Jimmy Wang Yu, a Taiwanese actor who was once one of the biggest stars of martial arts cinema, died Tuesday in a Taipei hospital from an undisclosed illness he battled for six years. He was 79 and his death was announced on Instagram by his daughter, Linda Wang.
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Born in Shanghai, China, Wang moved to Hong Kong and made his name as an action star at Shaw Brothers Studio during the 1960s. His best-known film was One-Armed Swordsman, which, as the title suggests, was about swordplay, a hallmark of his combat skills. The film would become the first Hong Kong film to make HK$1million at the local box office.
The action films made Wang one of the biggest stars in Asia, and popular in the U.S. underground grindhouses that specialized in low-budget films.
One-Armed Swordsman saw two sequels, Return of the One-Armed Swordsman in 1969, in which Wang reprised his role, and The New One-Armed Swordsman in 1971, which starred John Chiang and Ti Lung.
Wang’s résumé include more than 40 action and martial arts films, including One-Armed Boxer (1972), The Man From Hong Kong (1975) and Master of the Flying Guillotine (1976).
The actor had a colorful life off-screen as well. He was charged with a murder, but charges were later dropped. He also boasted that he was hired to assassinate a political rival, but the attempt never happened.
Jackie Chan wrote on Facebook, “The contributions you’ve made to kung fu movies, and the support and wisdom you’ve given to the younger generations will always be remembered in the industry. And your movies will always remain in the hearts of your fans. We will miss you!”
Director Ang Lee issued a statement mourning Wang. “It’s with the deepest sorrow that we learned of his passing today. For many fans like me, he represents the vibe of a certain era. His films and his heroic spirit will be deeply missed.”
Wang left acting in 1997, but returned in 2011 with the film Wu Xia. His final film was the 2013 horror classic Soul.
He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2019 Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan.
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