Hong Kong actor Tony Leung, 59, is a sought-after superstar in Asia who has avoided playing father roles in his career for a personal reason. However, in the upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) offering, "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," the actor is the villainous dad to the titular superhero character played by Canadian-Chinese actor Simu Liu.
Speaking with GQ, Leung said that he used to reject offers for father roles because he didn't have a good relationship with his dad. He said that he avoided feeling and internalizing how to be a dad in his work since it would remind him of his father's treatment.
The internationally-acclaimed actor admitted that he had a lonely childhood, prompting him to pursue mostly solitary hobbies like reading, visiting museums, or biking by himself. He learned early on that he cannot depend on other people for his happiness, so he grew up with only a few friends and a fragile relationship with his father.
Hiding His Emotions
Leung said in an interview with The Guardian in 2004 that he comes from a broken home. He revealed that his father walked out on his family when Leung was only six years old.
The actor said he used to be a very active and naughty child, but he stopped talking and withdrew from people when his father left. This was in the 1960s when the stigma of a broken family filled kids like him with shame.
Leung said that he became very good at hiding his emotions, which fueled his love for acting because this kind of work allowed him to express his feelings. When the offer to do a Marvel movie landed on his lap, Leung said that the father role greatly appealed to him because he saw a character who didn't know how to love himself.
"I can imagine someone like him who is an underdog, who is a failure of a father," Leung told GQ. "On the one hand, he's a bad father, but on the other, I just see him as someone who loves his family deeply."
Marvel boss Kevin Feige said that they wanted Leung for the role of Wenwu because the studio knows he could play a "well-rounded tragic figure" with superiority. They also love that Leung has never worked in a Hollywood set until "Shang-Chi," so he became this "mythical figure" known for his award-winning movies outside of the U.S.
Feige said that they had high expectations from Leung, and he surpassed all of these expectations. An early review from The Atlantic stated that the latest MCU film is worth watching just for Leung's performance because while he is the villain, the actor also made his character very sympathetic.
What is Shang-Chi About?
Shang-Chi is the first martial arts superhero film in the MCU and has been drawing comparisons, in terms of cultural significance, to the "Black Panther." More than half of the cast and crew have East Asian backgrounds, including the director, Asian-American Destin Daniel Cretton.
At the heart of "Shang-Chi" is a father-son story and a family's recovery from grief. It also revolves around the origins of a future member of the Avengers. The movie is set to premiere in U.S. theaters on September 3 and will also hit Disney+ for streaming in October.
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