Carrie Ng Ka Lai
Biography courtesy of Handsoftime.com
At 18 years old, Carrie Ng was told (by her television makeup artist) that no makeup in the world could make her look attractive. It's hard to believe he was talking about Hong Kong's newest sex symbol, a woman who has since appeared in more than 20 TV series', 40 films and won west Actress at the 1993 Golden Horse Awards. Carrie Ng (AKA Ng Ka Li) was born in Kowloon Town in 1963.
She has 2 brothers and a younger sister. Her parents were lower middle class: her father an ordinary worker, her mother a housewife. To them, Carrie Ng was a poised respectful girl whose shy disposition was countered by a well sharpened sense of intuition and an eagerness to learn.
Unlike most teenagers, Ng was able to visualize her destiny at an early age. But it was an aspiration she learned to keep to herself if she was to avoid ridicule. For Ng was not, in a traditional sense, regarded as being very attractive.
Although she maintained a modest appearance, her expression took on a quirky quality whenever she smiled or displayed sincere emotion.
It was this attribute that made her a misfit among her peers (who nicknamed her "the ugly sister") and left her parents wondering how Carrie Ng could delude herself into thinking she could have a career alongside some of Hong Kong's most beautiful women?
In 1981, when Carrie Ng was in her senior year at high school, she submitted an application to TVB (Hong Kong's largest television network/studio) requesting entry into their very prestigious acting course.
Within weeks she got a call confirming her placement in an upcoming enrollment audition. Carrie Ng was so nervous she almost didn't attend, and when she did she discovered she was just one of over a thousand young hopefuls all vying for the 30 openings being offered by TVB.
Two months after her reading, Carrie Ng received a call and was offered enrollment in the class. She was jubilant. The only problem now was how to tell her (very conservative) parents she wanted to drop out of high school to pursue the uncertainty of an acting career.
What made that task especially difficult was that for years Carrie Ng had maintained absolute silence over her every endeavor towards acting, so to throw light on it now would only make her look impulsive and foolish - and it did.
Her father's initial reaction was to expel her from the family. Fortunately Carrie Ng's mother was alittle more understanding and was able to convince her husband that their daughter's dream was worth this one shot.
After all, her mother reasoned, if worse came to worse Carrie Ng could always return to school the following year, make up the lost time and still graduate.
With that in mind, Carrie Ng's parents decided to give her dream that one chance. Following her graduation from TVB, Carrie Ng was placed on the studio's roster of actors. To Carrie Ng it proved to be an eye opening experience though not the dream come-true she had envisioned.
The pay was poor and she could only get parts with minimal exposure, amounting to no more than a line or two in each episode.
If that wasn't bad enough, the producers brought just like childhood all over again, but Carrie Ng preserved, determined to succeed in a business that placed the odds against her.
In the following year Carrie Ng worked her way up to the position of a "second line" actress or understudy. During this time she reaped the hidden benefits of her position by carefully watching the "first line" or leading actress.
From there Carrie Ng graduated to small speaking parts that no one else wanted. These roles were primarily of "scarlet women" who stole husbands and duped wives.
Carrie Ng admits those were difficult times as she was typecast by people (on the street) who would view her with distaste, based solely on the characters she played.
It was those early years that really put a dent in Carrie Ng's self-confidence but no matter how bad it became she remained undaunted in her quest.
In 1987, at the age of 24, Carrie Ng courageously decided to leave TVB in her search of a feature film career. Her first role was minor one, playing a nurse, but Carrie Ng quickly moved on to major roles.
In CITY ON FIRE ( 1987) she played the girlfriend to Chow Yun Fat (also of TVB fame) and gave a strong endearing performance clearly showing herself as a talent just waiting to be unleashed. Quickly there after, film projects arrived like clock work.
She got a pivotal role in Wong C. Keung's GUNMEN (1988), the story of warring drug syndicates in China's 1920's and by her appearance helped elevate the film above the perimeters of its average status.
This was followed by the hard edged women-in-prison film, THE FIRST TIME IS THE LAST TIME (1989) in which Carrie Ng played an avenging angel put behind bars for the gangland massacre of her boyfriend's killers.
The non glamorous role has Carrie Ng playing Winnie, a violent recluse who comes from the shadows to protect a new inmate from the perils of cell block protocol.
At one point Yuk is shown attacking and beating on the prison's Queen Bee, who she renders unconscious with a series of brutal head butts.
As Carrie Ng acquired greater exposure, the conflict that once surrounded her looks began to vain. This may have been due in part to a transitional period in Asian cinema where by physical trends shifted from one ideal to the next.
Carrie Ng focused only the character she was asked to play. If she liked the role then it didn't matter (and still doesn't) how much experience the director has.
The only problem was Ng kept getting offers to playing "scared women". So to offset those roles and avoid typecasting, Ng also appeared in numerous comedies like SKINNY TIGER- FAT DRAGON and A FISHY STORY.
With better film roles like THE TIME IS THE LAST TIME, came nominations at the Golden Horse Awards (the Hong Kong equivalent to the Academy Awards) which proved to be an open invitation to all filmmakers in need of a lead actress.
One such man was Wong Jing (AKA Wonga) who approached Carrie Ng with a script entitled THE NAKED KILLER ( 1992). He offered Ng the role of Princess, a seductive lesbian assassin. It was another "bad girl" role but this time she didn't feel her career in jeopardy.
This was because of recent mega-hits like BASIC INSTINCT (1992) which did very well in Hong Kong and actually convinced many moviegoers to see the cinematic "villainess" in a less prejudicial light.
Even Carrie Ng found inspiration, especially in Sharon Stone's character.
In an interview that appeared in Affairs Weekly Magazine #666, Carrie Ng is quoted as saying: "Sharon's character showed how a woman's greed and lust were merely extensions of a deep seeded instinct for survival and dominance. To me, any role that reflects that primitive aggression is a challenge to work with".
In late 1992 Carrie Ng was approached by producer Dennis Chan (an Assoc. Producer on THE NAKED KILLER) with a treatment for a film he called ATTRACTION OF THE NAKED BODY (rough translation).
Carrie Ng mulled over the treatment, liked it, and decided to give him time to flesh out a script that would now, in a sense, be written with her in mind.
The end result was REMAINS OF A WOMAN a steamy Category 3 thriller. But despite of it's seemingly lucrative elements, the film bombed in Hong Kong, lasting only about 2 weeks. But Taiwanese audiences loved it and flocked to the theaters.
Months later Carrie Ng received news that she had been given a Best Actress nomination at the up coming Golden Horse Awards. It was a landmark decision.
Never before in the history of the Golden Horse had any nomination been given to a category III film, and while it stunned insiders no one was more surprised than Carrie Ng herself.
But the shock didn't end there, for on the night of the awards and against all odds, Carrie Ng Ng was chosen as Best Actress of 1993.
It was a victory that not only caught the industry off guard, but Carrie Ng as well. In fact, Carrie Ng was so overcome with joy that when she stepped on stage to accept her award she broke down into tears and was unable to deliver her acceptance speech - returning later in the show to do so.
Following the ceremony she had this to say to reporters, backstage: "This Award means different things to different people, but for me it is one of the most important things to ever happen in my life. It represents 12 years of my undying effort."
The effect of Carrie Ng's victory has already been felt. But the question remains, why now have Category 3 films suddenly been given access to nomination?
Carrie Ng believes that the voting members have finally suspended their prejudices and are nominating actors on the basis of their acting ability and not solely on the type of characters they portray.
Her reasoning is probably not far from the truth when one considers Anthony Wong's recent Best Actor Award for his role in the Category 3 true crime potboiler THE UNTOLD STORY.
You can bet that 5 years ago a film like REMAINS OF A WOMAN or AN UNTOLD STORY would never even have made nomination, much less picked up any award.
In retrospect the Hong Kong film industry has continually labored. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s, to explore and exploit sexuality in their films, be it the consenting sexual violence in SEX AND ZEN or the nonconscenting sexual-violence fond in ROBOTRIX or DAUGHTER OF DARKNESS.
What REMAINS OF A WOMAN has done by its victory is to lift the legitimacy the Catagory 3 rated thriller out of the gutter and into the light.