One of Hong Kong's most respected and best-liked actresses, Maggie Cheung has done it all. Cheung's versatility as an action star, talented comedienne, and dramatic actress has allowed her to transcend the Hong Kong film industry to become a vibrant figure in international cinema.
Born in Hong Kong on September 20, 1964, Cheung moved to England with her family at the age of eight. She remained in England until she finished her secondary school education. Upon returning to Hong Kong, she began a modeling career, which led to TV commercials and the title of first runner-up for Miss Hong Kong 1983. The following year, she broke into film, doing a number of vapid comedies with titles like Prince Charming, The Frog Prince, Happy Ghost 3, Happy Fat New Year, and Love Hungry Suicide Squad. She got her big break in 1985, when she was cast opposite legendary action star Jackie Chan in Police Story. The film's success gave her greater exposure, but it also resulted in her being typed in comic or damsel-in-distress roles.
Cheung got her next big break, and her chance to prove herself as a dramatic actress, when Wong Kar-Wai cast her in his 1988 crime drama As Tears Go By. Although she continued to do comedies and put-upon-woman roles (starring in the Police Story sequels and appearing in the Chow Yun-Fat action flick A Better Tomorrow 3), she also sought out more challenging work. She earned strong notices for her work in such films as the family conflict drama Song of the Exile (1990) and Wong Kar-Wai's 1991 period drama Days of Being Wild. In 1992, Cheung won some of the greatest acclaim of her career for her work in The Actress, Stanley Kwan's docudrama about a silent film icon. That same year, Cheung further proved her versatility with starring roles in three more action films, Twin Dragons with Jackie Chan; the third installment of the Police Story trilogy; and The Heroic Trio, in which she and fellow action stars Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui were cast as comic book superwomen.
Following another collaboration with Wong on Ashes of Time, a 1994 period drama, Cheung broke through to an international audience in Irma Vep (1996). The popular film, directed by Olivier Assayas (whom Cheung married in 1998), featured Cheung as herself, an actress caught up in the chaos surrounding a filmmaker's attempts to make a tribute to Louis Feuillade's classic serial Les Vampires. Spending much of the film clad in an extremely flattering cat suit, Cheung endeared herself to international critics and audiences alike. The following year, she made her first English-language film, starring alongside Jeremy Irons and Gong Li in Wayne Wang's Chinese Box. Cast as a mysterious young woman named Jean, Cheung held her own against the more internationally well-established Irons and Gong. That same year, she won further acclaim for her work in the romantic comedy Comrades, Almost a Love Story, in which she played one of a pair of lovers kept apart for ten years by fate and circumstance.