Leslie Cheung

Leslie Cheung broke records, barriers, and hearts. He helped usher in the sub-genre of Hong Kong triad movies with John Wood and Chow Yun-Fat with his suave performance as Kit in the uber-violent "A Better Tomorrow." He starred in the films of Hong Kong's most talented directors, including Wong Kar-Wai, Tsui Hark, and Kaige Chen. In "Farewell My Concubine," he was the first Hong Kong star ever to perform in a Mainland Chinese movie. In no small part due to his moving turn as artist Cheng Dieyi in the film, "Farewell My Concubine" was also the first Chinese movie to win the Palme d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival. Cheung was at the leading edge of not just film, but also the music industry. A talented and incredibly popular singer, he led so-called "Cantopop" (Cantonese popular music) into the Golden Age of the 1980s with hits like "Silence is Golden." And yet Cheung was a brave leader not just in his career, but also in his personal life. He came out as a bisexual and introduced the world to his long-time partner, Daffy Tong Hok-Tak, whom his fans eventually embraced affectionately as "Tong Tong." In films like the gay-themed "Happy Together," Cheung also highlighted the reality of romance between two men on the big screen. As a film star and a pop singer, Cheung made a habit of blazing new trails, making his suicide in 2003, brought on by clinical depression, all the more tragic and shocking.