Taiwan's screen icon dies at 70

LAUDED: Ko with Hong Kong actress Rachel Lee after the duo won best actor and actress at the 1999 Golden Horse Awards. The Taiwanese actor was best known for his heroic roles in his long career.


    Dec 08, 2015

    Taiwan's screen icon dies at 70


    KO CHUN-HSIUNG, a huge star of his generation whose debonair looks and roles in movie adaptations of Chiung Yao romantic novels made him popular, has died, aged 70.

    His agent confirmed his death early yesterday morning, reported Focus Taiwan News.

    Apple Daily said the Taiwanese actor, who went into politics later in life, died in a Taipei hospital after battling final stage lung cancer, diagnosed last year. Sources at the hospital said he died around 10pm on Sunday night.

    The actor had been in and out of hospital and was admitted into intensive care on Thursday.

    He underwent chemotherapy in May and last appeared in public in October at a film event wearing a facial mask and sounding frail.

    A drinker and smoker, he was hospitalised in 2007 for liver abscess after excessive drinking, Apple said.

    Born Ko Chun-liang, the Kaohsiung native started out in Hokkien films but moved into Mandarin ones, winning fame in 1965 in The Silent Wife, adapted from a book by Taiwanese romance novelist Chiung Yao, and becoming Chiung Yao's first leading man.

    He was also known for his portrayal of war heroes in the resistance against Japanese invasion during World War II.

    In 1968, he became the first Taiwanese to win the Best Actor award at the Asia-Pacific Film Festival for his role in Lonely Seventeen.

    He won in the same category at the festival in 1976 for playing a general in The Everlasting Glory, one of the patriotic movies of the 1970s he was known for.

    Another film that embellished his heroic screen image was Eight Hundred Heroes.

    He was crowned Golden Horse Best Actor twice, in 1979 for A Teacher Of Great Soldiers, and in 1999 for Cao Cao, which he also directed and in which he played the The Three Kingdoms' general.

    In his career of nearly 50 years, he acted opposite many famous actresses including Sylvia Chang, Chen Chen, Lin Ching-hsia and Xu Feng. He also set up two studios, writing and directing his own movies.

    Hong Kong actor Andy Lau, who has collaborated with Ko in the past, said: "The film world is less one tower of strength. I wish Big Brother a good journey."

    Chen Chen hailed Ko's acting skills as "among the best in Chinese movies", adding that he was serious about his work.

    His other Chiung Yao movies include Chun Gui He Chu (1967) and The Sixth Dream (1968).

    After stepping away from films, he went into politics and served as a legislator for four years. He returned to acting in 2011 in TV dramas including Father And Son and Feng Shui Family.

    He was famously married for 34 years to Taiwanese beauty and screen star Chang Mei-yao, who reportedly endured gossip about him and his affairs in silence. They had two daughters. They divorced in 2004 after he had a son and a daughter with fashion designer Jenny Tsai, whom he later married.

    Chang died of heart and lung failure in 2012, aged 71. After her death, Ko told reporters that Chang "did no wrong in this marriage, I was in the wrong". He also leaves behind Tsai and their two children.