Ronny Yu

Active - 1979 - 2013  |   Genres - Action, Horror, Adventure, Fantasy, Drama

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Although he ultimately produced scores of Asian martial arts classics -- and broke the bank at the American box office with several visually decadent slasher pictures -- Ronny Yu began life by confronting and surmounting difficult obstacles. Born Ronny Yan-Tai Yu in Hong Kong, China, c. 1950, Yu contracted polio as a small boy. Bed-bound and largely immobile, Yu developed a rich, elegant, sensorial imaginative capacity, to which he credits much of his later success behind the camera. Saddled with a practical and conservative Chinese family, Yu followed his parents' wishes by earning an MBA from Ohio University, later returning to mainland China. Meanwhile, Philip Chan, a police officer friend of Yu's who moonlighted as an aspiring actor and screenwriter, sensed Yu's inborn directorial ability and suggested that they co-helm a crime thriller script he had authored, The Servant. On set, Yu immediately grasped filmmaking basics and used the experience to hone his craft. The effort paid off; The Servant became the summer box-office hit of 1979 in China and gave Yu a permanent niche in the Chinese film industry.

Project after project followed (1981's The Postman Fights Back, 1983's The Trail, 1984's The Occupant, 1986's Legacy of Rage), and Yu racked up one success after another. His most ambitious outing arrived in 1993. The Bride With White Hair, one of the most expensive and lavish features produced in China up through that time, capitalized on the success of 1987's A Chinese Ghost Story as a romantic, supernatural fantasy epic. Yu co-adapted the script with several others, from a two-volume 1954 Chinese novel; it tells of the star-crossed love between a Wu-Tang Clan warrior and a female counterpart who saves him from a pack of ravenous animals. The summer release did incredible business in both Hong Kong and international markets; a sequel emerged that same year, also directed by Yu. 1995's The Phantom Lover, a melodrama that Yu loosely adapted from The Phantom of the Opera, dazzled audiences equally.

In the late '90s, Hollywood beckoned, and invited Yu to revitalize the then-sagging Child's Play series (with 1998's Bride of Chucky) and the Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th series (with 2003's Freddy vs. Jason). The latter raked in such a healthy profit that its gross surpassed the profits of all the Elm Street and Friday movies combined -- an astonishing accomplishment, given the bankability of the individual films.

In 2006, Yu returned to martial arts pictures for the Jet Li-starrer Fearless. A historical biopic, it features Li as the legendary Huo Yuanjia, who became the most infamous martial arts master in China at the turn of the 20th century. Rogue Pictures released Fearless in January 2006 in China and in late September of the same year in the U.S.

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