Vincent Zhao Wen-zhuo (Born 赵文卓, 10 April 1972 in Harbin, China) is a Chinese martial artist, actor of action cinema and often billed as the Poor Man's Substitute for Jet Li, especially with his role as Wong Fei-hung in Once Upon a Time in China, where he replaces Jet as Master Wong in the fourth and fifth films of the series.
Born in Heilongjiang, China, as the youngest of three boys, Zhao's interest in wushu starts at a young age from his father, a martial arts practitioner, and his mother, a professional sprinter who broke the woman's record for sprinting in Heilongjiang.
Zhao made his film debut while still a student in the Harbin Wushu Academy, in the 1993 movie Fong Sai-yuk starring alongside Jet Li, where the then 21-year-old Zhao plays the Big Bad. According to Zhao, he was told by director Corey Yuen to "look evil" (despite being too youthful and adorable-looking to convincingly play a villain) by "looking at people from the corner of your eyes with your profile facing them."
After Jet Li terminates his contract with the Once Upon A Time In China franchise, the studios remembered they still have Zhao under their payroll, and casted Zhao as The Other Darrin for Wong Fei-Hung. Ironically, Zhao's Star-Making Role is also the same role that made Jet Li a household name, the martial artist Wong Fei-hung, and from there Zhao would star in bigger films like The Blacksheep Affair and Green Snake until his eventual career killer, the utterly tasteless exploitation flick Body Weapon condemns him to TV dramas or low-budget series until True Legend (2010).
Despite True Legend under-performing financially, Vincent Zhao's portrayal of Su Can in the movie is enough to convince studios that yes, this discount Jet Li still have what it takes to be an action star and a convincing, charismatic actor.
Ever since March 1, 2017, Zhao is employed as Health Qigong ambassador by the Chinese Health Qigong Association.
Tropes relating to this performer:
- Endearingly Dorky: Some of his roles, such as Mahjong Dragon, The Blade, Fist Power and Body Weapon.
- But We Used a Condom!: According to Zhao, his first child, a daughter, was born in his days in Wushu academy when he got a bit too intimate with his girlfriend.
- Family Man: Zhao is the father of four, 2 girls and 2 boys, and social media often shows him bonding with his kids.
- Fragile Speedster: Being a replacement for Jet Li, this is a given.
- Papa Wolf: In True Legend (2010), Fist Power and Wu Dang.
Vincent Zhao's notable films:
- Fong Sai-yuk as Governor Kau Man, the Big Bad antagonizing Jet Li
- Once Upon a Time in China as Wong Fei-hung, only in OUATIC 4 and 5
- Green Snake as Monk Fahai
- The Blade (1995) as Ding-on (remake of One-Armed Swordsman)
- The Blacksheep Affair as Yim Dong
- Body Weapon as Wu Chi-kwan.
- Fist Power as Brian Cheuk
- The Sino-Dutch War 1661 as Zheng Cheng-gong, earning him Golden Rooster Awards for Best Actor
- True Legend (2010) as Su Can
- Wu Dang as Tang Yunlong. Co-starring Xu Jiao from CJ7
- The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom as Jin Duyi - remake of The Bride With White Hair
- The Boundary as Shao Yun Feng
- God Of War as Qi Jiguang. Do not confuse this with the video game.
- The Unity of Heroes, Kung fu Alliance, Wrath of Sea - Wong Fei-hung, Vincent reprises this role for the first time in 24 years
Tropes associated with Vincent Zhao's roles
- Career Resurrection: True Legend (2010), despite being a flop, was enough to convince studios that Vincent Zhao can portray dramatic roles convincingly besides ass-kicking, hence granting him additional roles in Wu Dang and The Unity of Heroes trilogy later on.
- No Export for You: Most of Zhao's films after True Legend are really hard to get outside of Asia.
- The Other Darrin: Vincent Zhao replaced Jet Li as Wong Fei-hung in Once Upon a Time in China part 4 and 5.
- Role Reprise: In The Unity of Heroes, Kung Fu Alliance and Wrath of Sea, where Vincent Zhao stars as Wong Fei-hung for the first time in 24 years.
- Star-Derailing Role: Body Weapon, an exploitative, nudity-loaded 1999 flick in which Vincent played the Decoy Protagonist. It received terrible reviews and began a downward spiral for Vincent Zhao, condemning him to TV series or low-budget films until 2010's True Legend.