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Leslie Cheung

Actor/musician

Died when: 46 years 201 days (558 months)
Star Sign: Virgo

 

Leslie Cheung Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing (12 September 1956 – 1 April 2003) was a Hong Kong singer and actor. Throughout a 26-year career from 1977 until his death, Cheung released over 40 music albums and was cast in 56 films. He was one of the most prominent pioneers that shaped the identity of Cantopop during the 1980s and became known for his flamboyant, often outrageous stage appearance. His venture into acting in the 1990s was recognised for his portrayal of queer characters with actual personality in a then conservative film industry. His career was marked with both praise and criticism, with numerous public discussions focusing on his sexual ambiguity and androgynous persona. Born Cheung Fat-chung in British Hong Kong, Cheung studied abroad in England from the age of 12 until returning to Hong Kong in 1976 to pursue a career in show business. He achieved wide popularity with his 1984 self-titled album and its single "Monica", whose upbeat dance production introduced a new popular trend to Cantopop in addition to the contemporary pool of sentimental ballads. Cheung's continued success with a string of hit albums in the mid- and late-1980s, most notably 1987 best-seller Summer Romance, won him numerous awards, including Most Popular Male Artist at the 1988 and 1989 Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards. In addition to music, Cheung had breakthrough movie roles as a disillusioned teenager in Nomad (1982) and as a police officer torn between justice and brotherhood in A Better Tomorrow (1986). He announced his "retirement" from music and emigrated to Canada in 1989 in the wake of the political turmoil in mainland China, but remained active in his burgeoning acting career. Cheung achieved widespread recognition as an actor in the 1990s. He played a womaniser longing for the return of his estranged mother in Days of Being Wild (1990), which won him Best Actor at the 1991 Hong Kong Film Awards. His role as a homosexual Peking opera actor in Farewell My Concubine (1993) catapulted him to prominence in the western world. Cheung's reputation as a queer celebrity consolidated with his role in the 1997 drama Happy Together, a film explicitly depicting a homosexual male relationship. His comeback as a recording artist in the late 1990s, particularly with his 1996 album Red, was noted for sonic experimentation and extravagant, graphic imagery. He was awarded the Golden Needle Award, the highest distinction of the RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs Awards, in 1999. In 2000, he was honoured as "Asia's Biggest Superstar" at the CCTV/MTV Music Honours in mainland China. Cheung committed suicide by jumping off the 24th floor of the hotel Mandarin Oriental on 1 April 2003, having been diagnosed with severe clinical depression.
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