Chinese name張國榮 (traditional) AncestryMeizhou, Guangdong NameLeslie Cheung Height1.75 m ParentsPan Yuyao, Cheung Wut Hoi
Chinese name张国荣 (simplified) OriginHong Kong RoleSinger AlbumsMost Beloved
PinyinZhang Guorong (Mandarin) Jyutpingzoeng1 gwok3 wing4 (Cantonese) DiedApril 1, 2003, Central, Hong Kong MoviesFarewell My Concubine, Days of Being Wild, Happy Together, Ashes of Time, A Better Tomorrow Similar PeopleAnita Mui, Alan Tam, Tony Leung Chiu‑wai, Jacky Cheung, Sam Hui
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Leslie Cheung Kwok Wing (12 September 1956 – 1 April 2003) was a Hong Kong singer, actor and film-maker. He is considered as "one of the founding fathers of Cantopop" by "combining a hugely successful film and music career."
He rose to prominence as a teen heartthrob and pop icon of Hong Kong in the 1980s, receiving numerous music awards including both Most Popular Male Artist Awards at the 1988 and 1989 Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards. In 1989, Cheung announced his retirement from the music industry as a pop singer. Returning to the music scene after a five-year hiatus, Cheung released his chart-topping comeback album Most Beloved (寵愛) which achieved a huge market success. In 1999, he won the Golden Needle Award for his outstanding achievement as a musician at the RTHK Top 10 Gold Songs Awards, and his 1984 hit song Monica was voted as Hong Kong's "Song of the Century". He was honoured as "Asia's Biggest Superstar" at the 2000 CCTV-MTV Music Honours.
Cheung won the 1991 Hong Kong Film Award (Days of Being Wild) and the 1994 Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award (Ashes of Time) for best actor. He had also won the 1994 Japan Film Critics Society Award for best actor for his performance in Farewell My Concubine and ten other best actor nominations, five Golden Horse Awards, three Cannes Film Festival Awards, a Asia Pacific Film Festival Award, and a Venice Film Festival Award.
Cheung's music and movies not only captured fans in Hong Kong but also other Asian areas including Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Japan and South Korea. He is the first foreign artist to hold 16 concerts in Japan that has yet to be broken and the record holder as the best-selling C-pop artist in Korea.
Cheung was ranked as the favourite actor in the 100 years of Chinese cinema. In 2010, he was voted the third "Most Iconic Musicians of All Time" (after Michael Jackson and The Beatles). CNN considered Cheung as the "Most Beautiful Man from Hong Kong Cinema" and one of "Asia's 25 Greatest Actors of All Time."
Cheung committed suicide on April 1, 2003 by jumping off the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong. A suicide note left by Cheung stated that he had been suffering from depression.
Cheung was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong, the youngest of ten children in a middle-class Hakka family. Cheung Wut Hoi, his father, was a fairly well known tailor, whose customers included American actors William Holden, Marlon Brando, and Cary Grant. His parents divorced when he was quite young. While in Hong Kong, Cheung attended Rosaryhill School at Wanchai on Hong Kong Island. At age 12, he was sent to Norwich School in England. He worked as a bartender at his relatives' restaurant in Southend-on-Sea and sang during the weekends. It was around this period that he chose his name, Leslie. According to Cheung, he chose this name because "I love the film Gone with the Wind. And I like Leslie Howard."
In several interviews, Cheung stated he had had a fairly unhappy childhood. "I didn't have a happy childhood. Arguments, fights and we didn't live together; I was brought up by my granny." "What I would say most affected me as a child, was that my parents were not at home with me. As a young kid, one could not always understand why his parents weren't at home. This made me depressed sometimes."
He attended the University of Leeds where he studied textile management. He continued university at the end of his first year when his father fell ill. After his father's recovery, Cheung did not return to England to complete his studies.
He donated profits of the 1989 album Salute to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, which was named the Leslie Cheung Memorial Scholarship after his death.
With the popularity of Cheung and Tam, fans of these two stars became increasingly hostile to each other, starting a long-standing conflict that soon put heavy pressure on both singers. In 1988, Alan Tam publicly quit all pop music award ceremonies. In 1989, Cheung announced his intention to retire from his music career as a singer. Cheung then set a record by being the first singer ever in Cantopop history to hold a retirement concert series Final Encounter of the Legend, which ran for 33 consecutive nights (he was 33 at the time) at Hong Kong Coliseum.
The turning point in Cheung's acting career came in 1986 with his starring role in John Woo's A Better Tomorrow, which broke Hong Kong's box office record. In the following years Cheung was praised for his performances in films which found popularity with audiences worldwide, including A Chinese Ghost Story (1987), Rouge (1987) and Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991).
Although Cheung quit his career as a pop singer from 1989 to 1995, he continued his music career as a composer. He composed more than ten songs during that time. In 1993, he won Best Original Movie Song Award from Golden Horse Film Festival for the theme song Red Cheek, White Hair to the movie The Bride with White Hair (as a composer). In 1995, he composed all three theme songs for the film The Phantom Lover. As a composer, Cheung won four nominations for Best Original Movie Song Award at the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards and two nominations for Best Original Film Song at the Hong Kong Film Awards. In 1998, he was a member of the jury at the 48th Berlin International Film Festival.
In 1995 Cheung signed a contract with Rock Records, returning to music as a singer. At the same year, he released his first post-"retirement" album, Beloved. Beloved achieved large market success with the award of IFPI Best Selling Album.
Though Cheung had never publicly declared his sexual orientation, he once said in an interview with Time magazine: "It's more appropriate to say I'm bisexual. I've had girlfriends. When I was 22 or so, I asked my girlfriend Teresa Mo to marry me."
Cheung and Ngai Sze-Pui (倪詩蓓), a Hong Kong model and actress whom he met on the set of Agency 24, were in a relationship for two years.
In a 1997 concert, Cheung publicly revealed his relationship with Daffy Tong Hok-Tak, who remained his partner until Cheung's death.
Cheung was a supporter of several charities concerning children's welfare. He was a patron of the Children's Cancer Foundation, a charity provides caring service for young children with cancer and their families. Cheung donated HK$1 million (US$128,000) in 1996 and launched five sets of RED cards to help raise funds for the Children's Cancer Foundation. He was also a patron of the End Child Sexual Abuse Foundation (ECSAF), founded by veteran actress Josephine Siao. In 1999 and 2000, he appeared in TVB charity shows to help raise funds for ECSAF, in which he was appointed a goodwill ambassador in 2002.
He moved to Vancouver in 1990 and became a Canadian citizen by naturalisation. He held Canadian citizenship.
Death and legacy
Cheung committed suicide on 1 April 2003 at 6:43 pm (HKT). He leapt from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, located in the Central district of Hong Kong Island. He left a suicide note saying that he had been suffering from depression. He was 46 years old.
As one of the most popular performers in Asia, Cheung's death broke the hearts of millions of his fans across Asia and shocked the Asian entertainment industry and Chinese community worldwide. The day after Cheung's death, his family confirmed that Cheung suffered from clinical depression and had been seeing psychiatrists for treatment for almost a year. They also revealed that Cheung had previously attempted suicide in 2002. Later at his funeral, Cheung's niece disclosed that her uncle had severe clinical depression and suffered much over the past year (2003).
Despite the risk of infection from SARS and the WHO's warning on traveling to Hong Kong, tens of thousands attended Cheung's memorial service, which was held for the public, on 7 April 2003, including celebrities and other fans, many from other parts of the world such as mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States, and Canada. Cheung's funeral was on 8 April 2003. For almost a month, Cheung's death dominated newspaper headlines in Hong Kong and his songs were constantly on the air. His final album, Everything Follows the Wind (一切隨風), was released three months after his death.
Cheung's suicide note (translation):
"Depression! Many thanks to all my friends. Many thanks to Professor Felice Lieh-Mak (Cheung's last psychiatrist). This year has been so tough. I can't stand it anymore. Many thanks to Mr. Tong. Many thanks to my family. Many thanks to Sister Fei. In my life I have done nothing bad. Why does it have to be like this?"
In a 2012 interview, Cheung's eldest sister, Ophelia, stated Cheung was diagnosed with clinical depression caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. She said that reporters were frequently found outside of her brother's home which hampered his ability to get to his doctor's facility. Thus, he would come over to her house to consult with his doctor. He would ask his sister, "Why am I depressed? I have money and so many people love me." He was reluctant to take medication for his depression.
In 2013, Cheung's former music agent Florence Chan organised two memorial concerts entitled "Miss You Much Leslie" on 31 March and 1 April for the 10th anniversary of Cheung's death. Big names of the Hong Kong entertainment industry such as Jacky Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Andy Hui, Leo Ku, Chilam Cheung, Vivian Chow, Kelly Chen, Joey Yung, Grasshoppers, and others performed at the concert at Hong Kong Coliseum. In addition, in 2013, Cheung's fans from around the world made 2 million orizuru cranes for the Guinness World Record as a tribute to the anniversary.