I start with an idea, which I turn into a script before making it into a film. The film, in turn, touches audiences’ hearts. This process, to me, represents one of life’s miraculous journeys!
Derek Yee Tung-sing (also known as Erh Tung-sing) was born in Hong Kong in 1957 to a filmmaking family. His father Erh Kuang had been a film producer in Shanghai in the 1940s while his mother Hung Mei was an actress. His elder brothers Paul Chun and John Chiang (aka David Chang) are both actors of fame. In 1975, he was signed to Shaw Brothers and played his first role in Lady Exterminator (1977), directed by Sun Chung. He rose to stardom after appearing in Death Duel (1977), and came to become a favorite of director Chor Yuen. Along with Ti Lung, Alexander Fu Sheng and his brother David Chiang, Yee was one of Shaws’ top stars. During his time there, he starred in over 20 films, all the while developing a strong interest in working behind the camera.
In 1986, Yee tried his hands at directing with The Lunatics, a socially conscious work focusing on the issue of mental patients, so controversial that it was briefly banned before being granted a release. The film nonetheless was elected one of the top ten Chinese-language films of 1986 and was nominated for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 6th Hong Kong Film Awards, with his brother Paul Chun receiving the Best Supporting actor prize at the Hong Kong Film Awards and the Golden Horse Awards in Taiwan. In addition, The Lunatics was a box-office success that grossed over HK$10 million. Yee followed with two films in the next two years, People’s Hero (1988) and The Bachelor’s Swan Song (1989), gradually cutting down on acting assignments.
In 1992, Yee formed Film Unlimited with Alexander Chan Mong-Wa and started producing films independently. His 1993 melodrama C’est la vie, mon chéri, about the romance between a cancer-stricken girl and a down-on-his-luck musician, was a box office hit, grossing over HK$30 million. C’est la vie, mon chéri won three major awards at the 13th Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay, marking Yee’s successful transition from actor to director. The film also garnered Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actors prizes for, respectively, stars Anita Yuen, Petrina Fung Bo Bo and Paul Chun.
Yee’s 1995 film on car racing, Full Throttle, was both a critical and box office success, grossing over HK$30 million at the box office, and was nominated for Best Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay at the 15th Hong Kong Film Awards while being named Best Director at the 1996 Hong Kong Film Critics Awards. His 1996 work Viva Erotica (co-directed with Law Chi-leung), was a satire on the film industry. Its innovative approach resulted in a nomination for the Golden Bear Award at the 47th Berlin International Film Festival and star Shu Qi winning the Best Supporting Actress Award at the 16th Hong Kong Film Award, marking a turning point for her transition from sexy siren to serious actress.
Starting with My Dad is a Jerk (1997), Yee branched out to producing, and since then had produced such critically acclaimed films as Double Tap (2000, directed by Law Chi-leung), July Rhapsody (2001, directed by Ann Hui), Crazy N’ The City (2005, directed by James Yuen Sai-sang) for various companies that included Filmco Pictures, Golden Harvest and Teamwork Motion Pictures. Between 2001 and 2005, Yee served two terms as the president of the Hong Kong Film Directors’ Guild.
Yee directed Cecilia Cheung in Lost in Time (2003), which won her the Best Actress prize at the 23rd Hong Kong Film Awards and paved the way for her to move from the typecasting of comedic actress. In 2004, Yee returned to the edgy roots of early works like as The Lunatics and People’s Hero, directing the poignant and realistic police drama One Nite in Mongkok, which won Best Screenplay accolade at the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards and Best Director honor at the 2004 Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards. In 2005 Yee self-funded two low budget features, 2 Young, about young romance, and the romantic comedy Drink Drank Drunk, both of which grossed over HK$10 million. His 2007 work Protégé, centered on the topic of drugs, was nominated for Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress at the 27th Hong Kong Film Awards, as well as Best Director and Best Original Screenplay at the 44th Golden Horse Awards.
After directing The Great Magician (2012), Yee focused mainly on film producing and his output included The Bullet Vanishes (2012), Insanity (2014) and Overheard 3 (2014). Yee’s latest directorial effort, I Am Somebody, a story of extras working at China’s Henhdian Film Studios, is scheduled for release in 2014.
|Year||Chinese name||English name||Directors|
||The Great Magician|
||The Shinjuku Incident|
||Drink Drank Drunk|
||One Nite in Mongkok|
||Lost in Time|
||The Truth about Jane and Sam|
||Viva Erotica||LO Chi Leung|
||C'est la vie, mon chéri|
||The Bachelor's Swan Song|