Tributes have been paid to veteran Hong Kong actor and director Fung Wang-yuen, better known by his stage name Wu Ma, who died of lung cancer yesterday at the age of 71.
Mainland media reported that Fung's wife, Ma Yan, broke the news in a text message to family friends early yesterday morning, in which she wrote: "He enjoyed life and enjoyed work during the last few months of his life, in his best-ever condition in recent months. He is always my hero and my beloved husband. I am very proud of him."
Ma also disclosed that Fung's health had grown worse in the past 10 months and that the cancer had spread. But Fung had not wanted to undergo chemotherapy, as he knew he would have been confined to a sickbed if he chose such a treatment.
Veteran actress Susan Shaw Yin-yin paid tribute to Fung on her microblog: "You will be missed forever and your contributions to the film industry will never be forgotten. Goodbye."
The Hong Kong Performing Artistes Guild also expressed its condolences.
Born in Tianjin in 1942, Fung moved to Hong Kong in 1959. He signed up with Shaw Brothers Studio and made his screen debut in 1963. In the course of 25 years through the '60s, '70s and '80s, he was involved in more than 100 films, directing 40 of them, before his career began to slow down.
He was best remembered by Hong Kong fans as the bearded Taoist ghost-buster in the 1987 hit A Chinese Ghost Story, which earned him Taiwan's prestigious Golden Horse Award for best supporting actor.
Fung became one of the most familiar faces in Hong Kong cinema despite appearing mostly in supporting roles. In an interview with the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Weekly in 2011, he explained his success.
"I treat all the roles I play as the lead roles. I never feel that I am a supporting character. That is what acting should be about. A lead role is not the only one that appears in a film from the start to the end. It is defined by its importance in the story."
Such was Fung's commitment to acting that he did not marry until he was in his 50s. His wife is almost 30 years his junior. He is also survived by a daughter.
Recent years had seen Fung take a more active role in mainland film and television productions. He won best actor at the Shanghai International Film Festival for his starring role in 2012's The Painter, the story of Tang dynasty (618-907) artist Wu Daozi.
Last month he was shooting the television drama Greater Shanghai 1931 at the Hengdian studios in Zhejiang .