Perhaps the five (5) names that immediately come to mind are: Bruce Lee, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Steven Segal and Zhang Ziyi. Keep in mind that I am focusing on the most impacting “film” kung-fu artists for the purpose of the screen, not necessarily in terms of whether they are considered actually “martial artists” or not. The truth is that they all constitute true artists through the work that they have painted on screen through their magnificent efforts.
Tremendous martial-art films would follow in Ziyi’s career such as “Rush Hour 2”, “House of Flying Daggers” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.” To sum her career up is to say that she is not only a terrific actress who is looking for deeper and more meaningful roles, but also one where she is constantly showing us that she is a magnificent dancer who fights at the same time. On a final note, she has been considered by many to be one of the most beautifully stunning women in the world.
The film’s opening in the States didn’t cause much stir or recognition for Tomisaburo Wakayama by way of box office dollars, but attention was definitely focused on the extreme and graphic violence portrayed! So much so that in it’s early VHS video release, the film was banned in the States and were removed from the shelves quickly thereafter! It wasn’t until 2006 that the film earned its rightful place with a beautiful high-definition transfer and surround sound release. It is also now available on blu- ray as well.
Mr. Wakayama would also appear in some American films. The two sides of the spectrum include his role as Coach Shimizu in 1978’s THE BAD NEWS BEARS GO TO JAPAN and as Sugai in Ridley Scott’s 1989 film BLACK RAIN.