Jimmy Wang Yu (王羽; born Wang Zhengquan; March 28, 1943 in Shanghai, China) was a Hong Kong-Taiwanese actor, director and film producer, most popular in the west for his role as the eponymous character in the One-Armed Swordsman movies as well as Master of the Flying Guillotine.
Born in a rich family, Wang had a long and colorful life, on and off-screen. Prior to landing his career as an actor, he served in the National Revolutionary Army and was a champion swimmer and athlete. At age 24, Wang landed his Star-Making Role, The One Armed Swordsman, and quickly made himself a popular name amongst the various mega-stars in Shaw Brothers' roster of action icons, most prominently in Wuxia films.
Wang made his directorial debut with The Chinese Boxer, which is often cited as the defining martial arts film responsible for launching the unarmed combat genre, notably involving overpowered main characters (since in the film, Wang is frequently shown killing people with his bare hands just by punching and kicking), and initiating a phenomenon that filled the ranks of many Chinese martial arts associations across Southeast Asia. But due to Wang's rising popularity, he decided to jump ship from Shaw Brothers, causing said studios to completely blacklist him from making films in Hong Kong. At this point, Golden Harvest studios sees this as an opportunity to hire Wang into their ranks, with Wang's first film he made for Golden Harvest, One-Armed Boxer combining elements from both One Armed Swordsman and The Chinese Boxer.
Once the highest paid martial arts film actor prior to Bruce Lee, Wang Yu's many controversies and celebrity scandals made him a media sensation, from his lawsuit with Shaw Brothers (due to the above-mentioned contract breaking), his connections to organized crime, to him allegedly killing a man in a nightclub brawl (Wang was acquitted on all counts due to lack of evidence) and his affair with actress Jeanette Lin Chui, who was seven years his senior and resulting in Lin Chui's husband committing suicide.
After retiring from the action film industry Wang only occasionally made public appearances in the news media for interviews or talks.
Jimmy Wang was married twice and had three daughters; the eldest is Linda Wong, who is a singer.
According to Screen Rant, Jimmy Wang-yu is still the deadliest film actor of all time, whose onscreen bodycount reaches up to 2477 victims. The accuracy of its source still remains to be confirmed.
Jimmy Wang Yu tragically died on 5th April 2022 aged 79 in a Taipei hospital; he had been in delicate health ever since his second stroke in Dec 2015.
Tropes related to this performer
- Badass in a Nice Suit: Some of his films set in contemporary era will have him in a tux.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Three of Jimmy's movies are titled The Invincible, The Sword, and The Invincible Sword. No, he didn't play the same character in either film.
- Good Old Fisticuffs: Uses his fists often in ass-kicking roles.
- One Armed Warrior: Jimmy practically popularized this trope in wuxia cinema after starring in the original One Armed Swordsman, to the point where he reprises the role in two sequels and later plays different, one-armed swordfighters in a ton of movies.
- One-Man Army: In 9 out of 10 of his films, Jimmy Wang-yu gets to butcher his way through waves and waves of faceless mooks. This happens in Trail Of The Broken Blade, The Assassin, Golden Swallow, The Sword Of Swords, Return Of The One-Armed Swordsman, The Chinese Boxer, The Professional Killer, The Desperate Chase, Rage Of The Tiger, Boxers Of Loyalty And Righteousness, Invincible Sword (he killed 286 people... onscreen), Bloody Struggle, Fury Of King Boxer, The Brave And The Evil... we could spend the whole day making this list, but let's just move on.
- Remake Cameo: In Swordsman starring Donnie Yen, a remake of One-Armed Swordsman.
- Wuxia: Most of the films he made with Shaw Brothers.
- The Triads and the Tongs: Wang was an associate, if not an outright made man, of the 'Bamboo Union' Taiwanese triad. He was convicted in 1975 of the wrongful death of two rival Triads, and was charged (but eventually acquitted) of ordering a hit in 1981, allegedly in retaliation for an assassination attempt.
- Wang also claimed in a 2007 interview that a high-ranking official in the Taiwanese military dictatorship had unsuccessfully solicited him, in his capacity as a Triad, for the murder of an opposition politician in 1979.
Jimmy Wang Yu's selected filmography
- Temple of the Red Lotus - a trilogy of martial arts movies made by Shaw Brothers, with Wang starring in all three of them
- One-Armed Swordsman - Star-Making Role
- The Assassin (1967)
- Asia Pol
- Golden Swallow
- Trail of the Broken Blade
- The Sword of Swords
- Zatoichi - starred in the Crossover, Zatoichi and the One-Armed Swordsman, but NOT reprising his role from The One Armed Swordsman
- A Man Called Tiger
- The Magnificent Trio
- The Chinese Boxer - also director
- One-Armed Boxer - also director
- Master of the Flying Guillotine - also director
- Tiger And Crane Fists - also director
- The Invincible
- The Sword
- The Invincible Sword
- The Deadly Silver Spear
- Blood of the Dragon - also known as The Desperate Chase
- The Brave and the Evil - also director
- Boxers Of Loyalty And Righteousness - also known as Shogun Saints
- Beach of the War Gods - also director
- The Gallant Duo - a Wuxia with similarities to The Killer, where an assassin (Wang) and an Imperial inspector joins forces to take down a common enemy
- Fury Of The King Boxer
- Furious Slaughter and its sequel, Bloody Struggle
- One Armed Swordsmen - yes, men. Plural. There's an apparent abundance of one-armed warriors in ancient China, it seems
- One Armed Swordsman Vs Nine Killers - see? Told you.
- One Armed Chivalry - yes, this is a genre in Wuxia. Being a hero means you risk losing your arm, it seems.
- The Professional Killer
- Rage of the Master - the climax of this film may have inspired Kill Bill, with Wang fighting a hundred mooks simultaneously in a setting that resembles House of Blue Leaves
- Royal Fist
- One Body Spells Courage - an Anthology Film consisting of three mini-stories set in different time periods (1970s Shanghai, the Ming Dynasty and 1930s China during the revolution). Wang gets to play all three roles.
- The Man from Hong Kong
- Once Upon a Time in China
- Island of Fire
- Beheaded 1000
- A Queens Ransom - from the same studios that made The Man from Hong Kong above, reuniting Wang with George Lazenby
- Fantasy Mission Force
- Millionaires' Express
- Swordsmen - a remake of One Armed Swordsman, with Wang's role as a Remake Cameo