By Natalie Rodgers
Celebrating its 80th year, the Venice Film Festival has been one of the first to showcase some of the greatest and most poignant films throughout history. As the oldest running film festival in the world, the annual event excels in honoring individuals in the film industry who have made a difference and excelled in their craft.
This last year, Hong Kong actor and singer Tony Leung Chiu-wai, best known as Tony Leung, won the festival’s most coveted prize, the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Award. He is the first Chinese actor to be recognized with the honor.
Often referred to as one of Asia’s most successful and internationally recognized actors, Leung has done more than make his mark in films all over the world. Starring and working with studios based in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Germany, France, the United States and throughout China, Leung made a name for himself mostly in romance and action genre films.
He is best known for starring in international collaborative films with director Wong Kar-wai, such as In the Mood for Love and The Grandmaster. Leung has also appeared in previous Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winners, including Lust, Caution and A City of Sadness.
In the United States, Leung is currently best known for portraying one of the leading roles, Xu Wenwu, in Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings. Leung’s impact in the industry has additionally earned him several nominations and wins with organizations like the Hong Kong Film Awards, Cannes Film Festival and the Golden Bauhinia Awards.
“I used to suppress all the feelings inside,” Leung stated upon his teary reception of the Golden Lion Award. “I didn’t show all my feelings in front of others… [with acting] I found a way to express myself in front of other people without being shy.”
Leung was presented with the honor by renowned director and colleague Ang Lee, and used his speech to praise his home and birthplace for many of his most notable films: Hong Kong.
“I am so grateful to have been raised in Hong Kong, as well as being nurtured later by the Hong Kong movie industry in general, where my acting career began,” Leung said according to TimeOut. “I also want to share this honor and give thanks to all those wonderful people who I have worked with over the past 41 years, because this is a tribute to them as well—and of course, to Hong Kong cinema.”
Leung’s recognition also comes on the heels of his newest film debut, The Goldfinger, an action crime thriller in which he plays the villain. The European film came to theatres at the end of 2023 and has already received a positive reception from audiences.