An influential Hong Kong comedian, actor and film director, best known in the west for Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle, Stephen Chow Sing-Chi (born 22 June 1962 in Hong Kong) is famous for his slapstick martial arts movies. He also has something of a reputation for taking unknowns as his romantic lead, collectively called "Sing girls", all of whom go on to have successful careers in their own right.
His first public appearance was as a host for TVB Jade children's program 430 Space Shuttle from July 1983 to circa. March 1987note .
He was also a producer for Dragonball Evolution, but beyond that he had not given any sort of creative influence to the film, even if it probably needed it.
Most of Stephen's movies have segments which pay homage to Bruce Lee; Stephen was a big fan of his.
He has directed, written and/or starred in:
- Final Justice (co-starring Danny Lee. First film which won an award for Stephennote .)
- The Justice of Life (TVB TV series, co-starring Alex Man. Lee Lik Chi was one of the directors involved in the series.)
- The Final Combat (TVB TV series. A memetic quote from his character, "Let's sit down, have some tea and a bun, and talk slowly", is regarded as the Trope Maker of his mo lei tau style. This series was also his first collaboration with Ng Man-tat, and where he met Jacqueline Law, the only girlfriend he ever publicly admitted to dating. Lee Lik Chi was one of the directors involved in the series.)
- My Hero (widely considered his big break in showbiz. Known for a CMoF involving really bad karaoke that gained memetic spread at the time)
- Dragon Fight (only film collaboration with Jet Li)
- All for the Winner (originally a God of Gamblers* parody, later gets promoted to canon when he appears in God of Gamblers III*; Stephen had also appeared in God Of Gamblers II*. Winner and Gamblers II were Sharla Cheung's first collaborations with Stephen.)
- Fist of Fury 1991 (an Affectionate Parody of Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury, of course. There's even an Acting for Two moment in an Intercontinuity Crossover with All for the Winner. It had a sequel: Fist of Fury 1991 II. Another one of the few films in the 1990s where Ng Man-tat didn't collaborate with Stephennote .)
- The Mad Monk (co-starring Maggie Cheung and Anthony Wong. This film allegedly so offended Danny Lee that he refused to speak to Stephen after its release.note )
- Fight Back to School (Die Hard in a high school. It had two sequels: Fight Back to School II (Athena Chu's debut as a film actress) and Fight Back to School III*)
- Just Heroes: As a Deuteragonist. He didn't make it past the hour mark.
- All's Well, Ends Well (co-starring Leslie Cheung and Maggie Cheung) and All's Well, Ends Well '97 (Leslie had a cameo for this film)
- Tricky Brains*
- Justice, My Foot! (The first of many Qing Dynasty period films by Chow, this one sees him take the role of ancient lawyer Song Shijie, taking on his many crises of character in the court with the usual Rule of Funny thrown in. Won him his first Best Leading Actor awardnote )
- The Royal Tramp* and Royal Tramp II* (based off the classic literature The Deer and the Cauldron. Master Jin Yong himself approved of Stephen playing the role of Wei Xiaobao and Brigitte Lin herself agreed to appear in II due to Stephen; both thespians later praised each other's performance in the film, and the film remained their only on-screen collaboration.)
- King of Beggars
- Flirting Scholar (One of the few films in the 1990s where Ng Man-tat didn't collaborate with Stephen. Directed by Lee Lik Chi)
- Love on Delivery (directed by Lee Lik Chi)
- Hail the Judge* (Looking like a Follow the Leader of the resurgence of interest in the historical judge Justice Bao thanks to a Chinese Long Runner TV series, this is actually a Spiritual Successor to Justice My Foot)
- From Beijing With Love (an Affectionate Parody of James Bond; Stephen was co-director with Lee Lik-chi, who had a cameo as the death-row prisoner who was executed by a bazooka.)
- A Chinese Odyssey (based off Journey to the West. Karen Mok's first collaboration with Stephen. "Zixia Fairy" in the second movie was regarded as Athena Chu's best known role)
- Sixty Million Dollar Man (Wong Jing was the film's producer)
- Forbidden City Cop (Spiritual Successor to From Beijing above. While not the director, Lee Lik-chi had a cameo as the court official with extremely thick nose hair.)
- God of Cookery (Stephen was co-director with Lee Lik-chi.)
- King Of Comedy (last film he made in Hong Kong; his subsequent films were all mainland China productions. Also Cecilia Cheung's first film. Stephen was co-director with Lee Lik-chi. A Spiritual Successor, New King of Comedy, was released in 2019.)
- Gorgeous (cameo role as a policeman. In return, Jackie Chan had a cameo in King of Comedy; the two films were the only collaborations between the two.)
- Shaolin Soccer (last film collaboration with Ng Man-tat)
- Kung Fu Hustle
- CJ7 (As of 2023, the last film where he played the male lead)
- Journey to the West: Conquering the Demons
- The Mermaid
His work provides examples of:
- Affectionate Parody: Much of his earlier stuff. For instance Flirting Scholar parodies the classic romance of Tang Bohu and Qiuxiang. But A Chinese Odyssey comes dangerously close to Pragmatic Adaptation.
- Author Tract:
- The Royal Tramp ends with Wai Siu Bo (played by Chow) pointing out that Manchurian rule has not exactly scourged China and the La Résistance may not even be necessary, deliberately paralleling the impending handover of Hong Kong from UK to China in '97.
- King of Beggars has the newly-crowned king of beggars Soh (played by Chow) lampshading the fact that the poor have become the majority, and the problem of poverty can only be solved by those with the power, all to the Emperor's face. And all this was WAY before the #Occupy movement.
- The one in Forbidden City Cop has stirred up controversy due to being a Flip-Flop of God in comparison to the Royal Tramp one above, but the real point is the same as the King of Beggars one - real power belongs to the people.
- Black-and-White Morality: Sticks to traditional good vs evil stories.
- Classically-Trained Extra: This sums up his start in showbiz in a nutshell, having practiced Jeet Kune Do before starting out as an actual extra.
- Enlightenment Superpowers: Multiple of his films involve a Buddhist powerup to finish the climactic battle. Notably A Chinese Odyssey, Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.
- Genre Shift: From shlocky B-movies thanks to director Wong Ching to full-blown blockbuster material from A Chinese Odyssey onwards. The knee-slapper moments have remained intact, though.
- Mood Whiplash: Chow's films are known to suddenly veer from slapstick comedy to melodramatic tragedy and back.
- Non Sequitur: This is one way to describe his comedy style.
- Prima Donna Director: As an independent director (with his own company), his laser focus on perfection at film making, at the expense of almost everything else, have made some swore never to work with him again. In particular, Sammo Hung was fired by him during the production of Kung Fu Hustle. Even during the early days, while filming Sixty Million Dollar Man, Ng Man-tat himself once refused to continue shooting, after having numbed his mouth due to shooting a tooth-brushing scene 50+ times.
- Production Posse: The second best known hallmark of Chow's work. All the recurring actors in his movies can be divided into three categories - longtime friends (eg. Ng Man Tat, Sandra Ng and (before her retirement) Sharla Cheungnote ), hot young things getting a bump in popularity while falling victim to rumors of being his newest dalliance, and classic big names going through a Career Resurrection.
- Reaction Shot: Commonly used to emphasize jokes or subverted expectations.
- Rule of Funny: Widely considered the Trope Codifier of the mo lei tau style comedy (which translates to something in the vein of "nonsensical comedy") for Hong Kong cinema.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Very much on the Idealistic end.
- Slobs Versus Snobs: One theme of Chow's movies included the conflict between the working class and the upper-class, which sympathizes with the former. Though the lead character of God of Cookery and King of Beggars came from wealthy strata, they only learn humility as they spend more with the lower classes after their fall from grace.
- Universal Group Reaction: Nothing emphasizes a joke or subverted expectations better than a crowd of people reacting with surprise. A crowd reacting rather than an individual emphasize the subverted expectations rather than character development.
- Wag the Director: Once he had established himself, Stephen did this in almost every movie he appeared in. The credits may list someone else as director, but make no mistake: Stephen would firmly stamp his style all over the movie. To cite one example, The Mad Monk director Johnnie To was largely sidelined during filming, so much so that he never worked with Stephen again on another film.