According to news reports today, renowned actor and singer Leslie (Kwok Wing) Cheung died today, the result of a fall from the 24th floor of a hotel building. A suicide note was found on his body.
Mr. Cheung was born on September 12th, 1956, in Hong Kong, the youngest of 10 children. His father, a tailor to the late William Holden (The Wild Bunch, Sabrina), and his mother divorced early in his childhood and according to his account, this led to his decision never to marry (more on that later).
After completing secondary school, Mr. Cheung went on to study at Leeds University in the UK. Once his studies there were done, he returned to Hong Kong and entered the ATV Asian Music Contest where he won second prize. From that platform, he moved into the music full-time and became a popular singer of simple pop tunes, with the release of The Wind Blows On in 1981 being his most successful recording. This led to other successes in television and movies but mostly simple cookie-cutter stuff.
In 1986, Mr. Cheung was cast as the young policeman, Kit, in the John Woo directed gangster film, A Better Tomorrow. The movie proved to be a huge success for everyone, reviving the careers of Chow Yun Fat, Ti Lung, and Mr. Cheung, and becoming one of the top money earners ever in Hong Kong box office history.
In 1988, Mr. Cheung followed up with the sequel to A Better Tomorrow and the Stanley Kwan directed Rouge. The latter film became one of the most acclaimed films ever to come out of Hong Kong and earned him a reputation as a charming romantic leading man.
Throughout the early 90s, Mr. Cheung continued working with many of the leading directors in the Hong Kong film industry. Successes included John Woo's Once a Thief (1990), Wong Kar-Wai's Days of Being Wild (1991), Tsui Hark's The Bride With White Hair (1993), and Chen Kaige's Farewell, My Concubine (1993).
It was Mr. Cheung's turn in Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together (1997) that proved to be his most memorable role. Playing one half of a gay couple, Mr. Cheung proved to audiences that he wasn't afraid to take on risky roles. And risky it was - the role meant performing in some pretty explicit sex scenes. Most Chinese actors at the time wouldn't dare to take on such a role as homosexuality was still relatively taboo.
The role resulted in a Golden Horse Award nomination for Best Actor. However, as acclaimed as his performance was throughout the world, Mr. Cheung became dogged by persistent rumours in the Hong Kong tabloid press that he was gay in real life, which he continually denied. His flamboyant tastes in clothing while in public and on stage (which wasn't and still isn't all that unusual since most entertainers there do the same) and the fact that he kept his love life very private only fuelled those rumours further.
In 1997, during a concert performance, Mr. Cheung publicly came out of the closet by declaring to the audience that apart from his mother, the only other person that "I love is Tong Tong", referring to Mr. Tong Hok-Yau, a banker. Apparently, the two of them had a relationship that dated back to 1985 and was kept relatively secret for 15 years.
In 2002, he was again nominated for Best Actor (Golden Horse Award) for his turn as a psychiatrist in the horror film, Inner Senses. Throughout the filming of the movie, tabloid presses reported that Mr. Cheung would suffer from severe depression and didn't even show up at promotion junkets prior to the movie's release. Same tabloids also reported that Mr. Cheung became heavily addicted to cocaine and heroin. Further to that, they also reported that he had broken up with Mr. Tong.
God only knows what was in Gor-Gor's mind. May he rest in peace.