5 Things to Know about ‘China’s Rambo’ Wu Jing – Martial Arts Star of ‘Wandering Earth’

The action star and director, best known for his roles in such films as ‘Tai Chi Boxer’, ‘Fatal Contact’ and ‘Wolf Warrior’, has box-office appeal and is a key figure in the Chinese film industry.

Actor Wu Jing in a scene from the hit Chinese science fiction film, ‘The Wandering Earth’.

China’s latest science-fiction blockbuster, The Wandering Earth, starring Chinese martial artist, actor and director Wu Jing, has attracted global attention thanks to its impressive box office takings.

The film earned US$557 million in the two weeks following its release during the Lunar New Year holiday to become the highest grossing film of 2019 so far.

That puts the film second in the all-time Chinese film box-office rankings – behind another of Wu’s action films, last year’s patriotic war hero film Wolf Warrior 2, which he also directed.

Both films have been made as part of China’s ambitious quest to counter the influence of Hollywood films in the country by promoting films with Chinese values – and also showcase the nation’s technological and cinematic advances to audiences around the world.

Wu’s continuing box-office appeal and talents – both in front and behind the camera – mean he has become a key figure in the Chinese film industry.

His on-screen tough guy heroics, which have led to him being dubbed the “Rambo of China”, have captured the imagination of the nation’s increasingly patriotic cinema audiences and also gained the full support of China’s President Xi Jinping and his government as they continue to promote nationalistic values to the population.

Check out five things you should know about the 44-year-old Chinese star whose action films are dominating their domestic rivals.

1. He comes from a martial arts family in Beijing

Actor and director Wu Jing in a scene from 2017’s hit action film, ‘Wolf Warrior 2’

The Manchurian-born Wu started practising martial arts at the age of six and, following in the footsteps of another action film star, Jet Li, he competed as a member of the Beijing Wu Shu team.

At the age of 21, he played the lead in his first kung fu film – credited as “Jacky Wu” – the 1996 Hong Kong production, Tai Chi Boxer. But it failed to propel him to stardom.

2. He spent time in supporting roles in Hong Kong films

Wu Jing and co-star Celina Jade at the 2017 Hong Kong premiere of ‘Wolf Warrior 2’

Wu went back to Hong Kong in 2003 to start over again.

Despite his solid martial arts background, he found himself cast in supporting roles in action films starring Hong Kong legends, such as Donnie Yen, in 2005’s SPL Sha Po Lang,and Sammo Hung Kam-po, in Fatal Move in 2008 – or even as extras in the films of Jaycee Fong, Nicholas Tse and Shawn Yue.

However, his perseverance paid off and in 2008 he both starred – and made his debut as a director – in the Hong Kong action film Legendary Assassin.

He also starred and directed the successful 2015 Chinese action film, Wolf Warrior, but it was not until its 2017 mega-hit sequel, Wolf Warrior 2, that really cemented his superstardom.

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3. He invested nearly US$9 million in ‘The Wandering Earth’

Wu was not originally going to appear in The Wandering Earth. He said originally he had wanted to support the project and the director, Frant Gwo, who had found himself running out of funds and struggling to finish the film.

So Wu personally invested almost US$9 million in the film and, in return, the director gave him a “star appearance”, which saw him playing one of the main characters.

It was certainly a wise investment as the hit film is being tipped to go on and earn more than US$743 million at the box office.

4. He’s one of three Chinese actors in ‘10 billion club’

Wu Jing on set while directing ‘Wolf Warriors 2’

After The Wandering Earth’s huge domestic success, Wu has now joined two other Chinese actors, Huang Bo and Shen Teng in the “10 billion club”, with the Chinese box office of their films reaching 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion).

Wu Jing’s current worth is estimated at US$300 million.

5. Controversy over his nationality

Celina Jade (left) and Wu Jing filming a scene from the hit action film, ‘Wolf Warrior 2’

Wu’s Wolf Warrior 2 film focuses on patriotic themes – such as the importance of Chinese passports and defending Chinese people and Chinese interests around the world – and also shows China’s People’s Liberation Army – and Wu’s character of a former special forces soldier – in a positive light.

However, its release also sparked a fierce backlash among some netizens, with Wu accused of being hypocritical after online rumours suggested that he holds a Hong Kong passport and his son is an American citizen.

The actor has strongly denied these claims.

–  This article originally appeared on South China Morning Post STYLE