NOV 13, 2015

The Homecoming of Transpacific Star Daniel Wu

privy interview   |   By Bonnie He

Occupation: Actor, Producer, Director

Based in: Hong Kong, California

Last Education: University of Oregon


Daniel Wu chanced upon the Hollywood Dream overseas.

Born and raised in Northern California, Chinese American Wu originally went to Hong Kong in 1997 to witness the British handover back to China - and ended up having a successful film career in Asia for two decades. His foray into the industry was completely accidental. Wu was literally discovered, with no prior acting or Cantonese-language experience (he graduated with an architecture degree and grew up speaking Mandarin and Shanghainese), and thrust headlong into his first movie, “Bishonen,” as the lead.

From that inaugural film, Wu hasn’t stopped working, steadily becoming a megastar in the Hong Kong film industry, and to date has completed 60-something projects. He’s also garnered quite a few acting award wins and nominations from the Hong Kong Film Awards, the Golden Rooster Awards and the Golden Horse Film Festival.

In addition, the multifaceted Wu won “Best New Director” at both the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Chinese Film Media Awards for his mockumentary, “The Heavenly Kings.” His 2006 directorial debut was brilliantly controversial: to comment on the Hong Kong pop music industry, Wu and three friends created a fake boy band called Alive the year before, and documented their rise to fame. Wu and friends were deeply committed to the facade; no one knew Alive was a made-up construct for the sole purpose of filming “The Heavenly Kings,” until the movie’s premier.

And with that same level of artistic dedication, Wu now paves his own journey to the West, as the executive producer and star of the hotly new anticipated AMC show, “Into the Badlands.” Wu plays Sunny, the fiercest warrior in a post-apocalyptic land, lending his superb wushu abilities to the role. This will mark a rare instance of an Asian American male starring in a major American cable network series, in a drama, with a love interest...leading the pack.

Privy members look forward to Daniel Wu’s homecoming.





We were told that you have an extremely refined palate. Several years ago, at Privy CEO Stephen Liu’s home, you were able to correctly identify 5 out of 5 whiskeys in a blind taste test. How did you cultivate this ability?


I am not sure how actually! I am probably more of a foodie than a drinker and I have always tried to figure what are the flavors of the foods that I am tasting.




How did you become involved with “Into the Badlands”?


I started off as only one of the executive producers. My job was to put together the martial arts side of the project. I brought on my producing partner and good friend Stephen Fung who eventually became the action director and we also brought on Master Dee Dee who did the amazing choreography. It wasn't until we started casting for Sunny, the main character, that it was difficult to find what we were looking for: an Asian face that could fight and act equally as well. When we started to have trouble the rest of the producers turned and looked at me and said you have to do this!





You will be an Asian American male lead on one of the hottest TV networks right now. How do you hope your role as Sunny will affect the perceptions of Asian American males in America?


We'll have to see once the show comes out. I mean we are springboarding off some stereotypes that the Asian guy knows Kung Fu, but I think in the past we have only seen non-native English speakers as kung fu men - so maybe we are changing something there. The character, Sunny, does have a girl and he is sexualized, which is different than the asexual males you've seen in the past. So I think we are taking small steps at changing perceptions. If the show is a big hit, then the impact will be even larger.




You’re not only a creative, you have a very good sense of entrepreneurship. You founded and for a number of years ran Revolution Talent Management. What’s up next for you on the business side?  


I think after having my daughter, I've cooled my ambitions a bit because I simply would rather be at home with my family than going out there and working out business deals. I think whatever it is business-wise, it will be entertainment-related for sure, just to keep things focused.




You graduated with an architecture degree. Did you do anything with it before exploding onto the Asian film scene?


I had worked several internships while in school and that's how I knew the profession wasn't for me. I designed my sister's house in Hong Kong just before I starting acting and have done all my offices and homes since. It's more a hobby now.




You are a product of Western-educated Shanghainese parents, were born and raised in Northern California, built a life and career in Hong Kong, and have come back to the States for “Into the Badlands.” How do you split your time between the U.S. and Asia now?


I go where the work takes me. Right now I'm in Hong Kong working on a Ringo Lam film then I'll be back Stateside to work on Season 2 of “Into The Badlands.”




You own property in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. What’s next for you in investments?


The market is going through big adjustments in Asia so I'm just sitting back and waiting a bit.




When you’re in Hong Kong, what are your top 5 restaurants?


1.  Hee Kee Fried Crab Expert

2.  Kau Kee Beef Brisket Noodles

3.  China Club

4.  City Hall Maxim’s Palace

5.  Any Dai Pai Dong (Open-Air Food Stall)





What do you like about Privy and the promise it offers?


It's a very cool way to network with like-minded and similarly cultured individuals.





Onto the Fun Stuff!


1. Your last meal on Earth would be: Probably a completely Shanghainese feast.

2. Home away from home: My wife and I have a cabin/hut in South Africa that we have been going to for over 10 years now to unplug and escape.

3. Dream vacation: South America.

4. Essential wardrobe item: Jeans and sneakers.

5. Essential gadget: My smartphone and my Gerber multi-function tool.

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