Biography written by Daniel himself:
I am what is called an "ABC" (American Born Chinese). My mother and father were both originally born in Shanghai, China and eventually each found their way to the United States. My father, George S. Wu, left Shanghai just prior to the 1949 communist revolution to study engineering at Taida University in Taipei, Taiwan. After completing his undergraduate degree he continued his studies in the United States where he obtained his Master's degree. My mother, Diana T. Wu also left Shanghai at around the same time and ended up in Hong Kong where she attended high school she then eventually left to attend New York University. It was there in New York city where my parents met and eventually got married and finally moved West to California. It was here in San Francisco where my mother eventually obtained her PhD. in psychology and began to raise the family.
I am the youngest of three children, with two elder sisters before me. Growing as a Chinese in America was a very interesting experience because it forced me to live a dual or double identity. With my friends I walked, talked and acted like and American but at home I was always a Chinese. But because of my parents educational background education came first and foremost above anything else. And because of this my parents pushed me in all aspects of education. After completing high school I went on to the University of Oregon where I pursued my degree in Architecture. By graduation (June 1997) I had completed a five-year professional degree in Architecture and a minor degree in Art History with honors and a scholarship.
Although education was a center point in my life, the most significant change in my life came when I was just 11 years old. This is when I began to study Chinese Kung Fu. As a child I always loved watching Kung Fu movies, so finally I decided to learn it for real. When I did join, it opened a whole new world for me that lead to a greater self-understanding. Not only did I learn about fighting, discipline and honor but most importantly I learned a great deal about Chinese culture. My master taught me much about what it meant to be a Chinese and after several years I realised how proud I was to be Chinese, no matter where I was living. This knowledge, I feel, sets me apart from other ABC's in that I no longer feel that I am living a dual life of American and Chinese but rather I am A Person with a history, a culture and a past that is Chinese. And it is this, after years of perseverance and hard training that I feel has affected my life the most.
I had the opportunity at an early age to travel and has become a basic habit of mine. My travels include:
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Mainland China, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Japan
England, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Italy, Spain
Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, Mexico
Biography of Our 'Action Hero'
Actor Daniel Wu combines brains and brawn with rare humility. Not bad for an architecture grad and gongfu expert who started acting 'for kicks'.
HIS potent combination of brains and brawn is a rare one that spins heads and weakens the knees of most females. And while rising star Daniel Wu claims not to be that brainy or that brawny, that logical mind -- he has a degree in architecture -- housed in a buff wushu-honed body shouts quietly otherwise. "I have no idea what my appeal to women is," the actor says with a bewildered smile. "It's weird. I don't feel like I have any appeal." Turning the tables deftly, he poses the question: "I don't know, why don't you tell me?"
Then, levelling his intense eyes on you -- that same penetrating stare gazing down from posters of Purple Storm, his latest action thriller -- he awaits an answer quietly. When you venture hesitantly that it is his combination of brains and brawn that draws women like moths to watch him on the silver screen, he seems genuinely taken aback. "I'm not that brawny and I'm not that brainy," he says with a guffaw, dismissing his rippling muscles and taut, toned torso self-deprecatingly. With disarming honesty, he reveals: "In high school, girls used to be an awkward thing."
The American-born-Chinese actor, who has gone from unknown to The Next Big Thing in his two years in the Hongkong movie industry, also discounts his architecture degree from the University of Oregon as a mark of intelligence. "Maybe because in architecture, I have to learn to legitimise my thoughts, and think things through more, so people think I'm smart."
A native of San Francisco, the 25-year-old grew up in the suburbs of Berkeley with two older sisters, the only son of Shanghainese parents. Dad is a retired engineer while Mum lectures as a business professor. "Growing up in the States with a white person's perspective, your ideal image of someone who is good-looking is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed guy," he says matter-of-factly. "I never thought I was good-looking."
But the people of Hongkong thought so evidently when he arrived in the former British territories in 1997.
His plan was to witness the historic handover and then tour Asia for half a year, but alas, he ran out of money. Luckily, he had those chiselled cheekbones and lanky clotheshorse frame to bank on, and started modelling to make money. And of course, it helped that he has a body toned from years of wushu -- which he picked up when he was 10 to emulate his movie gongfu heroes of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Jet Li -- and was once ranked fifth in the sport worldwide.
One thing led to another, and before long, this intense young man was cast as a homosexual cop in Hongkong filmmaker Yon Fan's Bishonen. His big screen acting debut earned him rave reviews. "I never thought of it, never dreamed of it, never wanted it," he says of his status as a movie-idol-in-the-making. "I did it just for kicks, and I found, 'Wow! This is great.' "
He was hailed as a younger version of Heavenly King Andy Lau. He was also named as gongfu star Jackie Chan's successor due to his proficiency in the martial arts. But he has since stepped out of the two stars' shadows with movies such as City Of Glass, which earned him a Best New Performer nomination at last year's Hongkong Film Awards.
And although he has put his architectural training on hold to pursue a career in the glamorous world of movies, the Hongkong-based actor says that he faces life like any other person. "I don't dress fancy or spend time on my hair," he says. He apologises for not removing his cap -- not that it makes him any less boyish and adorable -- because it hides a head of messy hair that he did not have the patience to style. His outfit -- faded blue jeans, snug T-shirt, rugged sports watch, and of course, cap to conceal a bad hair day -- is his also usual street-wear. It comes in handy when he traipses around Hongkong with his trusty camera and when he goes out with his girlfriend, a well-known model in Hongkong by the name of Maggie Q.
As one half of a celebrity couple, he often has to attend glitzy movie premieres and award ceremonies. But he much prefers to dress casually and to go on simple dinner-or-movie dates with his girlfriend, whom he began seeing 1-1/2 years ago. They met during his days as a model, and "started becoming friends for a few months. And it just happened".
Speaking English with an American accent -- the multi-lingual one also manages a varying degree of proficiency in Mandarin, Shanghainese and Cantonese -- he stresses: "I'm not into glamorous looks and I'm very wary of such people. I need to get to know them first; maybe that's why it took so long."
"Obviously, she's very pretty, but what's attractive about her is that she's the opposite of me, very spontaneous and outward with her feelings." He likens himself to one of those strong, silent types. "I'm not a big extroverted person," he says. His manner is congenial and sincere, but ever-so-slightly shy and aloof, and his character is reflected in the roles that he takes on. "Every character has a bit of me," he says in his low voice. "I try to find something similar, what each has in common with me."
Last year, in the machismo-fueled Gen X Cops, he played the stereotypical bad guy against up-and-coming actors Nicholas Tse and Stephen Fung, but added his own touch of insecurity to the baddie. In the action flick, Purple Storm, he was an amnesiac terrorist, a "tough, strong, horrible, mean man who becomes like a child", whom he based on his identity-searching growing up years.
He will appear in yet another action vehicle, 2000 AD, over the Chinese New Year next month, together with Aaron Kwok and homegrown actors James Lye and Phyllis Quek. "I play a nerd, a computer geek, and everyone has that introverted, nerdy side," he says rubbing his hands with relish. "He can't fight, and I am laughing at myself here, and deconstructing my role as a fighter in Purple Storm."
He does not deny that his wushu capability has given him a leg up while climbing the movie ladder, but says firmly: "I want to be known as an actor who happens to know how to fight, rather than just an action star." With a deadpan expression, he adds: "Besides, I don't want to break all my bones."