Soon-Tek Oh, 'Mulan' and 'Man With the Golden Gun' Actor, Dies at 85
He worked for Stephen Sondheim on Broadway and was a co-founder of the influential Asian-American theater organization East West Players.
Soon-Tek Oh, who voiced the aging warrior Fa Zhou in two Mulan films, aided Roger Moore in The Man With the Golden Gun and fought Chuck Norris to an explosive finale in Missing in Action 2: The Beginning, has died. He was 85.
Oh died Wednesday in Los Angeles after a battle with Alzheimer's, actor Chil Kong reported. He and Oh were co-founders of the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble in Los Angeles.
"I will never be able to repay him for what he did for me, how he shaped me as an artist, as a community leader and as a parent," Kong wrote. "All I can do is promise to stay true to my artistic self, just as Mr. Oh strived to do all his life."
A native of South Korea, Oh was in the original Broadway cast of the 1976 Stephen Sondheim musical Pacific Overtures, and on the small screen, he appeared eight times on Hawaii Five-O, five times on M*A*S*H and four times on Magnum, P.I., all as different characters.
Oh did voice work on Disney's Mulan (1998), then returned for the 2004 sequel.
In The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Oh's Lieutenant Hip arrives after the assassin Scaramanga (Christopher Lee) kills a scientist in front of the Bottoms Up Club in Hong Kong. Oh arrests James Bond (Moore) but later reveals himself to be his ally.
"My agent asked me if I would like to be in a James Bond picture. I was a bit audacious when I was younger, so I said, 'I don't do a laundry man, gardener or house boy,'" the actor says on the film's DVD documentary.
Oh played Colonel Yin, the sadistic commander of the POW camp who meets his end at the hands — and feet — of Norris' James Braddock in the first Missing in Action sequel, released in 1985. Braddock then detonates explosive charges around the compound in a memorable final scene.
Oh's résumé also included the features Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) and Yellow (1998), written and directed by Chris Chan Lee, and television's I Spy, Dan August, Ironside, Kung Fu, Charlie's Angels, Hill Street Blues, Magnum, P.I. and the 1981 miniseries East of Eden.
Oh had graduated with a degree in political science from Yonsei University in Seoul. After emigrating to the U.S., he was a scholarship student at New York's famed Neighborhood Playhouse and attended UCLA.
In 1965, Oh co-founded the L.A.-based East West Players, one of the first Asian-American theater groups in the U.S. Then, after the L.A. riots of 1992, he launched the Society of Heritage Performers, hoping to elevate Asian-American voices while counteracting stereotypes in the media.
That Korean-American group evolved in 1999 into the Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. (It disbanded a decade later.)
"He awakened within me a life-changing cultural and community awareness," actor Tim Lounibos said. "Mr. Oh constantly coached and mentored me (sometimes severely) … and taught me life lessons through his personal experiences and stories."
A memorial service is set for April 14 in L.A.