In the first installment, the child action stars of Hollywood were discussed and while some of them have emerged as adult action stars, other stayed away from the spotlight to pursue other opportunities. Like their Hollywood counterparts, Asian child action stars have had their share of action and while a few have continued, some have also left the world of films to do other things.
In 1976, after a brief role in Ng See-Yuen’s BRUCE LEE: TRUE STORY a.k.a. BRUCE LEE: THE MAN, THE MYTH, Eternal Films executive Pal Ming found Carl Scott, an American who had studied Kenpo Karate under Master Steve Sanders. Scott, who was fifteen years old, would undergo training in Hong Kong under the tutelage of Leung Siu-Chung, the uncle of Bruce Liang and Tony Leung Siu-Hung.
Scott made his lead acting debut alongside Bruce Li (Ho Chung-Tao) in LAST STRIKE, a.k.a. SOUL BROTHERS OF KUNG FU, in 1977. The film had to be made during the summer because Scott’s mother wanted him to return to America to go to school. Pal agreed to Mrs. Scott’s conditions and Scott would go on to be known for his team-ups with Indonesian-born action star Willy Dozen (Billy Chong) in Eternal Films’ SUN DRAGON (1979) and KUNG FU EXECUTIONER (1980).
After 1980, Scott returned to America, where rumors emerged that a few years ago, he was in California, where he ran a local camera store. However, he will be known more for his work in the martial arts film industry rather than what he is up to these days.
An amazing child actor during the kung fu heyday of the 1970’s, one wonders why Wong Yat-Lung did not continue his work as an adult. Originally from Taiwan, Wong trained in martial arts and from some of his moves, Taiwanese Opera. He would make his film debut in the Taiwanese children’s martial arts film LANTERN FESTIVAL ADVENTURE in 1977. He would go on to star alongside superkickers John Liu and Hwang Jang-Lee in SNUFF BOTTLE CONNECTION (1977), where he displayed some very impressive contortion-like moves.
He is also known for his team-up with “Beardy” himself, Leung Kar-Yan in two films. The first, SLEEPING FIST (1979), featured Simon Yuen as Beardy’s master. However, it was their second film together, THUNDERING MANTIS (1980) that proved to have one of their best of their team-ups. This is aside from the fact that it is Wong’s death that triggers one of the most insane endings in kung fu films. This film, along with the Taiwanese film KUNG FU KIDS BREAK AWAY (1980), would be Wong’s last film before fading out of sight.
Originally from Taiwan, kung fu expert David Cho (Joh Haau-Foo/Cho Ha-Fu) is perhaps best known for his role in the 1980’s kung fu film series KUNG FU KIDS. Born in 1973, Cho began his training in both martial arts and theater before making his film debut in OLD RIVER LITTLE LAKE in 1984 in a supporting role. He would soon gain notoriety amongst film fans for his role as Hsiao in the KUNG FU KIDS series, which lasted between 1986 and 1989 in a series of six films.
Cho continued to star in a few films in his native Taiwan, from YOUNG KICKBOXER in 1990 to DRAGON KID in 1990 as well. Taking some time off, Cho would star in DON’T CRY NANKING in 1995. In 1996, footage from an incomplete film resulted in Cho being credited for international audiences as “Jet Le”, a Jet Li clone for an unofficial sequel, FIST OF LEGEND 2: IRON BODYGUARDS. In the film, Cho takes on a Van Damme clone by the name of Todd Senofonte, who plays a Russian fighter who takes on Cho’s Chen Zhen, with choreography by Robert Tai and Alexander Lo.
Cho would go on to star opposite Donnie Yen, Billy Chau, Kim-Maree Penn, and Collin Chou in CITY OF DARKNESS. Since then, Cho has worked behind the scenes as action choreographer on a few films, including the Hong Kong film DEVIL FACE, ANGEL HEART (2002) starring Daniel Wu and Stephen Fung.
In 1993, Yuen Woo-Ping was looking for a young actor to take on the role of legendary folk hero Wong Fei-Hung in his film IRON MONKEY. He would find his Fei-Hung in a young girl named Tsang Sze-Man. Beginning her martial arts training in Lion Dance and then wushu, Tsang impressed Master Yuen, who cast her opposite one of his biggest protégés, Donnie Yen, who would play Wong Kei-Ying, Fei-Hung’s father.
Shortly after the film, Angie would appear in the 1996 film COMBO COPS, but would take a back seat from films and concentrate on other things. She had always wanted to be a police officer since the age of eight and she would have the chance to live her dream. She would also continue to compete in wushu tournaments, getting a gold medal at the 2005 Wushu Championships in Vietnam and a silver medal at the 2005 Wushu Championships in Qatar.
She would go on to get married to a fellow officer, Sidney Chan, and in 2008, became the proud mother of a bouncing baby girl, Winsome Chan Wing-Sum. While her IRON MONKEY days are far over, Angie is doing great these days in Hong Kong.
XIE MIAO (TSE MIU)
Wushu prodigy Xie Miao is perhaps best known for his work as Jet Li’s son in two high profile films, THE NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN (1994) and MY FATHER IS A HERO (1995), aka THE ENFORCER. Born in 1984, Xie’s parents wanted him to be a dancer and had taken him to the Beijing Haiding Centre for Children. However, Xie was unimpressed and signed up for the wushu class next to the dance class, much to the chagrin of his parents.
Two years later, director Wong Jing was looking for a child actor to be cast as Jet Li’s son in NEW LEGEND OF SHAOLIN, a new fresh take on legendary martial arts folk hero Hung Hei-Kwoon. A demonstration of Long Fist earned Xie the role of Hung Man-Ting, Hei-Kwoon’s son. Li and Xie would work again a year later as father and son in MY FATHER IS A HERO, in which Li plays an undercover cop whose son gets in the middle of things.
Xie would work with Chow Yun-Fat on the sequel GOD OF GAMBLERS’ RETURN (1994) and would even go as far as carry his own film, TEENAGE MASTER (1995), where he got to star opposite Ken Lo and Collin Chou. TEENAGE MASTER would be Xie’s final film for almost a decade as he would concentrate on his studies. He did fine time to work in television series. In 2003, he did a few low-budgeted films with the likes of Xing Yu and Shi Xiao-Lung such as IRON LION (2003) and SHAOLIN GANG (2004).
In 2008, the 24-year old got a lead role in the martial arts action film CHAMPIONS opposite Dicky Cheung with Tsui Siu-Keung (THE BUDDHIST FIST) at the helm. Xie is truly living his dream of progressing from child action star to adult action star.
SHI XIAO-LONG (SIK SIU-LUNG)
Making his debut in SHAOLIN POPEY (1994), six-year old Shaolin disciple Shi Xiao-Long had done some work as a young adult with a comeback small role in an upcoming film. Born in 1988 in Henan, China, Chen Xiao-Long started his martial arts training at the tender age of two by his father, who ran a Shaolin martial arts academy. Not long after, Chen entered the Shaolin Temple, where he was ordained by the Abbot and became Shi Xiao-Long.
In 1994, Xiao-Long was approached by Taiwanese director Kevin Chu and made his film debut in SHAOLIN POPEY. The film paired Xiao-Long with another child actor, Kok Siu-Man, who played Xiao-Long’s tubby partner in crime. The duo proved so popular that they would team up again in SHAOLIN POPEY II: MESSY TEMPLE (1994), TEN BROTHERS (1995), and DRAGON IN SHAOLIN (1996) to name a few.
To capitalize on Xie Miao’s appearance in his GOD OF GAMBLERS’ RETURN, Wong Jing hired Xiao-Long to appear in THE SAINT OF GAMBLERS (1995), one of many GOD OF GAMBLERS rip-offs. Xiao-Long continued to work on many films throughout the late 90’s and early millennium, mainly B-movies. Producers attempted to turn Xiao-Long into a young version of the GOD OF GAMBLERS himself, Ko Chun, in two straight to video films, TEENAGE GAMBLER (2002) and BLACK MASK VS. GAMBLING MASTERMIND (2003). Finally, in 2004, Xiao-Long decided to step back from the entertainment industry and concentrate on his studies.
Xiao-Long relocated to New York, where he attended the Professional Children’s School. In 2008, he graduated and had decided to go to university while working on films and television. Mainly doing some television work, Xiao-Long adapted an English name, “Ashton Chen”. However, in 2010, he will be seen as one of the students of the titular famed Wing Chun master in IP MAN 2 opposite Donnie Yen.
In 2004, Panna Rittikrai unleashed a new version of his very first film, BORN TO FIGHT. In the story of a group of athletes and villagers starting a revolution against a terrorist organization, ten-year old Sasisa Jindamanee got very little action time. However, she made the most of it as young villager Baetoey, who watched in horror as her father was shot down by a terrorist.
When Rittikrai had cast Jindamanee, she was already a Junior Muay Thai Champion. She got to show some of her Thai boxing skills and Rittikrai would train the upstart as one of his new stunt actors. Rittikrai has been known to train children in his style of stuntwork and Jindamanee was the latest at the time.
Following BORN TO FIGHT, Jindamanee continued her training with Rittikrai and co-starred in two more Rittikrai-produced films, SOMTUM (2008) and POWER KIDS (2009).
In 2005, Hong Kong musician/actor Stephen Fung was following up his hit directorial debut, ENTER THE PHOENIX (2004) with a martial arts action-comedy titled HOUSE OF FURY. The film revolved around a former bodyguard of retired agents turned chiropractor who is kidnapped only to have his son and daughter, trained by their dad in martial arts, to rescue him. The big highlight though came in the form of the villain’s teenage son, played by American-born martial artist Jake Strickland, who unleashed some amazing staff work and acrobatics, courtesy of Yuen Woo-Ping.
Strickland was born in Columbus, Georgia in 1989. He took up Taekwondo at Won’s Taekwondo School in Columbus and would later join Mike Chat’s Xtreme Martial Arts Academy. Impressing martial arts fans, Jake appeared on Live with Regis and Kelly with an amazing demonstration of his XMA skills. Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan happened to be on the show and was impressed by Strickland’s moves.
Chan would have Strickland become a member of his world famous stunt team along with British martial arts exponent Jon Foo. It was announced that Strickland would make his debut in HOUSE OF FURY, which Chan executive produced.
While Strickland had not studied Cantonese, most of the cast speak English and he was able to communicate with his fellow castmates. During shooting, Strickland learned film fighting under Yuen Woo-Ping, but proved to be quite faster than director/star Stephen Fung, as Strickland accidentally hit Fung in the nose during one take of their climatic fight. Nevertheless, fans raved of Strickland’s performance and since then, he has gone back to the U.S., where he graduated from high school. Jackie Chan has said he plans to work with Strickland again in the future.
These child stars showcased their impeccable martial arts skills on film and while some have transitioned as adult action stars, other have shied away in favor of living regular lives away from the spotlight. Nevertheless, they will be known for their skills on screen, bringing a legacy of child stars in martial arts action films.
Angie Tsang • Asian cinema • Carl Scott • child actor • David Cho • Jake Strickland • Sasisa Jindamanee • Sik Siu-Lung • Wong Yat-Lung • Xie Miao