Wu hopes to export HK success to Hollywood

Asian-American actor looks to take fame home with him

HONG KONG -- Growing up in the United States, Daniel Wu dreamed of a cameo in a Jackie Chan movie. The 35-year-old actor has long since realized that dream, costarring with the action comedy veteran in several productions.

Having achieved success in Hong Kong, Wu now hopes he can break into Hollywood as a positive example for a new generation of Asians.

"I would like there to be some kind of Asian-American role model for the kids out there today," Wu said on Sunday as he promoted his new action thriller, "Triple Tap."

As a youngster in Orinda, California, Wu said there were few Asian faces on the big screen he could look up to. Instead, there was Long Duk Dong—the awkward foreign exchange student parodied in the 1984 high-school comedy "Sixteen Candles." So Wu found inspiration in a Chinatown video rental shop, devouring the movies of Chan, Bruce Lee and Jet Li, aspiring to "be in a Jackie Chan movie and be kicked down a flight of stairs."

His fascination with Hong Kong cinema led to a trip to the former British colony in 1997 to witness its handover to China. Out of funds, he tried modeling and was spotted by a Hong Kong director in a fashion ad.

Thirteen years later, he has 50 movies under his belt and is one of the Chinese-language industry's biggest stars. Childhood idol Chan has become a frequent screen partner, most recently in the Tokyo-set drama "Shinjuku Incident." With a summer blockbuster due out on Thursday and clothing, watch and skin care endorsements, it's hard to miss Wu's picture in this wealthy shopping-crazed city of 7 million people.

Now Wu is hoping to leverage his reputation in the land of his ancestors to correct the cinematic prejudices of his home country. He recently signed with the Hollywood talent broker Creative Artists Agency.

"It's amazing that 30 years later, there still aren't (positive Asian-American role models). And I would like to help change that," he said.

The University of Oregon architecture graduate says part of the challenge is choosing the right roles. He said he has already turned down parts that he feels portrays Asians in a negative light.

"I find that Americans still have a very big stereotype toward what Asians are, and I don't feel a need to perpetuate that stereotype. So when a good character comes along, I'm all for it. I'm ready. I'd be very open to it," Wu said.

Wu said he would also enjoy a break from Chinese cinema's historical epics and action fare and the opportunity to work with Hollywood talent. He recently got a taste of American star power after shooting with Kevin Spacey in "Inseparable," a drama about an American expatriate living in China.

"That was an amazing experience working with someone who's won two Oscars," Wu said.

In the meantime, Wu is still churning away in the prolific Chinese film industry. The Chinese-American actor also hopes to delve into directing again, after making his debut as a director in 2006 with "The Heavenly Kings," a parody of the Chinese pop industry, saying he enjoys executing his own artistic vision like an architect.

"As a designer, you're the one in control," he said.
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