As if making it in the film business isn’t hard enough, try making it in another country. This year, we’ve selected a few greats for overcoming the language barrier (or at least mastering the accent) and becoming well-known in both their native country and in America.
Jang Dong Gun started out as a South Korean actor and musician. Jang made his first debut in the Korean drama, Our Heaven. From there, he won multiple Blue Dragon Awards (Korea’s Oscars) as an actor in Korean films. In 2005, he broke into Chinese cinema in the movie Wu Ji (The Promise), starring Cecilia Cheung. Now in 2010, Jang made his debut in the American film industry with the recent release of The Warrior’s Way. Jang has managed to make his name known not just in Korea, but all over Asia and now the States. We’ll have to wait and see if he’ll become a household name in the States like predecessors Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Ken Watanabe.
Wonder Girls are a South Korean girl band group. They debuted in 2007 with their hit song “Tell Me” in Korea. They entered into the American market in 2009 with the single “Nobody.” “Nobody” was the first song by a Korean group to have entered the Billboard Hot 100. After a successful run opening for the Jonas Brothers on the Jonas Brothers World Tour 2009, the Wonder Girls went on a world tour of their own in 2010, hitting more than two dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada. They also released the EP/single “2 Different Tears,” with a video starring Korean American comedian Bobby Lee. MTV Korea premiered a reality show that introduced the Wonder Girl’s everyday life in the United States, and on October 18th, the Wonder Girls’ management company JYP announced that the Wonder Girls were shooting a television series about five talented Asian pop stars crossing over to the United States that would be broadcast in the States.
Where do we even start with Jay Chou? Not only is he a musician, but he is also a singer, film producer, actor, and director. Oh and by the way, he’s won awards for these things too. In Taiwan, he is most known for composing all of his own songs, as well as for other artists. In 2005, Chou decided to break into the acting field in the movie Initial D, in the hope of expanding his exposure to Asian countries beyong Taiwan and China. Now that he had all that exposure, Chou went in full speed ahead and is about to make his American film debut in the highly anticipated film The Green Hornet. Chou stars as Kato, the Hornet’s partner, a role previously played by Bruce Lee (perhaps the greatest crossover of all time).
Archana “Archie” Panjabi is a British Indian actress who was first recognized in the United States in the film Bend It Like Beckham. In 2007, she appeared in the movie A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie, based on the book by Mariane Pearl. But 2010 was Panjabi’s breakout year, with her Primetime Emmy win for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role of Kalinda Sharma on the CBS critically acclaimed television series The Good Wife.
Last but not least, BoA. If you don’t know who she is, listen up. BoA stands for Beat of Angel and is basically the Korean Britney Spears in entertainment. She has gone above and beyond in languages. She not only knows her native tongue, but she is also conversational in Japanese and English. Think those languages are hard to learn? Try learning Chinese. Oh wait, BoA did that too. BoA also recorded songs in Mandarin Chinese. In 2008, SM Entertainment announced her debut in America with the single “Eat You Up.” There was also a remix of “Eat You Up” featuring rapper Flo Rida. In 2010, BoA released her newest album, “Hurricane Venus.”
As celebrated Bollywood film star, Shah Rukh Khan (whose latest film My Name is Khan is out on DVD now), made his debut at Madame Tussauds New York Wax Museum in Times Square last week — a part of the museum’s “Bollywood Zone” which includes film legend Amitabh Bachchan — we couldn’t help but wonder, which other Asian and Asian American greats have been immortalized in wax figure by the popular tourist attraction?
Seems like, not many.
After some sleuthing, we have found martial arts kings Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee at the Madame Tussauds Hollywood location and a tense-looking Tiger Woods at the Vegas location. And of course there’s Indian film legend Aishwarya Rai in the museum’s London location.
As for rest of the ladies? Fuggetabout it. The closest figurine we spotted even resembling an Asian woman was an eerie Michael Jackson figure made as part of a Jackson tribute at the Washington, D.C. museum.
For the rest of us itching to cuddle up with wax figures of Lucy Liu or Michelle Yeoh, we’ll have to travel a bit farther — to a Hong Kong, Shanghai or soon-to-be-opened Bangkok location to get our fix. ‘Cause frankly, putting your arms around an Asian-looking Michael Jackson just doesn’t cut it.