'Xiu Xiu', named after Chen's film Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl (1998) (aka Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl).
  • Childhood friend of writer Geling Yan.
  • Was member of the dramatic jury at the Sundance Film Festival. [2001]
  • Her grandfather was a famous Shanghai pharmacologist. He protested the Cultural Revolution by swallowing a fatal dose of cyanide at a public meeting, after he was wrongly accused of being a counterrevolutionary and a foreign spy.
  • Chosen by Goldsea Asian American Daily as one of the "100 Most Inspiring Asian Americans of All Time" (ranked #44).
  • During a press conference at the 61st Cannes Film Festival for 24 City (2008), Zhang Ke Jia, Joan Chen and Tao Zhao observed a minute of silence in memory of the victims of the 2008 devastating earthquake in China. The film 24 City (2008) was shot in Chengdu, in Sichuan province where the earthquake struck.
  • Attended the 61st Cannes Film Festival. [May 2008]
  • Her performance in The Home Song Stories (2007) earned her 5 awards and 2 nominations for Best Actress.
  • Nominated twice at the 2nd Asian Film Awards for two different roles: for Best Supporting Actress for Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (2007), and for Best Actress for The Home Song Stories (2007). She eventually won the award for Best Supporting Actress for Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi (2007). [March 2008]
  • Narrated the MP3 audio guide Louis Vuitton Soundwalk Shanghai City Guide, one of the three audio guides for Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong), produced by Louis Vuitton and Soundwalk, and released in June 2008. The Beijing City Guide is narrated by Li Gong and the Hong Kong City Guide is narrated by Qi Shu. [2008]
  • Narrated with Amy Tan the audio book version of Tan's novel "The Bonesetter's Daughter". Chen reads the part of Ruth. [2001]
  • Appeared alongside James Kyson-Lee and Amy Hanaiali'i Gilliom in a public service announcement for the Banyan Tree Project campaign to stop HIV/AIDS-related stigma in Asian & Pacific Islander communities. [May 19, 2008]
  • Friend of author Anchee Min. The two befriended each other at the Shanghai Film Studio when they were teenagers. Min being considered politically incorrect, Chen was told to stay away from her. Nonetheless, the two maintained their friendship and Chen later helped Min emigrate to the USA in 1984. Min said: "Joan Chen was very successful back then in China. She was a budding star. I was an underdog, politically incorrect. Nobody wanted to be associated with me. They told Joan Chen not to be with me. They told her it was good for her, but she always stood by me, showing her camaraderie and support. I'll never forget it".
  • Had her head completely shaved in the film You Seng (1993) for the role of Qingshou (Violet).
  • Member of the jury at the 11th Shanghai International Film Festival. The jury also included German producer Ulrich Felsberg, Danish director Bille August, Israeli writer Gila Almagor, Japanese director Kaori Momoi, Chinese director Jianqi Huo, and was headed by Hong Kong director Kar Wai Wong. [June 2008]
  • Headed the Altadis-New Directors Award Jury at the 56th San Sebastian Film Festival. [September 2008]
  • She has been called "China's Elizabeth Taylor" for achieving stardom while still a teenager, and "China's Meryl Streep" for her ability to move beyond the role of ingénue and portray strong and complex female characters.
  • Spokeswoman for the Chinese Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Prevention campaign. [2008]
  • Made the cover of Trends Health magazine alongside actresses Lan Ke and Yili Ma to promote the Chinese Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Prevention campaign. [October 2008]
  • Attended the 8th Annual Independent Spirit Awards. [March 27, 1993]
  • Attended the 3rd Annual Asian Film Awards, in which she presented with Oliver Stone the award for Best Director to Hirokazu Koreeda. [March 23, 2009]
  • Director David Lynch said of her: "She's the best thing from China since pasta - and much more beautiful".
  • Attended the Singapore Sun Festival as the curator of the 1st Sun Film Festival, whose theme was 'The Art of Living Well'. She selected and curated five films depicting 'The Art Of Living Well' for screening during the festival: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), Dead Man Walking (1995), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), Still Life (2006) and Edward Scissorhands (1990). She was also involved in an on-stage interview session called 'In Conversation With Joan Chen', prestented by Ben Slater. [October 2009]
  • Member of the jury at the 3rd Abu Dhabi Middle East International Film Festival. The jury was headed by Abbas Kiarostami and also included Sunil Doshi, Mohamed Khan, Nayla Al Khaja and Michael Fitzgerald. [October 2009]
  • Attended the 14th Pusan International Film Festival. [October 2009]
  • Attended the ceremony for the Family Violence Prevention Fund's International Center, in the Presidio of San Francisco, which is the world's first international center aimed at eliminating violence against women and children. [January 8, 2010]
  • Attended the ceremony for the opening of the first luxury brand MCM store in Shanghai. Chen was wearing an MCM couture evening dress which is the only piece in the world. [January 26, 2010]


Nudography