Joan Chen is a Chinese American actress, screenwriter, producer, and director. She came to mainstream attention after appearing in the 1987 movie ‘The Last Emperor,’ and is also known for her roles in ‘Red Rose, White Rose’, ‘Twin Peaks’ and ‘The Home Song Stories’. As a director, she is known for directing the feature flick ‘Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl’. Born in Shanghai into a family of doctors, Chen was raised during the Cultural Revolution. She was discovered by Jiang Qing, the wife of the revolutionary Mao Zedong in the school rifle range. This eventually led her to enter Shanghai Film Studio’s Actors' Training Program where Chen caught the attention of veteran director Jin Xie who eventually cast her in his 1977 movie ‘Youth’. Her performance in the film ‘Xiao Hua’ earned her the Hundred Flowers Award for Best Actress. The actress then went to USA to attend State University of New York and later California State University. She then took a break to start a family with her second husband, Peter Hui, whom she married in 1992. Chen, who is a mother of two beautiful daughters, is deeply associated with charitable organizations, especially those dealing with HIV and breast cancer awareness.
Childhood & Early Life
Joan Chen was born on April 26, 1961, in Shanghai, China, to a family of pharmacologists. She and her elder brother Chase were raised by their parents Chen Xing Rong and Zhang An Zhong.
At the age of 14, Chen was discovered by the wife of leader Mao Zedong, Jiang Qing, which led to her being chosen for Shanghai Film Studio’s Actors' Training Program in 1975. There, she was discovered by the popular director Jin Xie who chose her for his 1977 film ‘Youth’ as a deaf-mute girl whose senses are later restored by the army’s medical team.
After graduating from high school, Chen attended Shanghai International Studies University.
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Joan Chen appeared alongside Tang Guoqiang in ‘Little Flower’ which released in 1979. Her performance as a pre-Maoist revolutionary's daughter brought her stardom and also earned her the Hundred Flowers Award.
She was in the 1979 flick ‘Hearts for the Motherland’. Directed by Ou Fan, the movie is about an overseas Chinese family that returns to China from Southeast Asia but encounters political problems during the Cultural Revolution. The movie’s songs "I Love You, China" and "High Flies the Petrel" are all-time favourites in China.
Her first Hollywood movie was the adventure drama ‘Tai-Pan’ which was filmed on location in China. Following appearances in the 1985 series ‘MacGyver' and 'Miami Vice', the actress was cast as a series regular in ‘Twin Peaks’.
In 1993, she co-starred in ‘Heaven & Earth’, a war drama film and also had double roles in ‘Temptation of a Monk’ as a dangerous temptress and a seductive princess.
In 1995, Chen served as an associate producer for the flick ‘Wild Side’. In 2000, she directed ‘Autumn in New York’, a film that follows a mid-aged restaurateur who falls in love with a young lady who is terminally ill.
She starred in the family saga ‘Jasmine Women’ alongside Zhang Ziyi in 2004. In 2005, Chen featured in the movie ‘Sunflower’ as a mother whose son and husband have a troubled son-father relationship for over 30 years.
Chen next starred in Joe Chow’s ‘Shi Qi’ in 2008. Then in 2009, she appeared alongside Liu Jinshan and Feng Yuanzheng in the Chinese drama ‘Newcomers to the Middle-Aged’.
She then got the chance to play the Yuan empress Chabi in the American TV series ‘Marco Polo’ which premiered in 2014.
In 1987, Joan Chen caught the attention of western audiences when she appeared in the British-Italian epic biographical movie ‘The Last Emperor’. Based on the life of the last Emperor of China, Puyi, the movie won nine Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture.
In 1994, the actress co-starred in the Hong Kong drama flick ‘Red Rose, White Rose’ which premiered at the 45th Berlin International Film Festival.
She made her directional debut with ‘Xiu Xiu: The Sent Down Girl’ (1998), which earned her several awards and honours including the Golden Horse Award for Best Director.
In 2007, Chen garnered appreciation for her performance in the drama ‘The Home Song Stories’. In the series, she portrayed a glamorous nightclub singer who strives hard to survive in Australia with her two kids. The role earned Chen four awards, including the Golden Horse Award and Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actress.
Family & Personal Life
From 1985 to 1990, Chen was married to actor Jimmy Lau. She then married Peter Hui, a cardiologist, in January 1992. The couple resides in San Francisco with their two daughters.
She earned American citizenship in 1989.
In October 2008, Chen alongside actress Ma Yili and Ke Lan graced the cover of ‘Trends Health’ magazine to promote the Chinese Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Prevention campaign.