Tiana starred opposite actors Robert Duvall, James Caan and Rod Steiger in feature films such as Sam Peckinpah’s The Killer Elite, and Catch The Heat. She also starred in the made-for-television features Pearl and Fly Away Home, written by her late husband Stirling Silliphant. Tiana was Associate Producer on David Cronenberg’s 2011 feature film A Dangerous Method.
Tiana Alexandra (Thi Thanh Nga) was born in Saigon, Vietnam in 1956. Her father Dư Phước Long, was a South Vietnamese politician, serving as Director of Press in Saigon and Cultural Attaché in Washington D.C. for the U.S. allied administration of President Ngô Đình Diệm.
Tiana’s father moved the family to Fairfax, Virginia in 1966 after the assassination of President Diệm. He worked at the South Vietnamese Embassy in Washington D.C., and pursued studies at Georgetown University’s Diplomatic School and Johns Hopkins University’s Graduate School of Advanced International Studies. He adopted the name Patrick Du Long and became a scriptwriter and newscaster for the Voice of America. He authored a book entitled The Dream Shattered: Vietnamese Gangs in America, and was a candidate for the California State Assembly in 1998.
While attending Fairfax High School in Virginia, Tiana honed her interest in both the performing and martial arts. At Master Jhoon Rhee’s Nationals Tournament in Washington D.C., Tiana met Bruce Lee and became his protege. Bruce Lee introduced Tiana to his martial arts student, and close friend, Hollywood writer Stirling Silliphant. Silliphant had written Bruce Lee into numerous TV shows, including Longstreet, which he adapted for Lee from Raymond Chandler’s movie Marlowe. Silliphant had also written most of the episodes for the acclaimed television series Route 66, and won an Oscar for Best Screenplay on the feature film In the Heat of the Night.
Tiana and Stirling Silliphant were married in a ceremony at Chasen’s Restaurant in West Hollywood on July 4, 1974. As reported by CBS News, the celebrity event included Robert Wagner, Natalie Wood, William Holden and Henry Mancini.
Silliphant's popular blockbuster films, The Poseidon Adventure, and The Towering Inferno, coupled with his newlywed status with Tiana, led to their joint appearances on television talk and game shows such as The Mike Douglas Show, The Reed Ferrell Show and Tattletales during the mid-seventies.
Tiana made her film debut in Sam Peckinpah's martial-arts thriller The Killer Elite with Robert Duvall and James Caan. She was the first Vietnamese-Americans to join the Screen Actors Guild.
In 1978, Tiana starred with Angie Dickenson, Robert Wagner and Dennis Weaver as Holly Nagata in the ABC mini-series Pearl, which dramatized the events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In 1981, Tiana starred with Bruce Boxleitner and Brian Dennehy as Mai, a Vietnamese medic in the Warner Bros. made-for-television feature film Fly Away Home. The film critically examined the entanglement of politics and human suffering on the ground during the Vietnam War.
As an Asian actress breaking through racial stereotypes, Tiana was invited to speak out on the realities of Hollywood typecasting at venues such as the Philippine Film Festival, where she appeared with Robert Duvall in the Symposium on Film Acting.
1987 saw Tiana starring as reporter Jan Du Long in an Aaron Spelling produced made-for-TV movie entitled The Three Kings. That same year she starred opposite Rod Steiger as Checkers Goldberg in the Kung Fu feature sendup, Catch The Heat.
With her martial arts finesse at top form in 1986, Tiana produced a fitness program called Karatecize, combining elements of dance, combat art and original pop music. Martial arts champion Eric Lee collaborated with Tiana on the self-defense segments of the show.
Between 1983 and 1985, Tiana was managed by Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones and created numerous pop songs and music videos for radio and MTV. Her Dumped On, Lust In The Jungle, and Free As I Want To Be music videos were shot on location in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Yugoslavia and Los Angeles.
Tiana’s music video Bruce Lee – Feel The Heat was recently revamped in congruence with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 40th Anniversary Celebration of Bruce Lee’s breakout film, Enter The Dragon.
In 1988, Tiana began pre-production on her first film, From Hollywood to Hanoi. Written, produced and directed by Tiana – and executive produced by Oliver Stone – From Hollywood to Hanoi was the first American film shot on location in Vietnam.
From Hollywood To Hanoi went into theatrical release in 1995, and broadcast on the HBO Cinemax “Vanguard Cinema” series. It was well received by critics: Kevin Thomas of the LA Times lauded it as “moving and engrossing”, and Vincent Canby of The New York Times hailed it as “an intense, personal, supremely self-confident feature.”
The film was named “Best of the Fest” at Telluride Film Festival, and was nominated for “Best Non-Fiction Film” at Sundance International Festival, where it was presented by Michael Moore. The film was also screened on Capitol Hill to help lift the trade embargo by then Senator John Kerry.
Tiana was invited to participate in the International Women's Day with Betty Friedan, Stevie Wonder and Barbara Trent. Tiana made feature guest appearances to talk about her film on The Today Show with Bryant Gumbel, The PBS News Hour with Charlayne Hunter Gault, and The KTLA Morning News with Regis Philbin.
During three years of filming in Vietnam, Tiana interviewed several former enemies of the U.S., who occupied high seats of power. They included Phạm Văn Đồng, and Lê Đức Thọ, a politician and diplomat who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize along with United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973. Lê Đức Thọ declined the award.
Tiana also conducted interviews with General Võ Nguyên Giáp, the man Ho Chi Minh appointed to lead the North Vietnamese Army, which was victorious over the French and the Americans in the Indochina and Vietnam Wars. She was the first Westerner to interview Giáp after the Vietnam War, and returned to interview him several times, along with his wife, Co Ha, and their children over the next 25 years.
The aftermath of the war and trade embargoes left Vietnam the fifth poorest country in the world. Despite travel restrictions and her father’s admonitions not to go, Tiana returned to Vietnam with film crews to shoot From Hollywood to Hanoi, and a series of follow up films.
Tiana co-founded the Indochina Film Arts Foundation with Oliver Stone in 1993 to organize cooperative projects in the fine arts, theater, film, educational workshops, lectures and radio broadcast. Projects were presented at the Viet Nam Cinema Dept. & Filmmakers Association in Hanoi, the Asian American Film Festivals in New York City and Los Angeles, the Cinéma Festival du Réel at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Directors Guild of America in Hollywood, and the Washington Project for the Arts in Washington DC. Tiana has been a featured radio guest on NPR’s Fresh Air Program with Terry Gross, as well as the Pacifica Network stations WBAI FM in New York, KFAI FM in Minneapolis and KPFK FM in Los Angeles.
Tiana has lectured at Bennington College, Bryn Mawr College, Harvard University, Columbia University, Notre Dame University, University of Southern California, Berkeley, University of California, Santa Barbara and Stanford University. She was a panelist in the "My Lai 25 Years After" conference at Tulane University. Tiana was also appointed Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Film Studies at Dartmouth college in 1993.
From 1998 to the present, the Indochina Film Arts Foundation has conducted ongoing production workshops to advance the skills of aspiring Vietnamese filmmakers. Current operations are based at Riva Studios in Ho Chi Minh City, and Hanoi Cinematique.
In 2013, Indochina Film Arts Foundation began doing business as Film Arts Foundation.
In 2000, Tiana explored the Plain of Jars region of Laos to document the effects of carpet-bombing and unexploded ordnance on local populations. Her Bomb Art Project collected scraps of ordnance for artists to fashion into sculpture. The Bomb Art Project and Bombs Away mini-documentary were publicly presented at the Bergamot Station Art Center in Los Angeles.
Tiana also documented the 30th Anniversary Reunion of Associated Press War Photographers in Ho Chi Minh City in 2005. Her documentary, Requiem, featured Pulitzer Prize–winning journalists and photojournalists Peter Arnett, and Nick Ut, as well as the local Vietnamese youth culture that had moved on from the war.
In 2007, Tiana went on world tour with Oscar and Tony winning author Christopher Hampton to help manage and promote his work on the feature film Atonement. Hampton was subsequently nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay) on the film.
A Tony Award Celebration was organized by Tiana in 2009 in conjunction with the successful run of Yazmina Reza’s Broadway play God of Carnage. The event celebrated the play’s seven Tony nominations and three wins, and honored author Christopher Hampton’s 50 plays and screenplays. James Gandolfini, Marcia Gay Harden, Philip Glass and Phillip Noyce participated in the short documentary that Tiana created from the event.
In 2009 Tiana filmed an odyssey to find the spirit of Michael Jackson in Beverly Hills and Viet Nam, with Le Ly Hayslip - the author and subject of Oliver Stone’s feature film Heaven and Earth. Le Ly and Tiana visited the site of Jackson’s death and documented the throngs of impersonators carrying on his legacy in both the U.S. and Vietnam.
As co-owner of Christopher Hampton’s stage play The Talking Cure, Tiana was instrumental in developing the project into a feature film directed by David Cronenberg. The film, retitled A Dangerous Method, starred Michael Fassbender as Swiss psychotherapist Carl Jung, and Keira Knightley as his patient and mistress. Tiana is credited as Associate Producer on the 2011 release.
In 2012, Tiana and Christopher Hampton formed Hampton Silliphant Management & Productions, which presented the play Appomattox at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The play concerns itself with historic events in America, 100 years apart in time: the historic meeting between Generals Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee in 1865, and the 1965 shooting of a Baptist church deacon during a peaceful civil rights protest in Alabama.
Upon hearing of General Võ Nguyên Giáp’s death at age 102, in 2013, Tiana returned to Hanoi to conclude final shooting on her feature documentary The General & Me.As actress
1975: The Killer Elite (alternative title: The agents elite)
1978: Pearl (alternative title: Pearl Harbor)
1981: Fly Away Home
1987: Catch the Heat (video title in the Federal Republic of Germany: Fire Game)
1987: The Three Kings
1992: From Hollywood to Hanoi
2015: The General and Me
1992: From Hollywood to Hanoi
2011: A Dangerous Method
Other performances (e.g. herself)
1992: From Hollywood to Hanoi
1993: Nominated for the "Grand Jury Prize" in the Category: Documentary ( Documentary) the Sundance Film Festival for the film From Hollywood to Hanoi