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Victor Wong (actor, born 1927)

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Yee Keung Victor Wong (traditional Chinese: ; simplified Chinese: 黄自強; pinyin: Huáng Zìqiáng; Jyutping: Wong4 Zi6koeng4; 30 July 1927 – 12 September 2001) was an American actor, artist, and journalist. A fourth-generation Chinese-American, he appeared in numerous supporting roles throughout the 1980s and 1990s. He is widely known for his role as Chinese sorcerer Egg Shen in John Carpenter's 1986 cult film Big Trouble in Little China, and royal adviser Chen Bao Shen in the Best Picture-winning historical epic The Last Emperor.

Victor Wong
Victor Wong (cropped).jpg
Wong in 1983
Yee Keung Victor Wong

(1927-07-30)July 30, 1927
DiedSeptember 12, 2001(2001-09-12) (aged 74)
OccupationActor, Journalist, Artist
Years active1984–1998
Spouse(s)Robin Goodfellow
Carol Freeland
Olive Thurman
Dawn Rose
(m. 19??; his death)

Early life and educationEdit

Wong was born in San Francisco, California to Chinese parents. His father, Sare King Wong, was born and raised in Guangdong province, and later moved to Shanghai as a news journalist; his mother was a devout Christian. His siblings were Sara Wong Lum, Zeppelin Wong, Shirley Wong Frentzel, Betty Wong Brown. He was fluent with both English and Cantonese, which helped lead his acting career to Hong Kong. He lived in Sacramento, California for much of his adult life.[1]

Wong studied political science and journalism at the University of California, Berkeley and Theology at the University of Chicago under Paul Tillich, Reinhold Niebuhr and Martin Buber. When he returned to San Francisco, Wong resumed his studies at the San Francisco Art Institute under Mark Rothko.[2]

Acting careerEdit

After his news career ended, Wong turned to acting, starting in the local Asian American theatre and later landing larger roles on the stages New York City. In October 1980, Wong made his Asian American Theater Company (AATC) debut in San Francisco by appearing in their production of Paper Angels by Genny Lim. He was on Social Security Disability Insurance at the time.

His stage work led to television work and eventually, into movies. In between film roles, Wong lived in Sacramento, California, where he supported the local performing arts. In 1992, he acted in the Hong Kong film, Cageman (笼民). He later starred as the grandfather, Mori Tanaka (strangely changed to Mori Shintaro for 3 Ninjas Kick Back), in the popular 3 Ninjas franchise, and the cult-classics, Big Trouble in Little China and Tremors.

Film director Wayne Wang called Victor Wong his role model for living life.

Director Bernardo Bertolucci had trouble with Wong on the set of The Last Emperor amid arguments over historical authenticity and cut most of Wong's scenes in the film, which won the Best Picture Oscar for 1987.

He retired from acting in 1998 after suffering two strokes, which also contributed to his death on September 12, 2001 from heart failure.

Association with the Beat GenerationEdit

In the 1950s, while studying art under Mark Rothko, Victor Wong had his first art exhibition at the City Lights Bookstore. During this time, Wong befriended Lawrence Ferlinghetti.[2] He illustrated Oranges, Dick McBride's first collection of poetry, which was handset and printed at the Bread and Wine Mission in 1960.[3] He met Jack Kerouac in the early 1960s, who chronicled their meeting in his novel Big Sur (1962). In the novel, Wong is characterised as "Arthur Ma".[4]

Personal lifeEdit

Wong was married four times: to Olive Thurman Wong (daughter of civil rights activist Howard Thurman), Carol Freeland, Robin Goodfellow, and Dawn Rose. He had two daughters, Emily and Heather, and three sons, Anton, Lyon, and Duncan. His son, Lyon Wong, died in 1986 after being attacked by a young man while walking home in Sacramento.

Upon learning of the events of September 11, 2001, Wong and his wife Rose spent the day trying to get news of Wong's sons, who lived in New York City. (They were unharmed.) After Rose went to sleep, Wong stayed up to continue following the news; he died of a heart attack at some point during the morning of September 12, at the age of 74.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1982 Nightsongs
1985 Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart Uncle Tam
Year of the Dragon Harry Yung
1986 Big Trouble in Little China Egg Shen
Shanghai Surprise Ho Chong
The Golden Child The Old Man
1987 The Last Emperor Chen Pao Shen
Prince of Darkness Prof. Howard Birack
1989 Eat a Bowl of Tea Wah Gay
Life Is Cheap...But Toilet Paper Is Expensive Blind Man
Fatal Vacation Grandpa Alternative Title: An le zhan chang
1990 Solo Frank Short
Tremors Walter Chang
1991 Mystery Date Janitor
1992 3 Ninjas Grandpa Mori Tanaka
Cageman Sissy Alternative title: Long min
The Ice Runner Fyodor
1993 The Joy Luck Club Old Chong the Piano Teacher
1994 3 Ninjas Kick Back Grandpa Mori Shintaro
Ching hat yi! Johnny
1995 3 Ninjas Knuckle Up Grandpa Mori Shintaro Grandpa Mori Tanaka
The Stars Fell on Henrietta Henry Nakai
Da mao xian jia Uncle Nine
Jade Mr. Wong
1996 The Devil Takes a Holiday Chi Chi
Paper Dragons Master Chang
1997 Seven Years in Tibet Chinese 'Amban'
1998 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain Grandpa Mori Tanaka (final film role)
Year Title Role Notes
1975–1976 Search for Tomorrow
1985 Nightsongs Fung Leung TV movie
1988 Beauty and the Beast Dr. Wong Episode: "China Moon"
1989 A Fine Romance Lon Mo Wah Episode: "The Tomas Crown Affair"
1990 Forbidden Nights Ho TV movie
Legacy Larry Chow TV movie
Midnight Caller Phil Wong Episode: "Language Barrier"
1994 Due South Coo Episode: "Chinatown"
1996 Poltergeist: The Legacy Lee Tzin-Soong Episode: "Fox Spirit"


  1. ^ Pulley, Michael (October 18, 2001). "The last days of Victor Wong". Sacramento News & Review. Retrieved July 22, 2013.
    • a "For much of the past two decades—in which he had appeared in nearly 30 Hollywood films—Wong had lived in Midtown Sacramento." — ¶ 3.
    • b "Unlike most Hollywood actors, Wong eschewed the fast life and glamour of Los Angeles and continued to live humbly in his unassuming Midtown Sacramento residence where he could be close to his children. — ¶ 23.
  2. ^ a b Chang, L: Remembering Our Merry Prankster Asian Week, 2001
  3. ^ McBride, R: Oranges - Illustrated by Victor Wong (Handset and printed at the Bread & Wine Press, San Francisco by Wilder Bentley, 1960)
  4. ^ Pulley, M: The last days of Victor Wong Sacramento News & Review, September 18th, 2001
  5. ^ Michael Pulley: "The Last Days of Victor Wong" (Sacramento News & Review, October 18, 2001)

External linksEdit