Chen, Joan 1961-
CHEN, Joan 1961-
PERSONAL: Born Chong Chen, April 26, 1961, in Shanghai, China; immigrated to the United States, 1981, naturalized citizen, 1989; married Jim Lau (an actor, producer, stunt performer, and martial arts consultant), 1985 (divorced, 1990); married Peter Hui (a cardiologist), January 18, 1992; children: (second marriage) Angela Frances. Education: Attended the Shanghai Film Academy, the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Languages, and California State University—Northridge.
ADDRESSES: Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—Jim Garavente, Innovative Artists, 1505 10th St., Santa Monica, CA 90401.
CAREER: Actress, director, and producer. Actress in films (sometimes credited as Chen Chong), including Qingchun (also known as Youth), 1977; (as Xiao) Xiao hua (also known as Little Flower), 1978; Overseas, 1979; (as Huang Si Hua) Hai wai chi zi, 1979; (as Su Xiaomei) Su xing (title means "Awakening"), 1980; Peking Encounter, 1981; (as young Mahjong player) Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart, Orion Classics, 1985; (as May-May) Tai-Pan, DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group, 1986; (as Ling Ti) E nan (also known as Everlasting Rhapsody and Goodbye My Love), 1986; (as Mai Wing) The Night Stalker, Almi, 1987; (as Wan Jung/Elizabeth) The Last Emperor, Columbia, 1987; (as young Mahjong player) Dim Sum Take-Outs, 1988; (as Kidda) The Blood of Heroes (also known as The Salute of the Jugger), Filmpac, 1990; (as the girl) Strangers, 1991; (as Lady Minou Hobday) Turtle Beach, 1991, released as The Killing Beach, Warner Bros., 1993; (as Sara) Where Sleeping Dogs Lie, TriStar Home Video, 1993; (as Princess Scarlet/Violet) You seng (also known as Temptation of a Monk), 1993; (as Masu) On Deadly Ground, Warner Bros., 1994; (as Marilyn Song) Golden Gate, Samuel Goldwyn, 1994; (as Mama) Heaven and Earth, Warner Bros., 1994; (as Wang Jiao-Rui) Hong meigui, bai meigui (also known as Red Rose White Rose), First Distributors, 1994; (as Kirina) The Hunted, Universal, 1995; (as Ilsa) Judge Dredd, Buena Vista, 1995; (as Virginia Chow) Wild Side, Metro Tartan, 1995; (as Camilla Jones) Precious Find, Republic Entertainment, 1996; (as Shirley Kwan) Ziyu fengbao (also known as Purple Storm and Chi yue fung biu), Shaw Brothers, 1999; (as Trinh Nguyen) What's Cooking?, Trimark Pictures, 2000; (as Madame Ong) Avatar, 2002; Mo li hua kai (in production; also known as Jasmine, 2004; and (as Ma) Saving Face (in production), 2004.
Associate producer of the film Wild Side, Metro Tartan, 1995. Executive producer, producer, and director of the film Tian yu (also known as Xiu Xiu: The Sent-DownGirl and Xiu Xiu he ta de nan ren), 1998 Stratosphere Entertainment, 1999. Director of the film Autumn in New York, 2000.
Actress in television series, including (as Jocelyn "Josie" Packard) Twin Peaks, American Broadcasting Companies (ABC), 1990-91; and (as Jin-Juan) Children of the Dragon, 1991. Actress in television movies, including (as Noelle) Deadlock (also known as Wedlock), Home Box Office (HBO), 1991; (as Vanessa) Shadow of a Stranger (also known as Shadow of a Killer), National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1992; (as Nicole Robbins) Steel Justice, NBC, 1992; and (as Linda Ching) In a Class of His Own, Show-time, 1999. Guest star on television programs, including "Paper Angels," American Playhouse; Matt Houston; Miami Vice; MacGyver; Wiseguy; Tales from the Crypt; Homicide: Life on the Street; and The Outer Limits. Actress in television specials, including (as Ellen Yung) On the Edge, NBC, 1987; and (as American tourist) "Small Sounds and Tilting Shadows," Strangers, HBO, 1993. Appeared in televised awards presentations, including The 51st Annual Golden Globe Awards, Turner Broadcasting System (TBS), 1994; The 60th Annual Academy Awards Presentation; and The 66th Annual Academy Awards Presentation. Also appeared in Heartbeat, 1988; and in television pilots, including (as Josie Packard) Twin Peaks (pilot), ABC, 1990, and Nightmare Café (pilot), 1992.
AWARDS, HONORS: Golden Horse Awards (Taiwan) for best picture and best director, for Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl.
(With Yan Geling) Tian yu (screenplay; also known as Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl and Xiu Xiu he ta de nan ren; based on Yan's novella Tian Yu/Celestial Bath), Stratosphere Entertainment, 1999.
SIDELIGHTS: Chinese-born actress Joan Chen's career began with the slightest of coincidences: while she was taking part in a marksmanship drill as a teenager, she was spotted by the wife of Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, who selected her to attend film school and become an actress. Chen won a major award for her acting in Chinese films as a teenager, but she decided to come to the United States to get an education as an adult. For a time she worked as a waitress while acting in small parts, but finally in 1987 she got her big break, the role of the empress in The Last Emperor.
For several years, Chen made a consistent living at acting. During that time, she became friends with Chinese-born author Yan Geling, who was writing a biography of her. Yan told Chen about her story Tian yu before she wrote it, "and when I read it, it was astoundingly beautiful," Chen told SPLICEDwire interviewer Rob Blackwelder. "The way it was written was very visual, very sensual, and I could picture a poignantly beautiful film just by reading it." While in Berlin in 1996 to judge a film festival full of bleak, hopeless urban films, Chen began to write the screenplay. "I wanted to get out there to the Tibetan sky," she recalled to Blackwelder.
The film was made in Tibet, although this was very risky for Chen and her crew. The Chinese government did not approve of her script's critique of the government's actions during the Cultural Revolution, a period of intense repression, so the Chinese censorship office did not approve the script. Chen gambled that, since most of the film would be shot in a remote part of China, that the local officials would not know whether or not she was allowed to be filming in the country. Her gamble worked, but Chen still arranged to have each day's film smuggled out of China for safekeeping. When the film was finally released, Chen was fined a substantial sum by the Chinese government, but she paid the fine and plans on working in China again in the future.
Tian yu, more commonly known by the name of its protagonist, Xiu Xiu, is the story of a girl from the city who is "sent down" to Tibet to learn herding—sending middle-class men, women, and children from the cities out into the country to learn "honest" labor and show solidarity with the peasants was a common feature of the Cultural Revolution, and in fact Chen's parents were so sent down when she was a child. In her quest to return to the city, Xiu Xiu tries to trade her body to men who she thinks might be able to help her, but in the end it is to no avail. "Xiu Xiu is a gorgeously filmed, harrowing tale of a government's idealism gone wrong," Wena Poon wrote in Film Quarterly.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Cineaste, fall, 1999, Pauline Chen, review of Xiu Xiu:The Sent-Down Girl, p. 40.
Entertainment Weekly, May 14, 1999, Lisa Schwarzbaum, review of Xiu Xiu, p. 51.
Esquire, August, 2000, interview with Chen, p. 17.
Film Quarterly, spring, 2000, Wena Poon, review of Xiu Xiu, p. 49.
In Style, March 1, 1999, Alison Dakota Gee, interview with Chen, pp. 314.
Interview, August, 2000, Franz Lidz, interview with Chen, p. 81.
People, May 17, 1999, Leah Rozen, review of XiuXiu, p. 41.
South China Morning Post, May 3, 1999, "Joan Chen Reveals Mainland Work Ban."
Time, April 5, 1999, Isabella Ng and Steven Short, "Joan of Art," p. 60.
Time International, September 25, 2000, profile of Chen, p. 62.
Variety, March 2, 1998, Derek Elley, review of XiuXiu, p. 86.
Yomiuri Shimbun/Daily Yomiuri, October 28, 1999, Scarlet Cheng, "The Last Empress Places First."
AsiaSource,http://www.asiasource.org/ (June 1, 2003), interview with Chen.
Box Offıce Online,http://www.boxoff.com/ (June 1, 2003), Bridget Byrne, review of Xiu Xiu.
GoldSea Asian American Supersite,http://goldsea.com/ (June 1, 2003), Tom Kagy, interview with Chen.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (February 27, 2004), "Joan Chen."
Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (May 27, 1999), Michael Sragow, interview with Chen.
SPLICEDwire,http://www.splicedonline.com/ (June, 1999), Rob Blackwelder, interview with Chen.*