Maggie Chen and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai
Stories & Ideas

Wed 25 Jan 2023

Crying on the Inside: The empathetic stardom of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Film Melbourne Cinémathèque Retrospective
Melbourne Cinematheque icon

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society

Notes for the 22 March – 5 April 2023 Melbourne Cinémathèque program.

Quiet and introspective as a child and outcast by his parents’ separation, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai (1962–) never aspired to much. In 1982, whilst working as an appliance salesman, Leung was encouraged to take up acting by his childhood friend, Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer). After a year of training, Leung landed his first television role. Within two years he was cast in leading roles, primarily in comedy, most famously in the mid-1980s TV series Police Cadet, alongside Maggie Cheung, Chow Yun-Fat and Carina Lau (who married Leung in 1989). Leung’s breakthrough international role was in Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City of Sadness (1989).

He has since become one of the most sought after actors in the wider Asia region, working with many of the great directors of his time across a wide range of genres, from highly stylised action blockbusters – John Woo’s Hard Boiled (1992), Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs (2002), Zhang Yimou’s Hero (2002) – to subversive arthouse classics like Hou’s Flowers of Shanghai (1998), Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution (2007) and Wong Kar-Wai’s Happy Together (1997) and In the Mood For Love (2000). Following in the footsteps of fellow compatriots Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen, Leung recently broke into Hollywood playing the villain in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). Widely considered one of the greatest actors of his generation, Leung brings a compelling sense of interiority and melancholy to all his roles, a sensibility comparable to the work of Marcello Mastroianni and Montgomery Clift. This season presents a selection of Leung’s most notable roles – often as part of stellar ensemble casts – showcasing his diverse range and deeply empathetic screen presence.


Crying on the Inside: The empathetic stardom of Tony Leung Chiu-Wai

Flowers of Shanghai (1998) – Wed 22 Mar, 7pm
Hero (2002) – Wed 22 Mar, 9.10pm
In the Mood for Love (2000) – Wed 29 Mar, 7pm
A Chinese Ghost Story III (1991) – Wed 29 Mar, 8.55pm
Hard Boiled (1992) – Wed 5 Apr, 7pm
Cyclo (1995) – Wed 5 Apr, 9.20pm

Person laying on sand, with their face reflected in a puddle

Melbourne Cinémathèque

Australia's longest-running film society, Melbourne Cinémathèque screens significant works of international cinema in the medium they were created, the way they would have originally screened.

Melbourne Cinémathèque is self-administered, volunteer-run, not-for-profit and membership-driven. 

Learn more | View the 2023 program | See membership options