Sunday, March 8, 2009

Profile: Leung Kar-Yan

For my first featured Face of Fu (how's THAT for alliteration!), I have chosen my favorite kung fu actor, Leung Kar-Yan. Leung Kar Yan (or Beardy, his nickname) started his acting career in the early/mid 70's. He had been a fan of director Chang Cheh's films, as well as Bruce Lee's movies. As his interest in kung fu movies progressed, he decided to visit a movie set to see how films were made. At the time, Chang Cheh was looking for talent, and Leung Kar-Yan decided to try his luck. Even though he had no prior acting experience, Leung Kar-Yan had his first acting job just a few days after his interview! His first film was Chang Cheh's "Shaolin Martial Arts" in 1974, and the rest is history!

While he started his career doing films for Chang Cheh that were distributed by Shaw Brothers, it wasn't until a few years later when he broke out and earned some bigger roles. In 1978 he hooked up with Sammo Hung for the film "Warriors Two" at Golden Harvest Studios. Some other excellent films he did around this time under the helm of Sammo Hung were "Enter the Fat Dragon," "Knockabout," and "The Victim." While displaying wonderful fighting in these films, Leung Kar-Yan also showed a flair for slapstick comedy, especially in the latter two. Some of his other popular movies during the end of the 70's and beginning of the 80's were "Sleeping Fist," "Thundering Mantis," and "Postman Strikes Back" co-starring a young Chow Yun-Fat. "Thundering Mantis" has one of my favorite ending scenes of all time. The normally happy-go-lucky Leung Kar-Yan gets pushed to his wits end.... and it just has to be seen to be believed!

During the mid-80's, Leung Kar-Yan decided to try his hand at directing films. In 1984, he directed his first movie, "Profile In Anger." Between 1990 and 2003 Leung Kar-Yan directed a few other movies. He had some success with his own films, but not as much as he saw earlier in his acting career. In 1997, Beardy once again teamed up with Sammo Hung, this time as his Assistant Director, on the set of Mr. Nice Guy, starring Jackie Chan. That film grossed over $45M in Hong Kong alone! Leung Kar-Yan continues to act in various action and comedy movies to this day.

Many attributes have cemented his position at the top of my list. Firstly, his seemingly effortless command of the martial arts is amazing. His forms are very fluid and graceful, whether it be his Mantis style in "Thundering Mantis" or his Wing Chun in "Warriors Two." I was amazed when I found out that he actually had NO formal martial arts or Peking Opera training! He basically just learned by mimicking the moves shown to him by his co-stars and action directors. ...And he learned from some of the best martial arts action directors in history, including Liu Chia-Liang, Sammo Hung, and Yuen Wo-Ping! Secondly, I find his acting to be great, especially considering he jumped right into the industry with no experience what-so-ever. Serious, slapstick, he can do it all. Be it a no nonsense villain, a bumbling two-timing crook, or an out of control fighter seeking revenge, he knew exactly what the role needed to make it entertaining. Finally, his trademark beard... Normally the beard signified a kung fu villain, but Beardy could sport it as a hero and still make it work. It makes him instantly recognizable, and even casual kung fu fans will usually remember Beardy!


Shaolin Martial Arts (1974)
Warriors Two (1978)
Knockabout (1979)
The Victim (1980)
Thundering Mantis (1980)

Here's the ending battle from "Thundering Mantis."

"Buddha bless you..."


Anonymous said...

Beardy is a true legend, my favorite kung fu movie of his is Legend of a fighter.. probably the greatest kung fu movie of all time....

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