Sammo Hung

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Sammo Hung is a Chinese actor, producer and director from Hong Kong, known for his work in many kung fu films and Hong Kong action cinema. He has been a fight choreographer for, amongst others, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, King Hu, Stephen Chow and John Woo.

Hung is one of the pivotal figures who spearheaded the Hong Kong New Wave movement of the 1980s, helped reinvent the martial arts genre and started the Jiang Shi (hopping vampire) genre. He is widely credited with assisting many of his compatriots, giving them their starts in the Hong Kong film industry, by casting them in the films he produced, or giving them roles in the production crew.

In East Asia, it is common for people to address their elders or influential people with familial nouns as a sign of familiarity and respect. Jackie Chan, for example, is often addressed as “Dai Goh”, meaning Big Brother. Hung was known also known as “Dai Goh”, until the filming of Project A, which featured both actors. As Hung was the eldest of the kung fu “brothers”, and the first to make a mark on the industry, he was given the nickname “Dai Goh Dai”, meaning, Big, Big Brother or Biggest Big Brother.[1]

Hung’s ancestral hometown is Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. Born Hong Gam-Bou in Hong Kong, both of his parents worked as wardrobe artists in the local film industry and guardianship was thrust upon his grandparents. His grandmother was archetypal martial-arts actress Chin Tsi-ang[2] and his grandfather was film director Hung Chung-Ho.

Hung joined the China Drama Academy, a Peking Opera School in Hong Kong, in 1961. He was enrolled for a period of 7 years, beginning at the age of 9, after his grandparents heard about the school from their friends.[3] The opera school was run by Master Yu Jim Yuen and as was customary for all students, Hung adopted the given name of his sifu as his family name whilst attending. Going by the name Yuen Lung, Hung became the foremost member of the Seven Little Fortunes (???) performing group[4], and would establish a friendly rivalry with one of the younger students, Yuen Lo. Yuen Lo would go on to become international superstar Jackie Chan. At the age of 14, Hung was selected by a teacher who had connections to the Hong Kong film industry to perform stunts on a movie. This brief foray into the industry piqued his interest in film and he took particular interest in the operation of film cameras.[3] As the eldest of the troupe, Hung would give his opera school brothers pocket money from his earnings, endearing him greatly to his young friends[5] Shortly after leaving the Academy at the age of 16, Hung suffered an injury that left him bedridden for an extended period, during which time his weight ballooned. After finding work in the film industry as a stuntman, he was given a nickname after a well-known Chinese cartoon character, Sam-mo (??; Three Hairs).

Many years later, in 1988, Hung starred in Alex Law’s Painted Faces, a dramatic re-telling of his experiences at the China Drama Academy. Among the exercises featured in the movie are numerous acrobatic backflips, and hours of handstands performed against a wall. Despite some of the more brutal exercises and physical punishments shown in Painted Faces, Hung and the rest of the Seven Little Fortunes consider the movie a toned-down version of their actual experiences.