Woo-ping Yuen

Active - 1978 - 2008  |   Born - Jan 1, 1945   |   Genres - Action

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Biography by Jason Buchanan

A legendary Hong Kong choreographer/actor/director whose first exposure to many stateside moviegoers came with his work in the Wachowski Brothers' 1999 breakthrough action flick The Matrix, Yuen Wo Ping has subsequently crafted an impressive international career with work on such high-profile efforts as Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) and Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill (2003).

Born the eldest of 12 children in Guangzhan in 1945, young Wo Ping was schooled in the art of Peking Opera and kung fu by his highly regarded father, Yuen Siu Tin (who also served as something of a mentor to international action superstar Jackie Chan). It was at his father's behest that the young martial artist was brought to the attention of the "Wong Fei Hung" series' producers in the 1960s, and Wo Ping's martial arts skills served him well as he rose through the ranks with stunt work in such Shaw Brothers classics as The Chinese Boxer (1970). A year later, Wo Ping received his first credit as choreographer for director Ng See Yuen's Mad Killer, and through the remainder of the decade he would work frequently with both Yuen and the Shaw Brothers. Of course, it wasn't long before Wo Ping was looking to advance his skills behind the camera, and in 1978, he made his directorial debut with the wildly popular Snake in Eagle's Shadow. Quickly following with Jackie Chan's Drunken Master and Dance of the Drunk Mantis (which featured his brother Sunny), Wo Ping's subsequent work with Golden Harvest found him again in the director's chair for such "Wong Fei Hung" efforts as Magnificent Butcher and Dreadnaught.

After forming his own production company in 1979, Wo Ping's prominence on the Hong Kong screen would skyrocket and his influence expand with the efforts of his protégé Donnie Yen; and though the popularity of traditional kung fu films would wane somewhat in the 1980s, Wo Ping's output never slowed. In 1991, the genre received something of a shot in the arm thanks to Tsui Hark's popular Jet Li vehicle Once Upon a Time in China (again featuring the enduring Wong Fei Hung and choreographed by Wo Ping), and subsequent work on Iron Monkey (1993), Wing Chun (1994), and Fist of Legend (also 1994) would yield some of the best martial arts films of the decade. After witnessing his jaw-dropping work on Fist of Legend, the Wachowski Brothers hired Wo Ping for The Matrix, and following its 1999 release, his life would be forever changed. Soon faced with an unfathomably large fan base that was hungering for more of the same, video stores across the country were swarming with new fans eager to dive into his impressive body of work. Of course, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon would not disappoint, and after work on Tsui Hark's Zu Warriors and Black Mask 2, he returned to American films for The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, and Kill Bill.

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