Profile: Bolo Yeung

Posted in Profiles by - April 09, 2014
Profile: Bolo Yeung

Date of birth: July 3, 1946 (Guangzhou, China)

Other names: Yang Sze, Yang Szu, Bolo Yeung, Yeung See, Yeung Tze, Yeung Shut

Occupation: Actor, stuntman, bodybuilder, director

Style: Tai chi

Biography: Bolo Yeung, the so-called ‘Beast from the East’, is one of kung fu cinema’s all-time favourite villains. His muscular physique and deadly martial arts skills made him famous in some of the genre’s most cherished films, including Enter the Dragon (1973) opposite Bruce Lee and Jean-Claude Van Damme‘s starring role debut, Bloodsport (1988).

Yang Sze was born in Guangzhou, China, and learnt kung fu from the age of 10. After relocating to Hong Kong, he developed an interest in bodybuilding and in 1970 he was crowned Mr. Hong Kong, a title he would hold for 10 years. Throughout the 1960s and 70s, his striking looks made him an easy choice for baddie roles within the burgeoning Hong Kong film industry. He would become an actor and stuntman for the Shaw Brothers with notable early performances in films like The Heroic Ones (1970) and The Deadly Duo (1971) before leaving the studio in 1971.

When Bruce Lee’s film The Way of the Dragon went four-times over its budget, Lee agreed to do commercials for the cigarette brand, Winston. Bolo was selected to appear in the TV commercial which included the line, “When talking about fighting, it’s Bruce Lee. When talking about cigarettes, of course, it’s Winston.” The two became close friends and training partners. He was given the role of Han’s personal bodyguard for the Warner Brothers and Golden Harvest collaboration, Enter the Dragon (1973), in which Yang Sze was given the character name ‘Bolo’. The name stuck, and the film’s huge international success helped to guarantee the newly renamed Bolo Yeung a long and varied career within the martial arts movie genre.

Bolo was offered a key role in Bruce Lee’s newly revised Game of Death alongside George Lazenby and Betty Ting Pei, but the project was canned following Bruce Lee’s death. He was summarily offered his own starring vehicle, playing the titular baddie in fan’s favourite, Chinese Hercules (1974).

Throughout the 1970s and 80s his personal and professional links to Bruce Lee made him a regular opponent for a string of imitators in many Bruceploitation films, including titles like The Clones of Bruce Lee (1977), Enter the Game of Death (1978) and Bruce Li in New Guinea (1978). He made his directorial debut in 1979 with the film Writing Kung Fu. He would later surface in the celebrity-filled Golden Harvest action comedies of the 1980s including the Sammo Hung films My Lucky Stars (1985) and Millionaire’s Express (1986), and dueled with Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, in the action film Legacy of Rage (1986).

Bolo Yeung gained huge popularity in the west following the international success of Canon Films’ 1988 fight movie Bloodsport, in which he played the enigmatic but evil Kumite champion Chong Li. The film cost only $1.5m and launched the career of Jean-Claude Van Damme, who would personally request a rematch with Bolo Yeung for his 1991 film Double Impact. Bolo’s work in Hollywood includes B movies like the Shootfighter films, Breathing Fire (1991) and work with Canadian entrepreneur Jalal Merhi, who he first met on the set of Tiger Claws (1992). Bolo Yeung has since worked with Merhi on several films including Fearless Tiger (1994), Tiger Claws II (1996) and an as-yet unreleased protagonist role in Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter (2007).

Since his semi-retirement from the movie industry, Bolo Yeung has continued to train in his chosen disciple of tai chi as well as give talks around the world. He lives in Monterey Park, Los Angeles, and is the father of former competitive bodybuilder turned MMA trainer David Yeung.

Speech! On Bruce Lee: “No one can do the same as he did or even get close to him. In the world there was one Bruce Lee, and if someone will try to be the second Bruce Lee, it is simply impossible.”

Filmography (as actor): 1970 The Wandering Swordsman; The Heroic Ones; 1971 The Rescue; The Oath of Death; The Lady Professional; The Deadly Duo; 1972 Young People; Trilogy of Swordsmanship; Man of Iron; King Boxer; Intrigue in Nylons; The Gourd Fairy; The Fugitive; The Fourteen Amazons; The Angry Guest; 1973 Tiger; The Soul of Chiba; Kung Fu’s Hero; Killer in the Dark; Greatest Thai Boxing; Enter the Dragon; Chinese Hercules; Call to Arms; The Bodyguard; Black Guide; 1974 Thunder Kick; Super Kung Fu Kid; Kung Fu on the Bosporus; 1975 Hong Kong Superman; The Fighting Dragon; A Debt of Crime; All Men are Brothers; 1976 A Queen’s Ransom; Bruce’s Fingers; Big Family; 1977 10 Magnificent Killers; The Clones of Bruce Lee; 1978 The Tattoo Connection; The Image of Bruce Lee; Mr Big; Enter the Game of Death; Bruce Li in New Guinea; Bruce Le’s Greatest Revenge; Bruce Lee – The Invincible; Bruce and Shaolin Kung Fu; Amsterdam Connection; 1979 Writing Kung Fu (+ dir.); Treasure of Bruce Le; Ruthless Revenge; The Fists, Kicks, and Evils; The Dragon, the Hero; Bruce The Super Hero; Big Boss 2; 36 Deadly Styles; 1980 Snake Deadly Act; Master Killers; Challenge of the Tiger; Bruce, King of Kung Fu; Bolo (+ dir, action dir.); 1981 Ninja Killer; Enter Three Dragons; The Cold Blooded Murder; All the Wrong Clues for the Right Situation; 1982 Kung Fu Cook; Bruce Strikes Back; 1983 Play Catch; Just for Fun; Fearless Hyena 3; The Boxer’s Omen; 1984 Silent Romance; 1985 Working Class; The Seven Angels; My Lucky Stars; Lucky Diamond; 1986 Where’s Officer Tuba?; Millionaire’s Express; Lucky Stars Go Places; Legacy of Rage; 1987 To Err is Humane; Killer’s Nocturne; 1988 One Husband Too Many; Bloodsport; 1989 Bloodfight; 1991 Breathing Fire; Double Impact; 1992 Megaforce from Highland; Shootfighter: Fight to the Death; Iron Heart; Tiger Claws; The Magnificent Duo; 1993 TC 2000; 1994 Fearless Tiger; 1995 Shootfighter 2; 1996 Fists of Legends 2: Iron Bodyguards; Tiger Claws II; 2007 Blizhniy Boy: The Ultimate Fighter; 2017 Diamond Cartel.

This post was written by
Editor and creator of Kung Fu Movie Guide and the host of the Kung Fu Movie Guide Podcast. I live behind a laptop in London, UK.

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