This week’s photo theme is Unsung Heroes of Kung Fu — we’re shouting out lesser-known legends of kung fu cinema to expand your mind beyond Jackie, Jet, and Bruce.
Already in this series we’ve talked about directors and actors, now let’s turn the lens onto another instrumental figure — the choreographer.
Yuen was born in Guangzhou, and entered the film scene with a splash, landing his first director credit on Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow with Jackie Chan. The movie was a hit, and set the tone for Jackie to define his unique style of comedic kung fu. Yuen was the other half of that creative process, and the two recognized their chemistry. They quickly followed Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow with the hugely successful Drunken Master. Interesting fact about Drunken Master: it features the actor Yuen Siu-Tien as the beggar, who is actually Yuen Woo-Ping’s real life father, and an accomplished martial arts star himself.
Yuen’s Hollywood debut came unexpectedly, when the Wachowskis reached out to have him work on The Matrix. His dynamic, visual style of action storytelling kept him as a key figure in the international film scene, earning credits on The Matrix sequels, as well as Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and Kill Bill.
Also, I would be remiss to skip out on sharing this one-of-a-kind piece of Yuen Woo-Ping handiwork, during China’s first wave of hip hop curiosity, from 1985’s Mismatched Couples:
Yuen Woo-Ping is a kung fu choreographer, action director, and just a powerful film figure in his own right. Today we shout out Yuen, plus thank him for giving us the Jackie Chan we know and love.
Previously in this series: