Daniel Wu

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Daniel Wu
Daniel Wu by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Daniel N Ng[1]

(1974-09-30) September 30, 1974 (age 47)
Alma materUniversity of Oregon
OccupationActor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1998–present
(m. 2010)
Hong Kong Film AwardsBest New Director
2007 The Heavenly Kings

Golden Horse AwardsBest Supporting Actor
2004 New Police Story

Chinese name
Traditional Chinese吳彥祖
Simplified Chinese吴彦祖
Musical career

Daniel Ng Neh-Tsu (Chinese: 吳彥祖; pinyin: Wú Yànzǔ, born September 30, 1974) is an American actor, director and producer based in Hong Kong. He is known as a "flexible and distinctive" leading actor in the Chinese language film industry.[2] Since his film debut in 1998, he has been featured in over 60 films.[3] He also starred in the AMC martial arts drama series Into the Badlands.

Early life[edit]

Daniel N Wu was born in Berkeley, California,[1] and raised in Orinda, California. His parents, Diana (née Liu),[1] a college professor, and George Wu, a retired engineer,[4] are natives of Shanghai, China. His father immigrated to the United States from China and met his mother in New York, where she was a student. After marrying, they settled in California.[5] Wu has two older sisters, Greta and Gloria, and an older brother who died when he was two.[4][6]

Wu developed an interest in martial arts when he saw Jet Li in The Shaolin Temple and Donnie Yen in Iron Monkey,[2] and consequently began studying wushu at age 11.[7] His childhood role model was Jackie Chan,[5] a man who now considers Wu "like a son".[8] Wu attended the Head-Royce School in Oakland, California[9] and later majored in architecture at the University of Oregon. While there, he founded the University of Oregon Wushu Club in 1994 and served as the team's first coach.[10] During this time, Wu also took film classes and frequented local theaters, and came to enjoy the works of filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa and Luc Besson, whom he describes as "men of vision."[11]

Following graduation, Wu traveled in 1997 to Hong Kong to witness the handover of Hong Kong, with no intention of taking on a movie career. At the suggestion by his sister, Wu began modeling.[5][12] Four months later, film director Yonfan, after seeing Wu featured in a clothing ad at a railway station, approached Wu about starring in an upcoming movie.[2][13]


Despite his inability at the time to speak Cantonese[14] or read Chinese,[15] Wu successfully completed his first movie, Yonfan's Bishonen in 1998. As of this day, when Wu receives a Cantonese script, his assistant reads the entire piece, while he makes notes on the pronunciation. The day after Bishonen wrapped, Wu was offered the leading role in Mabel Cheung's City of Glass (for which Wu was nominated as best new actor at the 18th Hong Kong Film Awards)[16] and later, a supporting part in Young and Dangerous: The Prequel, from Andrew Lau's gangster film series. Around this time, Wu met superstar Jackie Chan at a restaurant opening[17] and was quickly signed to Chan's JC Group with agent Willie Chan.[13]

Wu's breakthrough performance came in 1999 with his role in Benny Chan's Gen-X Cops. He followed this success with roles in a variety of movies including big-budget thriller Purple Storm, art-house production Peony Pavilion and the extremely successful Love Undercover. In 2001, Wu received criticism from the Hong Kong media for sexual scenes with Suki Kwan in Cop on a Mission, but Wu says that same criticism attracted the attention of directors and the film represented a turning point in the types of roles he chose in the future.[18]

Wu's first experience in film production came with his starring role in Julian Lee's 2003 film, Night Corridor. Due to budgetary constraints, Wu also participated in the search for funding for and distribution of, the film and recruited Jun Kung to create the soundtrack.[19] Though Night Corridor dealt with "risky" themes,[12] Wu felt he had less reliance on image than many of his pop-star actor peers,[19] and he was nominated for best actor at Taiwan's 40th Golden Horse Film Awards for his effort.[20] During 2003, Wu also took part as producer and creative director on "MTV's Whatever Things!", a "Jackass"-styled program aired in Asia,[21] also featuring Sam Lee, Josie Ho, Terence Yin, and other celebrities.[22] Also during 2003, Wu took part in a stage production of The Happy Prince at the Edward Lam Dance Theater[23] as part of the Hong Kong Arts Festival, during which he recited a 16-minute monologue in Cantonese, learned entirely from pinyin.[24] In 2005, Wu was nominated as best actor at the 24th Hong Kong Film Awards for his role in Derek Yee's One Nite in Mongkok,[25] and as best supporting actor for New Police Story.[26] At the 41st Golden Horse Film Awards, Wu won the award for best supporting actor for New Police Story.[27] The win came as a surprise to him, because he "didn't think that much" of his performance in the film.[18]

Daniel Wu in 2006

In 2005, Chinese media began to report that Wu had formed a boy band, Alive, with Terence Yin, Andrew Lin and Conroy Chan.[28] Wu and his bandmates posted information, updates, personal thoughts (including slamming Hong Kong Disneyland, for which they were spokespersons[29]), and the band's music, at their official website.[28][30][31] In 2006, Wu made his writing and directorial debut with The Heavenly Kings, which chronicles Alive's formation and exploits.[32] After the film's release, however, it was revealed that The Heavenly Kings was actually a mockumentary of the Hong Kong pop music industry, and Alive was constructed purely as a vehicle to make the movie; the film's characters represented only 10–15% of their real-life counterparts[33] and much of the footage blurred the line between fiction and reality.[32] Wu admitted his own singing voice "sucked really bad," and the band had their voices digitally enhanced for its music, to prove that "it's easy to fake it."[31] Despite some backlash from the media over being intentionally fed false information in the movie[34] about illegal downloads of the band's music,[33] Wu won the best new director award at the 26th Hong Kong Film Awards, an achievement he called "a group effort."[34]

In 2011, Wu starred alongside Kevin Spacey in director Dayyan Eng's bilingual film Inseparable.[35] It premiered at the Busan International Film Festival and was released in cinemas in China and other territories world-wide, making it Wu's first English-language film performance.

From 2015 to 2019, he starred as Sunny on the AMC action series Into the Badlands, for which he also served as executive producer.

In 2016, he portrayed via motion capture and voiced Gul'dan, the central antagonist of the action fantasy film Warcraft, based upon the popular video game series by Blizzard.

In 2018, he appeared in Tomb Raider, based upon the video game series of the same name, as Lara Croft's sidekick, Captain Lu Ren.

In 2021, he appeared in Reminiscence, director Lisa Joy's feature film debut, alongside Rebecca Ferguson and Hugh Jackman.

Other ventures[edit]

In April 2007, Wu re-launched his band's old website, AliveNotDead.com, with Terence Yin and RottenTomatoes.com founders Patrick Lee and Stephen Wang, as a place for filmmakers, musicians, and other artists to collaborate, receive exposure, network, and interact with fans.[36][37] He continues his modeling career as spokesperson for a variety of products such as Seiko[38] and L'Oréal.[39] Wu posed for the charity photography album SuperStars by Leslie Kee,[40] and performed on rapper Jin's song "HK Superstar."[41] Wu is an investor in Racks MDB Shanghai, which opened in 2008.[42]

Personal life[edit]

Wu maintains residences in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Oakland, California. He continues to actively train in wushu as well as other martial arts.[31]

On April 6, 2010, Wu married Lisa S. in South Africa.[43] Their daughter, Raven, was born in June 2013.[44]

In 2018, Daniel Wu denied rumors of supporting Hong Kong independence and has explicitly stated his opposition for it.[45]

On February 5, 2021, Wu partnered with Daniel Dae Kim to offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators of a series of attacks against elderly Asian-Americans in the Bay Area. Yahya Muslim, a suspect who was already in police custody for a separate assault, was later arrested for the crimes.[46]

Both Wu and Lisa are godparents to Ase Wang's daughter.[47]



Year English title Original title Role Notes
1998 Bishonen 美少年之恋 Sam Fai
City of Glass 玻璃之城 Daniel Credited as Daniel Ng
Young and Dangerous: The Prequel 新古惑仔之少年激鬥篇 Big Head Credited as Daniel Ng
1999 Gorgeous 玻璃樽 Photographer's assistant
Gen-X Cops 特警新人類 Daniel
Purple Storm 紫雨風暴 Todd Nguyen
2000 2000 AD 公元2000 Benny
Undercover Blues 刑 「殺之法」 Joe Wong
2001 Headlines 頭號人物 Peter Wong
Hit Team 重裝警察 Inspector Chung Chai
Cop on a Mission 知法犯法 Mike
Born Wild 野獸之瞳 Tide Ho
Beijing Rocks 北京樂與路 Michael Wu
Peony Pavilion 遊園驚夢 Xing Zhi-gang
2002 Beauty and the Breast 豐胸秘Cup Harper
Love Undercover 新紮師妹  Au Hoi-man
Princess D 想飛  Joker
Devil Face, Angel Heart 變臉迷情 Long
The Peeping 偷窺無罪 Calvin
Naked Weapon 赤裸特工 Jack Chen
2003 Night Corridor 妖夜迴廊 Sam Yuen/Hung Also producer
Love Undercover 2: Love Mission 新紮師妹2: 美麗任務 Au Hoi-man
Hidden Track 尋找周杰倫 Police officer
Miss Du Shi Niang Miss 杜十娘 Ken Li
2004 Magic Kitchen 魔幻厨房 Kevin
Chiseen 黐線 DVD version of
some segments of MTV's Whatever Things
Enter the Phoenix 大佬愛美麗 Georgie Hung
One Nite in Mongkok 旺角黑夜 Lai Fu
Around the World in 80 Days N/A Bak Mei
The Twins Effect II 千機變II: 花都大戰 Wei Liao
Beyond Our Ken 公主復仇記 Ken
New Police Story 新警察故事 Joe Kwan
2005 DragonBlade: The Legend of Lang 龍刀奇緣 Hung Lang Voiceover
House of Fury 精武家庭 Jason
Divergence 三岔口  Coke
Drink-Drank-Drunk 千杯不醉 Michael
Everlasting Regret 長恨歌 Kang Mingxun
2006 Rob-B-Hood 寶貝計劃 Brokeback Security agent Daniel
McDull, the Alumni 春田花花同學會 Hostage-taker
The Banquet 夜宴 Prince Wu Luan
The Heavenly Kings 四大天王  Daniel Wu Also writer, director and producer
2007 Protégé 門徒 Nick
Ming Ming 明明 A D
Blood Brothers 天堂口 Ah Fung
2009 Shinjuku Incident 新宿事件 Jie/Joe
Overheard 竊聽風雲 Max Lam
Like a Dream 如夢 Max Also associate producer
Jump 跳出去 Doctor
2010 Hot Summer Days 全城熱戀 Sushi master
Triple Tap 鎗王之王 Chong Tze-wai
2011 Don't Go Breaking My Heart 單身男女 Kevin Fong
The Founding of a Party 建黨偉業 Hu Shih
Overheard 2 竊聽風雲2 Joe Szema
Inseparable 形影不離 Li
2012 The Great Magician 大魔術師 Captain Tsai Cameo
Tai Chi 0 太极 Mad Monk Also producer
Tai Chi Hero 太極2 英雄崛起 Mad Monk Also producer
The Man with the Iron Fists N/A Poison Dagger
The Last Supper 王的盛宴 Xiang Yu
CZ12 十二生肖 Hospital Doctor Cameo
2013 Europa Report N/A William Xu
Control 控制 Mark Also producer
2014 That Demon Within 魔警 Dave Wong
Overheard 3 竊聽風雲3 Joe
Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2 單身男女2 Kevin Fong
2015 I Am Somebody 我是路人甲 Cameo
Go Away Mr. Tumor 滾蛋吧!腫瘤君 Dr. Liang
2016 Warcraft N/A Gul'dan
Sky on Fire 沖天火 Zong Tianbao
2017 Geostorm N/A Cheng Long
Wished 反轉人生 Daniel Li Cameo
2018 Tomb Raider N/A Lu Ren
2020 Caught in Time 除暴 Zhang Sen
2021 Reminiscence N/A Saint Joe


Year Title Role Notes
2015–2019 Into the Badlands Sunny Also executive producer
2016 Skylanders Academy King Pen Voice
TBA American Born Chinese Sun Wukong "The Monkey King" Upcoming series[48]

[49] [50]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
1998 18th Hong Kong Film Awards Best New Performer City of Glass Nominated
2003 40th Golden Horse Awards Best Leading Actor Night Corridor Nominated
2004 41st Golden Horse Awards Best Supporting Actor New Police Story Won
2005 24th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor One Nite in Mongkok Nominated
Best Supporting Actor New Police Story Nominated
25th Golden Rooster Awards Best Supporting Actor Nominated
Golden Bauhinia Awards Best Actor One Nite in Mongkok Nominated
Best Supporting Actor New Police Story Nominated
2007 26th Hong Kong Film Awards Best New Director The Heavenly Kings Won
7th Chinese Film Media Awards Best New Director Won
Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards Best Director Nominated
Best Screenplay Nominated
2009 46th Golden Horse Awards Best Leading Actor Like A Dream Nominated
2014 6th Macau International Movie Festival Best Actor That Demon Within Nominated
2015 34th Hong Kong Film Awards Best Actor Nominated


  1. ^ a b c "The birth of Daniel Wu". California Birth Index. Retrieved June 8, 2021. Daniel N Wu was born on September 30, 1974 in Contra Costa County, California. [...] His father's last name is Wu, and his mother's maiden name is Liu.
  2. ^ a b c Frater, Patrick (April 11, 2006). "Golden deal is 'Heavenly'". Variety. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  3. ^ "China-Underground Movie Database". Archive of China Underground. June 16, 2016. Retrieved June 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Graham, Bob (April 4, 2001). "Bay Area actor 'discovered' as a model in Hong Kong Daniel Wu of 'Cop' has since made 17 films in four years". SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Chan, Sip-ling (November 14, 1999). "Kung fu kick-starts Wu's self-discovery". The Standard. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  6. ^ The California Report. July 20, 2018.
  7. ^ "Daniel Wu interview". LOVEFiLM International Ltd. January 1, 2000. Archived from the original on January 14, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  8. ^ "Jackie Chan: from action maestro to serious actor". China Daily. September 24, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  9. ^ Lee, Lisa (May 2, 2008). "Daniel Wu: alive, not dead". AsianWeek. Archived from the original on July 19, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
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  11. ^ Hui, Yuanna (October 23, 1998). "Drawing a blueprint for success". The Standard. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  12. ^ a b Scott, Matthew (November 14, 1999). "Daniel's dark awakening". NightCorridor.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  13. ^ a b Tse, Sabrina (May 7, 1998). "Screen newcomer enjoys his moment under the sun". The Standard. Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  14. ^ Hui, Yuanna (October 23, 1998). "Drawing a blueprint for success". The Standard (HK). Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  15. ^ "blog entry". Daniel Wu's official blog. November 22, 2001. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  16. ^ "Hong Kong Film Awards archive". Retrieved May 31, 2008.
  17. ^ Johnson, G. Allen (March 17, 1999). "Fast road to stardom". SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  18. ^ a b "Daniel Wu interview". Hong Kong Cinema. Vengeance Magazine. January 2005. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  19. ^ a b "A conversation with Daniel Wu". August 24, 2003. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
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  21. ^ "blog entry". Daniel Wu's official blog. November 26, 2003. Archived from the original on December 9, 2007. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  22. ^ Kan, Wendy (August 31, 2003). "'Whatever' goes on MTV prank spree". Variety. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  23. ^ "Hong Kong Arts Festival archive". Archived from the original on June 3, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  24. ^ Ng, Teddy (February 26, 2003). "Daniel takes center stage". The Standard. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  25. ^ Rothrock, Vicki (February 2, 2005). "HK film noms do the 'Hustle'". Variety. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  26. ^ "Hong Kong Film Awards archive". Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  27. ^ "Golden Horse goes to mainland movie Kekexili". China Daily. December 5, 2004. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  28. ^ a b Chen, Fengfeng (August 4, 2005). "Daniel Wu forms a new band". China Radio International. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  29. ^ Rothrock, Vicki (September 4, 2005). "A word of cultural caution". Variety. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  30. ^ "Official blog for Alive". AliveNotDead.com. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  31. ^ a b c Johnson, G. Allen (April 25, 2007). "A model, actor, singing sensation (well, sort of) and now a director". SF Gate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  32. ^ a b Eddy, Cheryl (April 25, 2007). "Bubblegum bandits". San Francisco Bay Guardian. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  33. ^ a b "The great Cantopop swindle". The Standard. May 22, 2006. Archived from the original on March 7, 2011. Retrieved May 18, 2008.
  34. ^ a b Young, Jennifer (April 29, 2007). "Daniel Wu, "Heavenly King"". indieWIRE. originally from SF360. Archived from the original on March 13, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  35. ^ "Kevin Spacey in Chinese film | Variety". archive.is. February 5, 2013. Archived from the original on February 5, 2013. Retrieved February 26, 2021.
  36. ^ Young, Jennifer (March 15, 2008). "Daniel Wu". SF360. San Francisco Film Society. Archived from the original on March 18, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  37. ^ "alivenotdead.com". April 8, 2007. Archived from the original on May 27, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2008.
  38. ^ "Daniel Wu signed as spokesperson for the second year starring in the latest SEIKO Criteria Men Watches Collection advertisement". Seiko. May 7, 2008. Archived from the original on May 6, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  39. ^ "L'Oréal Taiwan". Archived from the original on January 15, 2008. Retrieved May 17, 2008.
  40. ^ "300 stars, nude in name of charity". China Radio International. November 30, 2006. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  41. ^ "discography". Jin's official website. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  42. ^ "Pooling resources". China Radio International. March 31, 2008. Retrieved May 16, 2008.
  43. ^ Daniel Wu (April 17, 2010). "My Wedding!!!". alive not dead. Retrieved April 17, 2010.
  44. ^ "Daniel Wu and Lisa S welcome baby girl". Asiaone.com. June 3, 2013. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  45. ^ thestandard, Actor Daniel Wu denies rumors of supporting independence, August 21, 2019
  46. ^ "Arrest made in attack on Asian man after Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Wu offer reward". February 9, 2021.
  47. ^ Sng, Suzanne (October 7, 2021). "Actor Daniel Wu and wife are the godparents of actress Ase Wang's baby". The Straits Times. Retrieved January 3, 2022.
  48. ^ Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 7, 2022). "'Shang-Chi's Michelle Yeoh & Destin Daniel Cretton Reunite For Disney+ Series 'American Born Chinese;' Chin Han, Yeo Yann Yann & Daniel Wu Also Star". Retrieved February 7, 2022.
  49. ^ Daniel Wu at douban.com
  50. ^ Daniel Wu at chinesemov.com

External links[edit]