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July 26, 2009

Leslie Cheung(September 12, 1956 – April 1, 2003), nicknamed elder brother (哥哥), was an actor and musician from Hong Kong. Cheung was considered as "One of the founding fathers of Cantopop," and "combining a hugely successful film and music career".
In 2000, Cheung was named Asian Biggest Superstar by China Central Television, and voted as The Most Favorite Actor in 100 Years of Chinese Cinema in 2005.

Early career
In 1977, Cheung won second prize by singing Don McLean's "American Pie" at the Asian Music Contest held by Rediffusion Television (RTV). He signed a contract with RTV, which subsequently became Asia Television Limited (ATV) and began his career in the entertainment industry. He also signed a music contract with Polydor Records, releasing Day Dreaming (1977) and Lover's Arrow (1979).

The early days of his career were not easy. He was once booed off the stage during a public performance, and his first two albums were not welcomed by the public. He left Polydor Records at the end of his contract. Cheung's first film, The Erotic Dream of the Red Chamber (红楼春上春) in 1978 was a soft porn film. Cheung later stated that he was unaware of the sexual nature of the film when he signed the contract.

During the 1970s and 1980s, he appeared in a number of TV dramas such as The Young Concubine (我家的女人), Agency 24 (甜甜廿四味), Pairing (对对糊), and The Spirit Of The Sword (浣花洗剑录). These TV dramas helped turn him into a household name in South East Asia.

Ascension to fime
In 1982, Cheung joined Capital Artists upon the end of his contract with RTV. It was at Capital Artists that Florence Chan became his music agent and remained as such through his entire career. While at Capital Artists, he also met Anita Mui, another Hong Kong Cantopop idol, starting a long lasting friendship. In 1983, Cheung released his first hit song, "The Wind Blows On" (风继续吹). In 1984, he released his first top ten hit song "Monica", which became the first so-called "fast" song that won the RTHK Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs Award. "Monica" became representative of a new genre of Hong Kong music in the mid 1980s. Fans began to demand fast and energetic Cantopop songs that would be suitable for both dancing and listening. Other Top Ten Gold Songs released by Cheung through Capital Artists included "Wild Wind" (不羁的风) (album, For Your Love Only, 1985); "Who Can Be With Me" (有谁共鸣) (album, Leslie Cheung: Allure Me, 1986) and "Love in Those Years" (当年情) (theme song for A Better Tomorrow, album Leslie Cheung: Allure Me, 1986). "Who Can Be With Me" became the Gold of the Gold Songs (Best Song) of the Year for 1986.

Cheung's movie career was a little slower to take off. He appeared in supporting roles in his second and third movies Encore (1980) and On Trial (1981). However, his acting talent was soon recognized with his nomination for the Hong Kong Film Awards' Best Supporting Actor for his role in On Trial. Subsequently after this nomination, he began to star as the leading man in Teenage Dreamers (1982) and has held the lead role in almost every movie he had been in since. From the early 1980s through 1986, most of the movies in which he had starred were teenage movies. Among them, Nomad (1982, directed by Patrick Tam Kar-ming) are widely considered by film critic as the representation of the Hong Kong "New Wave" films. Cheung's role as Louis in Nomad won him his first Best Actor nomination of the Hong Kong Film Awards. Later, Cheung stated that he considers Nomad as his first "real" movie. During this period, Cheung continued to act in a number of Television Broadcasts (TVB) dramas, such as Once Upon an Ordinary Girl (侬本多情) and The Fallen Family (武林世家).

Stardom and retirement
Leslie Cheung in the Final Encounter of the Legend concert, 1989
In 1986, he joined Cinepoly Records Hong Kong and released the album Summer Romance in 1987. Summer Romance became the Best Selling CD of the Year and IFPI Best Selling Album in Hong Kong. The success of Summer Romance made him one of the top two Cantopop idols at the time (the other was Alan Tam). In 1988, he composed one of his most famous songs "Silence is Golden" (沉默是金). Other popular albums published by Cheung through Cinepoly Records included Hot Summer (1988), Virgin Snow (1988), Leslie '89 (Side face, IFPI Best Album of the Year, 1989), Final Encounter (1989), and Salute (1990). Salute was the first non-profit album released by a superstar in Hong Kong music history that would only compile songs originally performed by other singers. According to Cheung, Salute is his homage to music. He donated all the proceeds from the sales of Salute to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (香港演艺学院), 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. In 1990, he left Hong Kong at the peak of his music career and emigrated to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where he reportedly "found peace and tranquility." Cheung gained Canadian citizenship in 1992 and returned to Asia full-time in 1995 for his re-emergence in Chinese-language popular music.

From 1986 to 1989, Cheung acted in a number of movies that are considered as Hong Kong classics by film critics and Asian movie fans. In 1986, Cheung co-starred with Chow Yun-Fat in A Better Tomorrow (directed by John Woo), which was widely considered as a trend starter for Hong Kong triad movies in the 1980s. Cheung played Kit, a righteous and idealistic young cop. Cheung's role in the movie was widely considered his debut as a serious actor. He also starred in the sequel, A Better Tomorrow II (1987). Also in 1987, Cheung starred in Stanley Kwan's Rouge where he played Chen-Pang Chan, an infatuated, opium-smoking playboy and doomed lover of a beautiful prostitute, Fleur (played by Anita Mui). Further, in the same year (1987), he appeared in Tsui Hark's A Chinese Ghost Story (directed by Ching Siu-tung). Cheung played Ling Choi Sin, a well-meaning but cowardly debt collector who had fallen in love with a beautiful ghost (played by Joey Wong). His performance in these movies won him two Best Actor nomination from Hong Kong Film Awards. The success of A Better Tomorrow and A Chinese Ghost Story made his name known in the Japanese and South Korea film markets.

Golden age in film
Leslie Cheung in the movie Days of Being Wild, 1990
The mid-80s to mid-90s was a golden age in Hong Kong's film industry, which coincided with Cheung's film career. In 1990, Cheung acted as Yuddy, a handsome, ruthless bad boy, philanderer and narcissist in Wong Kar-wai's movie Days of Being Wild. His performance in Days of Being Wild won him the Best Actor Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards in 1991 and his first nomination of Best Actor at the Golden Horse Film Festival (Taiwan). He also acted in two other Wong Kar-wai movies. In the 1994 martial arts film, Ashes of Time, he starred as Ouyang Feng, a swordsman and assassin who spent his days in a desert. His role as Ouyang won him the Best Actor Award at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. In 1997's movie Happy Together which centrally depicts a complex relationship between two gay lovers (although Wong insists that it isn't essentially a "gay" film), he played the capricious Ho Po-wing, who goes to Argentina with his lover Lai Yiu-fai (played by Tony Leung Chiu-wai).

In 1992's historical masterpiece Farewell My Concubine (directed by Chen Kaige), Cheung acted as the Peking opera star Dieyi Cheng, a Beijing opera artist who reaches fame with his exquisite performances of female roles. Farewell My Concubine is the first Chinese film to have won the Golden Palm award at the Cannes Film Festival. It also won more than twenty other film awards including a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film and Oscar nominations for Best Foreign Film and Best Cinematography. Cheung's performance in the film won him international fame as a film star and set his steps in the mainland China film industry. In 1996, he worked again with Chen Kaige, playing the role of a misty gigolo, Zhongliang Yu, in Temptress Moon. In 1998's A Time to Remember (directed by Yip Ying), he acted as Jin, an underground Chinese Communist leader. His Hong Kong background caused a heated debate at the time, but the film still achieved Box Office success in mainland China and in 2004 won a "Most Popular Foreign Film" Award at the Pyongyang Film Festival.

Other important movies Cheung starred in during this period include The Bride with White Hair (with Brigitte Lin, 1993), He's a Woman, She's a Man (with Anita Yuen, 1994), The Phantom Lover (1995), and Viva Erotica (with Shu Ki, 1996). His performance in these movies won him three Best Actor Award nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards and three Best Actor Award nominations at the Golden Horse Film Festival from 1990 to 1998.

As a versatile actor, Cheung also acted in many comedies. In 1991, teamed again with Chow Yun-Fat and Cherie Chung, Cheung played a skillful and charming thief in John Woo's Once A Thief. In 1992's All's Well, Ends Well, he acted as an effeminate brother who would later realize the meaning of true love. Other well-known comedies included The Eagle Shooting Heroes, It's a Wonderful Life, and The Chinese Feast. Cheung was also a box office attraction in Hong Kong; from 1990 to 1998, 13 out of 39 movies in which he starred were listed as yearly top ten box office movies.

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.

Return to music
Album Red, 1996
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[25] [26], but it did not receive much acclaim from music critics as it is a collection of Cheung's movie theme songs from 1993 to 1995. In 1996, Cheung released possibly his most highly acclaimed album, Red. Red was a fusion album, mixing smooth jazz, R&B, trip hop, etc., into Cantopop, forming a consistent unique style. Cheung worked since then on cutting-edge music as well as Cantopop, his new music style being markedly different from before his earlier retirement. In this album, Cheung also composed another important song in his music career, Red. In 1998, Cheung released his first album in Mandarin (and also the only one originally in the language), Printemps.

In 1997, Cheung held his first post-retirement concert series: World Tour 97, which lasted from Dec. 12, 1996 to June 17, 1997. Like with the refinements to his musical style, Cheung introduced a new image to his audience. The most daring part possibly was the closing dance "Red" where Cheung did a tango duet in a pair of red high-heels with a macho dancer. World Tour 97 included 55 concerts: 24 concerts were held in Hong Kong Coliseum and 31 concerts were held in the cities around the world. Among them, six concerts were held in Japan and mainland China respectively. World Tour 97 was the first concert series that Cheung held in these two areas.

In 1999, Cheung started a music company, Apex Music, signing a distribution contract with Universal Music Group(UMG). Important albums released via UMG includes Count Down With You (1999), Big Heat (2000), and Untitled (2000). The hit songs released by him during this period include Passing-by Dragonfly, the top one hit song, Big Heat, and Left Right Hands, Top Ten Gold Song of the Year (1999). He also composed the song I (first released in album Big Heat), which was considered by him as a song of self-statement. In 2000, Cheung was awarded the Golden Needle award (lifetime achievement award in Cantopop music). In the same year, Cheung had been assigned as the "Music Ambassador" of Composors And Authors Society of Hong Kong (CASH) until his death. Cheung also composed the theme song Noah's Ark, for the CASH Golden Sail Award.

The later years
Leslie Cheung in Passion Tour, 2001
In 2000, Cheung held his last concert series, Passion Tour. Passion Tour included 43 concerts, lasting from July 31, 2000 to April 16, 2001. It was his most disputable, and possibly best concert. Cheung worked at the first time as the art director as well as the singer for the concert. He invited Jean-Paul Gaultier to design all eight costumes for the concert. However, the costumes, together with his long wig and beard, were criticized bitterly by Hong Kong media at the early stage of the concerts. Cheung later disclosed that Gaultier was very angry about the criticism and claimed in an email (sent to Cheung) that he would never design costumes again for any Asian performer. Despite the early criticisms from the media, Passion Tour achieved huge success. Passion Tour was highly welcomed in Japan and made Cheung hold 10 concerts there. Together with World Tour 97 concerts, Cheung set a record of foreign artists of holding 16 concerts in Japan. In China, Cheung set a record yet to be broken by holding two consecutive night concerts in Shanghai Stadium (capacity of 80,000). He was also awarded the "Grand Salute Award" (2000) by Mingpao Weekly (Hong Kong) and "Music Salute Award" (2000) from Chinese Pop Music Media Association (mainland China) for his work in Passion Tour.

By the end of the 1990s, Cheung had began to focus on acting in non-romance roles. In The Kid (1999, directed by Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung), he starred as a poor single father who fostered an abandoned baby boy. In the action thriller Double Tap (2000, directed by Lo Chi Leung), he played a psycho killer, Rick. In the 2002 psycho thriller Inner Senses (directed by Lo Chi Leung), he played psychologist Dr. Law, who discovered his own emotional issues when he tried to treat his patient Yan (Kar Yan Lam). His performance in these films earned him another Best Actor nomination from the Hong Kong Film Awards. He also garnered another two Best Actor Award nominations from Taiwan Film Festival. During this period, Cheung began to try his hand at film direction. In 2000, he directed his first movie, the 45 minutes From Ashes to Ashes. In 2002, he began to film his first regular length movie Stealing Heart. The film was not completed due to the deterioration of his health.

Sexual orientation
Cheung was bisexual and once said in an interview in 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 (his colleague in ATV of the time) to marry me."

Despite numerous tabloid rumors, he denied his homosexual/bi-sexual orientation for the first half of his career, until his stance relaxed considerably after emigrating to Vancouver. In the early 1990s he became one of the few Hong Kong actors who dared to play gay characters onscreen.

Cheung's first gay role was Cheng Dieyi in Farewell My Concubine (1993). Cheng Dieyi was a Beijing opera singer or Dan (male actor who plays female roles) who had fallen in love with his male singing partner. In Wong Kar-wai's Happy Together (1997), Cheung played another gay role, Ho Po-wing. Happy Together contained graphic sex scenes. He was nominated for the Best Actor Award at the Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Film Awards for his role in Happy Together.

In 1995 a Hong Kong tabloid published a photo of Cheung with another man, Daffy Tong Hok-Tak (唐鹤德). In a 1997 concert, Cheung openly revealed that Tong was his "most beloved" after his mother. The Hong Kong media eventually accepted the two men's relationship and the tabloid gave Tong the nickname Tong Tong (in the style of Go Go). After Cheung's death, Cheung's family published a full-page obituary in a Hong Kong newspaper, in which Tong was listed as a surviving spouse (未亡人). Tong, together with Cheung's eldest sister, was also designated as the executor of Cheung's estate.

Death
Leslie Cheung's funeral car (upper) and memorial service (lower)
Cheung committed suicide on April 1, 2003. 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 shocked the Asian entertainment industry and Chinese community world-wide.Rumors about the cause of his death spread so fast that his family urged tabloids to let Cheung rest in peace, and not to sensationalize his sexual orientation and reasons for suicide. The day after Leslie's death, his long time partner, Tong, confirmed that Cheung suffered from (clinical) depression and had been seeing psychiatrists for treatment for almost a year. He also revealed that Cheung had 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 travels to Hong Kong, tens of thousands, including celebrities and other fans, many from other parts of the world such as mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Southeast Asia, the United States and Canada attended Cheung's memorial service, which was held for the public, on April 7, 2003. Cheung's funeral was on April 8, 2003. For almost one month, Cheung's death dominated newspaper headlines in Hong Kong and his songs were constantly on the air.

Cheung's last album Everything Follows the Wind (一切随风) 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, 麦列菲菲). 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 Fei-Fei (Lydia Shum Din-ha). In my life I did nothing bad. Why does it have to be like this?"
    * Cheung's suicide note (Chinese): "Depression! 多谢各位朋友,多谢麦列菲菲教授,这一年很辛苦,不能再忍受, 多谢唐先生,多谢家人,多谢肥姐. 我一生没做坏事 为何这样?"

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