December 22, 2014
Hong Kong movie mogul Run Run Shaw dies, aged 107
Run Run Shaw built a Hong Kong movie and TV empire that nurtured rising talents like actor Chow Yun-fat and director John Woo, inspired Hollywood filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and produced the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner.
Shaw’s prolific studio helped bring kung fu films to the world but he also passed on the chance to sign one of the biggest names in that genre: the young Bruce Lee. The missed opportunity was a rare misstep for Shaw, who died yesterday, according to a statement from Television Broadcasts Limited (TVB), which he helped found in 1967. No cause of death was given.
His studio gave his age as 107, but his age according to the Western counting method may have been 106 because Chinese traditionally consider a child to be 1 at birth. His Shaw Brothers Studios, once among the world’s largest, churned out nearly 1,000 movies and gave young directors like Woo their start. He produced a handful of US films that also included the 1979 disaster thriller Meteor.
His television empire, which remains a dominant force in Hong Kong, was where stars like Chow got their first breaks. Wong Kar-wai, the director behind critically acclaimed art-house movies like Chungking Express and In the Mood for Love, got his start through a TVB training course and worked at the station briefly as a production assistant.
Shaw led TVB until retiring as chairman in December 2011 at the age of 104. He is survived by his second wife and four children from his first marriage.
Shaw was born the sixth of seven children near Shanghai to a wealthy textile merchant. Elder brother Runme Shaw, set up a silent film studio, Unique Film Production Co. Shaw, and another brother, Runje, went to Singapore in 1923 to market films to Southeast Asia’s Chinese community and eventually opened 139 movie theatres across the region.
His path to Asian moviemaking dominance began in earnest in 1961 when he opened Movie Town, a vast, state-of-the-art studio in Hong Kong’s rural Clearwater Bay. With 1,500 staff working on 10 soundstages, Movie Town was reputed to be the most productive studio in the world. At its busiest, actors and directors churned out 40 movies a year, most of them featuring kung fu, sword fighting or Asian gangsters known as triads.
The result was a library of nearly 1,000 movies such as The One Armed Swordsman and The Five Fingers of Death, the latter being one of Shaw’s most successful in the West.
The studio’s logo — the initials SB on a shield — was inspired by the Warner Brothers emblem, in a nod to its Hollywood aspirations. It came full circle when Tarantino appropriated the Shaw Brothers logo for use in his two ***** Kill Bill movies, which were in homage to the studio and other Hong Kong martial arts movies.
“For a year, I’d watch one old Shaw Brothers movie a day — if not three,” Tarantino told the Los Angeles Daily News in 2003, discussing his preparation for filming.
Film production ceased in 1983, but by then Shaw had switched his focus to television. In 1973 he took control of TVB, which remains Hong Kong’s dominant TV station. Shaw, knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974, was also a philanthropist. In 2002 he founded the annual Shaw Prizes, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prizes. The honour offers US$1 million annually to winners in mathematics, medicine and astronomy.
Herald with AP