It was 15 years ago on April 1, 2003, that Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing, one of the brightest stars in Hong Kong entertainment, died. He was 46.
A Hong Kong gay icon, remembered
Cheung enjoyed great success as a pop star, starting out as a teen idol in the 1980s. He is considered one of the founding fathers of Cantopop.
He later also took on film roles, building up a notable career and a fruitful partnership with auteur director Wong Kar-wai.
Openly bisexual, Cheung was and remains an icon for Hong Kong and China’s gay community.
His role as one half of a turbulent gay couple in Wong’s 1997 film Happy Together helped to foster dialogue about homosexuality in Hong Kong and Chinese society.
Cheung is best known internationally for his award-winning performance in Chen Kaige’s 1993 film Farewell My Concubine, set during the middle of the last century. The film focuses on the lives of two men performing in a Peking opera troupe and the woman who comes between them.
The actor won the 1994 Japan Film Critics Society Award as best actor for his performance, and the film won the 1993 Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
In later years Cheung suffered from severe depression, and he committed suicide by leaping from the 24th floor of Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental hotel.
Today, Cheung is still loved and remembered by hundreds of thousands of his fans around the world.
The archives of the South China Morning Post contains rare black-and-white photographs taken of the star during his early days, before his struggles became so apparent to the world.
1. A future star starts to shine
Cheung first entered show business after placing second in the Asian Amateur Singing Contest in May 1977.
2. King of the stage
Cheung was a chart-topping singer, holding records in Japan and Korea.
3. Celebrity friends
Cheung counted celebrities such as singer Anita Mui, actress Teresa Mo and stylist Eddie Lau as his friends.
4. Pop and film idol
Cheung starred in seminal Hong Kong films including John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986), and Wong Kar-wai’s Days of Being Wild (1990) and Ashes of Time (1994).
5. ...and a style icon, too
Cheung took part in several world-tour concerts, including his flamboyant, gender-bending Passion Tour in 2000, in which he wore outfits created by French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.