Asia's biggest screen stars owe debt to prolific novelist

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 June, 2008, 12:00am

Big- and small-screen adaptations of Louis Cha Leung-yung's novels have been launch pads in Hong Kong for some of Asia's biggest stars, including Andy Lau Tak-wah, Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Stephen Chow Sing-chi.

Lau played the lead character Yang Guo, a famous martial arts warrior who fell in love with his master, Dragon Girl, in the 1983 TVB adaptation of one of Cha's best-known novels, The Return of the Condor Heroes.

Lust, Caution star Leung played Wei Xiaobao, a friend of the Qing emperor Kangxi (played by Lau) but also an associate of Chen Jinnan, the leader of the anti-Qing Heaven and Earth Society, in TVB's 1980's remake of The Deer and the Cauldron, Cha's last novel. In the 1990s, Kung Fu Hustle and CJ7 star Chow played Wei Xiaobao in a film version of the The Deer and the Cauldron.

In recent years the trend has extended to Taiwan and the mainland. Actor Huang Xiaoming became the new heartthrob of China after reprising Lau's role in a mainland remake of The Return of the Condor Heroes in 2006. He also finished a remake of The Deer and the Cauldron last year, playing Wei Xiaobao.

Cha's novels are estimated to have sold more than 500 million copies.

He was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1981 and awarded the Grand Bauhinia Medal, Hong Kong's highest honour, in 2000. In 2004, he was made a Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.