Wang was born and raised in Hong Kong, and named after his father's favorite movie star, John Wayne. When he was 17, he moved to the United States with the intention of studying towards eventually entering medical school, but Wang changed his mind and ended up in the arts, studying film and television at California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland.
^G. Allen Johnson (October 18, 2008). "Wayne Wang's 'Princess' paves way on Internet". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2008-10-18. "His "The Princess of Nebraska," a San Francisco-shot tale of a young Chinese immigrant dealing with an unwanted pregnancy, is thought to be the first feature film by a major director to premiere – without a domestic theatrical or DVD release – on the Internet."