Childhood & Early Life
Hung was born in British Hong Kong on January 7, 1952. His parents worked as wardrobe stylists in the local movie industry. Hence, Hung had to spend all his childhood with his grandparents who were also artists. He has a brother named Lee Chi Kit, who too is an actor.
In 1961, Hung was enrolled at ‘China Drama Academy’ where he studied for seven long years. He came to known as Yuen Lung, and became the first member of a performing group, ‘Seven Little Fortunes’. The group later welcomed Jackie Chan, who was then known as Yuen Lo.
Before Hung could graduate from the academy, at the age of 16, he suffered an injury which forced him to stay away from action for a while. Despite the injury, he decided to become a stuntman, and soon found himself working in the industry.
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He made his debut as a child actor in 1960, but his debut movie, ‘Education of Love’, was released two years later in 1962.
In 1962, he made another appearance in a movie titled ‘Big and Little Wong Tin Bar.’ In the movie, he was seen alongside Jackie Chan. After working in a few movies, Hung became an assistant director, working at Shaw Brothers Studio. He worked in as many as 30 movies for Shaw Brothers as an actor as well as a stuntman. He then assisted several directors.
He then choreographed action scenes for movies, such as ‘The Angry River’ (1970), ‘A Touch of Zen’ (1971), and ‘The Fate of Lee Khan (1973). In 1973, he worked with Bruce Lee in ‘Enter the Dragon,’ and started promoting the amalgamation of martial arts and humor. He continued working in various other movies as well.
In 1977, he played an important character in ‘Shaolin Pilot’, which was produced under the banner of ‘Golden Harvest Production’.
In 1978, he made a movie ‘Warriors Two’, which featured a martial art style called ‘Wing Chun.’ In 1981, he made another movie based on the same martial art style and titled it ‘The Prodigal Son.’
In the 80s, a major transformation took place in the movies based on martial arts. From the long-standing fighting scenes of the 70s to the more realistic and comparatively long fighting scenes of the 80s, there were some apparent changes in the martial arts portrayed on screen. Sammo saw this as an opportunity and experimented with his action choreography in movies, such as ‘Winners and Sinners’ (1982) and ‘Wheels on Meals’ (1985).
In 1983, Hung, Jackie Chan and Yuen Biao came to be known as the ‘Three Dragons’ as they appeared in Jackie’s ‘Project A.’ They once again appeared together in the 1988 movie ‘Dragon Together.’
Hung then introduced other genres like comedy in his movies, which until then had only action sequences. Some of his movies which also had comical sequences are ‘My Lucky Stars’ (1985), ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Stars’ (1985), ‘Lucky Stars Go Places’ (1986), and ‘How to Meet the Lucky Stars’ (1996).
Some of his movies, such as ‘Encounters of the Spooky Kind’ (1980), and ‘The Dead and the Deadly’ (1983) became popular among his fans and even went on to achieve a cult status. He also introduced movies that had women in the leading roles. ‘Yes, Madam’ was one of his movies that had women showcasing their martial art skills. The movie gave an opportunity to the now legendary actress Michelle Yeoh to showcase her skills.
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Hung had his share of failures in the 90s. During this stage of his career, he focused on producing many movies through his own production house, ‘Bojon Films Company Ltd.’
In 1997, he reunited with Jackie Chan for ‘Mr. Nice Guy.’ His most awaited reunion with Jackie gave him the much needed success in the 90s.
In 1998, he became the only East Asian actor to have a prime time show on the CBS network. He played a Chinese cop in the adventure-comedy series ‘Martial Law.’
He made a startling comeback with ‘The Legend of Zu’ in 2001. The movie was a sequel to the 1983 hit ‘Zu Warriors from the Magic Mountain.’
In 2005, he played a negative character named Wong Po in ‘SPL: Sha Po Lang (‘Kill Zone’). Sammo was appreciated by the critics for playing a negative character for the first time in his career.
He then worked in a number of movies, such as ‘Twins Mission’ (2007), ‘Fatal Movie’ (2008), ‘Three Kingdoms: Resurrection of the Dragon’ (2008), ‘Kung Fu Chefs’ (2009), ‘14 Blades’ (2010), etc. His movie, ‘Wushu’ was screened at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. He was also seen in the 2017 flick ‘God of War.’
He choreographed the action sequences of the 2010 hit movie ‘Ip Man.’ Some of the TV series that he was a part of include ‘Undercover Cops’ (2003), ‘Coming Lies’ (2005), ‘Wing Chun’ (2006), ‘The Shaolin Warriors’ (2008), and ‘The Discipline’ (2008) among many more.
Hung also owns four production companies - ‘Gar Bo Motion Picture Company’, ‘Bo Ho Film Company Ltd’, ‘D & B Films Co. Ltd,’ and ‘Bojon Films Co. Ltd.’ He has produced many movies under his production houses.
Awards & Achievements
He has won numerous awards including ‘Hong Kong Film Awards’, ‘Asian Film Award’, ‘Golden Horse Award’, etc. He won these awards in different categories, such as acting, direction, choreography and production.
In 2010, He was honored with the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at the New York Asian Film Festival.
He is one of the few celebrities to have been honored at ‘Avenue of Stars’ in Hong Kong.
Personal Life & Legacy
Sammo met Jo Eun-ok in his martial arts school and went on to marry her in 1973. Sammo and Jo Eun-ok are blessed with three sons and a daughter. Their sons Tin-Ming "Timmy" Hung, Tin Cheung "Jimmy" Hung and Tin Chiu "Sammy" Hung were born in 1974, 1977 and 1979 respectively. Their daughter, Chao Yu "Stephanie" Hung, was born in 1983.
Sammo and Jo got divorced in 1994. He then got married to actress Joyce Godenzi in 1995.