Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Chinese immigrant parents, Hong has carved an unprecedented path in Hollywood. From his beginnings as a stand-up comedian in the 1950s to his first uncredited film roles in multiple 1954-55 films, to a multitude of versatile and groundbreaking acting roles, Hong tenaciously pursued his dreams, overcoming the challenges posed by the lack of substantial roles for Asian actors during that era.
Now, at the age of 94, Hong’s illustrious career boasts more than 600 credits, a testament to his remarkable versatility and talent showcased across myriad roles. These include portraying the headwaiter in Flower Drum Song (1961); Kahn, Evelyn Mulwray’s loyal butler in Chinatown (1974); eye manufacturer Chew in Blade Runner (1982); David Lo Pan in cult classic Big Trouble in Little China (1986); the sharp private eye Shin in Black Widow (1987); Jeff Wong in Wayne’s World 2 (1993); as the voice of Chi Fu in Mulan (1998); and recently as Gong Gong in the Best Picture Oscar®-winner Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022).
Hong continues to charm audiences with his endearing portrayal of Mr. Ping, the adoptive father of Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black), in DreamWorks Animation’s beloved Kung Fu Panda franchise, which has earned almost $2 billion worldwide, with three films spanning almost 16 years. Hong returns to the role of Mr. Ping, a devoted father goose and proud owner of a thriving noodle shop, for the first time in almost a decade in Kung Fu Panda 4 (in theaters March 8).
The TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX® handprints-footprints tribute is the most selective of all Hollywood honors. Over the course of 96 years, only 250-plus such honors have been presented. Movie exhibitor Sid Grauman opened The Chinese in 1927 and launched the handprints-footprints ceremony a year later as a promotion to advertise his many premieres and first-run films. Among the first handprints and footprints were those of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.
Notably, it wasn’t until 1991 that an Asian American actor first made a historic addition to the esteemed roster of Hollywood icons who have imprinted their hands and feet at the TCL Chinese IMAX®, when George Takei joined the list alongside his Star Trek co-stars. Since then, a select group of Asian and Asian-American actors and filmmakers have been honored, including actor Jackie Chan and directors John Woo and Justin Lin.
Hong now joins a list of Hollywood acting luminaries that includes Clark Gable, Fred Astaire, Humphry Bogart, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Paul Newman, Kirk Douglas, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, and Hong’s Chinatown co-star Jack Nicholson.
In addition to his on-screen accomplishments, Hong has actively addressed the challenges faced by Asian actors by advocating for better representation in the industry. In 1965, he co-founded the East West Players, the nation’s longest-running Asian American theater, with a commitment to raising the visibility of the Asian American experience. Since then, East West Players continues to build platforms for artists of color while advocating for multi-faceted representations in the performing arts.