Leslie Cheung: Larger Than Life
Heartthrob, pop star, and Hong Kong actor, Leslie Cheung is one of Asia’s most respected performers and intriguing personalities. Dubbed, "The Elvis of Hong Kong" by Canadian critic, John Charles, Leslie’s fame remains as phenomenal today. Leslie entered the entertainment business after winning first runner-up in the 1976 ATV Asian Music Contest performing "American Pie." Since then, it was evident that Leslie didn't rise because of his fame and money, but because entertainment was an outlet for Leslie to express himself - his love, his confusion, his anger, his soul, his desires. In every movie role he played, Leslie assumed the life of another person. On April 1, 2003, Leslie took his own life by plunging from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hong Kong, leaving fans in aghast with questions left unanswered.
In 1981, Leslie became a bona fide star with the success of his album, "The Wind Continues To Blow", which established him as Asia’s most popular singer. However, it was not until the song "Monica" that led Leslie to become a mega-star, bringing Hong Kong pop entertainment to a new level by daring to be different. While others donned tuxedos and sung love ballads, Leslie danced on stage and set a trend. Richard Corliss of Time Magazine said Leslie wooed "staid Cantonese audiences until they were dancing en masse in front of the stage, becoming votaries to the pop god." (2003). Leslie's movie career gained momentum in 1986 after being casted as a rookie cop opposite Chow Yun Fat in John Woo’s "A Better Tomorrow" and as a playboy lead in Stanley Kwan’s romantic ghost story, "Rouge". These films established Leslie as a romantic leading man as well as an action star. Leslie is also notable for being one of the few Asian stars to play openly homosexual characters, a choice that gained particular resonance from the public eye when he came out after playing one of his most famous gay roles in "Happy Together" with Tony Leung. His role as a conflicted homosexual opera star in "Farewell My Concubine" also earned him international acclaim. In 1989, at the peak of his career, Leslie announced his retirement from the music world. In 1997, Leslie made a spectacular comeback with a grand world tour. He made his last major music appearance with the year-long 2000 Passion Tour.
Leslie has showed the Chinese entertainment world the true meaning of self expression, a cultural taboo for Asians. During his tour, Leslie wore eight Jean-Paul Gaultier outfits, each more outrageous than the previous, from a white tux with angel wings to a naughty skirt and a long wig, with complete disregard of the controversy stirring concerning his sexuality. In 1997, Leslie publicly announced his 12-year secret relationship to Daffy Tong Hok-Tak, his financial manager, making him one of the first stars to come out openly about his homosexuality.
Leslie matured in his acting ability and the use of his smoldering charisma, but never seemed to age. Affectionately known as Gor Gor (or elder brother), Leslie’s unique persona continues to earn the respect from his long time fans and reach out to those still unfamiliar with Leslie’s remarkable charm and captivating screen presence. Leslie was also one of the first Asians to bring the idea of performance, entertainment, and glamour to the next level. With his energy powered singing and dancing, Leslie commanded the stage, captured his fans, and raised the bar for all Asian stars to follow. Leslie never stopped pushing his own limit. On stage, he was full of sexual energy. In front of the camera, Leslie carried such a luscious aura that some can only compare him to a heavenly angel.
While Leslie pioneered new ideas and set creative trends, no one in the entertainment industry ever took him as seriously as he wanted it to be. Leslie tried his hand at film directing to mediocre reviews. He dared to put on a controversial, homosexual concert in 2000's Passion Tour, which was harshly criticized by the media and was reportedly one of the major blows Leslie took that gave him depression. In his early days, fans booed Leslie off stage. During the 1980s Cantopop fan wars, fans of Alan Tam harrassed Leslie until he wanted to quit. But he never did. Larger than life, Leslie Cheung's wind continues to blow. If a suicide can be romantic, Leslie's final farewell crushes every fan's heart. Falling from the Mandarin Oriental, Leslie fell, with convinction and heart, into a garden of roses and petals.
90 albums released (1977-2003)
Acted in over 60 domestic films First artist ever to hold over 100 shows in the HK Coliseum
2001: Passion Tour Grand Finale with 10 shows held at HK Coliseum
1993: Actor Award by Japanese film critic society in Farewell My Concubine
1991: Best Actor of HK golden film Award for his role in Days Of Being Wild
1989: Leslie announced retirement in his singing career and held 33 consecutive shows at the HK Coliseum
1987: Best selling album of the year, Summer Romance
1984: The song Monica becomes a smash hit
1977: Runner-up in the “Asian Singing Contest” with the song American Pie
Where is he now?
When Leslie’s death from an apparent suicide was announced on April 1st 2003, the international film community suffered a devastating blow and legions of fans had a difficult time grasping how an actor of such talent could end his life with one fateful leap while still in the prime of his career. Following the news of Leslie’s untimely death, fans began mourning the loss of the cinematic icon while simultaneously taking note of the tragic irony of his own fate in parallel to that of his troubled character in Inner Senses, which was Leslie’s final film.
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He is the best!!!!
Anonymous on September 21, 2005
Even though he's been going for 2 years now, I still am not over his death. I was born and raised in the U.S. and when I heard the news about his death from a classmate of mines, at first I thought it was a joke. But however when I went online and saw the coverage on television and listen it to on the radio, I couldn't believe this would happen to Hong Kong of all places.
I grew up listening to Leslie since I was a little kid in grammar school along with others. Now when I hear his songs and watch his movie, I have this sadness in my heart because he is not here anymore but however I do celebrate his life and the legacy he passed onto others.
Everytime I go back to Hong Kong, I feel this sense of emptiness and then once when I brought a friend of mines who visited Hong Kong with me, we stood in front of the hotel in which Leslie ended his life and I just had this chill that went down my spine. But however Hong Kong has changed since all the situations that had happen in 1993 (SARS, Lesle's death, and Anita Mui's death).
But no matter what... I miss him alot and he will always live on in the lives of his fans..
The Most Talented Singer
Henry Zheng from Houston, TX USA on August 8, 2005
I admit that I have been exposed to Leslie Cheung's songs all my life, although I did not realize the true beauty of his songs until after his passing. I've come to love his songs for his talented voice and beautiful music. I still listen to his songs and I have to say that I am one of the youngest Leslie Cheung major fans out there at the age of 16.
Nobody will ever be able to replace Leslie
Grace on June 20, 2005
If I were ever asked who is able to replace Leslie Cheung, I will answer with A DEFINITE NO -- not even for the next several decades! Who could have possessed so many outstanding qualities in one person? If an artist looks very handsome, he might not be an excellent singer. If he is an excellent singer, he might not be excellent in dancing or performing on stage. If he is an excellent performer, he might not be a good actor. If he has all of the above qualities, he might not have a unique yet charitable, noble, forgiving and wonderful personality. Leslie is indeed a wonderful gift from God --- because he has all of the above qualities! Not only so, he has such a magnetic charisma that men and women alike are naturally attracted to him. He is also an aristocrat by nature and no other star has ever possessed such unparalleled elegance as he! Leslie is indeed an inborn superstar and his brilliance will forever be shining in the entertainment world!
My Most Favourite Actor in the 100th year of the Chinese movie industry
Julie on June 15, 2005
Congratulations to you! In a recent announcement by Time Magazine, your best movie Farewell My Concubine has been selected as one of the all-time 100 best films in the history of cinema world. In a polling activity run by Henderson Artreach, Farewell My Concubine had even topped the ten best films in the 100th year of the Chinese movie industry. Naturally you, who is the most outstanding artist and who has an unparalleled artistic talent and charisma had won the hearts of the public audience, and was elected as My Most Favourite Actor in the 100th year of the Chinese movie industry! I am extremely proud of you Leslie. You deserve all the honour and glory. Although some actors have won a lot of awards, you’re the best actor in the hearts of many people who really know how to appreciate art. Once again, congratulations to you Leslie. Tomorrow I’ll be attending the first screening of Farewell My Concubine. I’ll definitely extend my standing ovation to you to show how much I appreciate your remarkable contribution to the Chinese movie history.
Most Favourite Actor in the 100-Year Chinese Cinema
Daydreamer from canada on June 15, 2005
My deepest heartfelt congratulations to you for being chosen by the Hong Kong fans as the Most Favourite Actor in the 100-years Chinese Cinema voting event. My dear, you know, who deserves this title more than you do? I remember you once said at the interview in 2002 by the Japanese magazine “Pop Asia” that “Whether it is a star or not is up to the audience to decide. Once being recognized as a star, you are one forever.” Dearest Leslie, here you are, down in the history forever, when people refer to 100 years Chinese cinema, you will be remembered as the one and only MOST beloved and favourite actor. You are right, only what the audience decided matters. Dear, please excuse me if I have not been too humble in this respect, we know we always possess the clearest mind and sharpest vision, and most importantly, we know how to appreciate. Thank you, Leslie, thank you for bringing all the good things to us to enjoy and appreciate for the rest of our life. Your legacy will live forever simply because the greatest artists in history will never be forgotten. Love you forever.
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