Course:ASIA321/2022/John Lone

From UBC Wiki
John Lone in Year of the Dragon, 1985

John Lone: From an Actor emerged a Thinker


How does an orphan, who was thrown into a Peking Opera School at a young age, sneaked into the United States in his teenage years, grow up to be a worldwide famous star? He got a lot further in the filming industry by working a lot harder, being featured in multiple films and becoming a renowned actor. Due to his stardom lasting relatively short and ending early, most people in the 2000s don't know him pretty well. Many don't even recognize his name. This Wikipedia page aimed to give a thorough explanation and analysis of John Lone's personal life and film life.


John Lone(尊龙;尊龍) is a Hong Kong-born American actor. He is best known for his starring role as Pu Yi in the film The Last Emperor (1987) and Song Liling in M. Butterfly (1993). Trained in traditional Peking Opera schools since childhood, he left for the United States when he was 17. He first made his name in theatre plays, winning an Obie Award in 1981. In the early 1980s, he earned himself a place on screen, starring in the films Ice Man(1984) and Year of the Dragon(1985). In 1987, he became well-known to the world for his role as Pu Yi in The Last Emperor. His exceptional performance in the 1993 film M. Butterfly helped him gain lasting fame. He retired from the film industry in 2007 after cooperating with Jet Li in the movie War. In 2012, he came to mainland China to shoot the movie "Lady of the Dynasty", starring as the male protagonist, Emperor Tang Ming Huang. However, after two months of shooting, Tang Ming Huang was recast. He did not come back to the industry after that.

Life roles

"When I was a kid in the theater class, all the children called me Johnny. Then when I had to get a passport to go abroad, a random person I knew gave me a name. I always felt awkward, and I changed it right away when I arrived in the United States. I don't have a father, I don't have a surname. I like dragons very much because dragons represent the spirit of the Chinese people. That’s why I named myself John Lone, and later “John” was translated into "Zun (尊)" in Asia. Zun Long it is. Both letters have historical and intimate meanings for me, so I think I can have this name."——John Lone, 2006, in an interview with Sina Entertainment[1]

The orphans of the Peking Opera School — “Johnny”

John Lone during movie rehearsal, 2012

Grew up as an orphan, Lone was sent to a Peking Opera School when he was around 10. His mentor was Ju-Hua Fen, a famous female Peking Opera actress known for the severity of her teaching.[2] The typical training mode of opera schools includes getting up at seven o'clock in the morning for singing exercises, spending whole day learning the skills of vocal, choreography and martial arts. In Peking Opera schools, the cost of making mistakes is high. If students were not focused on practice or made a mistake, they would receive heavy corporal punishment. Despite not being able to read or write, students are required to learn to sing and perform in a short period of time through oral and physical instruction from their mentor. [3]John Lone studied at the Peking Opera School for seven years, before he left for the United States when he was 17.

The seven years of study had a profound impact on John Lone's professional career. In 2012, he demonstrated the sword-dancing skills he had learned as a child while working on the motion design for the film Lady of the Dynasty, when he was 60 at the time.[4] Years of training made him an actor before he decided to become one. He knows how to sing, dance and act, exactly what is necessary to become a musical actor. Even before he mastered English, he was offered an opportunity to perform in a ballet company because of his excellent dancing skills. [5]Later, he appeared frequently on the stage of musicals, and in 1981, he won an Obie Award for his performance of the stage show "F.O.B." in New York.[6]

In his interview with Gente de expressão, a Portuguese TV show, he claimed that when he first arrived at America, he can’t speak a word of English. It was the audiovisual learning ability he gained in his opera training that made him quickly master a new language and adapt to the environment.[3]

New Name, New Identity – “John Lone”

Interview with Gente de expressão, n.d.

When it comes to the reasons for his departure from Hong Kong, Lone Lone said in multiple interviews: “At that time, I did’t really feel I belong anywhere. Everyone in Hong Kong seems very anxious and is worrying about all kinds of things. I wanted to get separated from the city completely. I had that America is a new land and a new frontier, where the whole world comes together to form a country. Anybody is welcome to this country.”[5] His imagination for the United States is very similar to the concepts of American Dream, which is “Everyone can be richer and live a better life according to one’s ability or achievement, regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.”

He spent three years to learn English in night classes at Santa Ana College. His fluency in English built the most essential foundation for his future studies and career in the United States. He then learned a systematic, Western method of acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.[7] In the past, the news media often portrayed John Lone as a gifted man with no regular education, focusing on his unusual childhood while ignoring the fact that he had received a college education in the United States. However, it was his learning of language and acting skills during this period that gave him a ticket to the American acting world.

However, in the 1980s, the Asian characters in American films were very homogeneous, stereotypical and limited. In Lone's own words, back then, there would be a room of Asian actors competing for a role with only one line. The American Dream proved to be an unrealistic fantasy, and he had to face the reality that the American film industry is not Asian-friendly.

In many of his interviews, John Lone has shown a deep sense of self-examination. He constantly reflects on the roles he has played, his past and future careers, the thoughts he once had and his early-years. Although he was forced to study at Peking Opera school, he was grateful to his adoptive mother, "She could have sent me to study carpentry, but she let me study acting instead." He realized how his unhappy childhood experiences helped him in his future achievements.

Screen roles

John Lone's roles on the screen fall into three broad categories: stateless or exotic characters, Asian in Western films, and traditional Chinese characters in Chinese films. In terms of types of roles, he often plays the role of a leader, such as crime boss and emperor.

Man with No State

John Lone in Ice Man, 1984

His appearance was considered to be a mix of Western and Eastern beauty, yet in fact, he never played a traditional white male character. His first leading role was that of a prehistoric man without a nationality or any modern identity. In this movie Ice Man(1984), despite not having a single line, his excellent acting performance made him noticed by many directors. He was able to get the role because of his achievement on the musical stage. After the success of "F.O.B.", he got the opportunity to perform at the Public Theater in New York. The following year, he choreographed, composed, directed and staged the play "the Dance and the Railroad" with David Wong. Iceman director Fred Schepisi's agency Sam Cohen was in New York at the time and was impressed with Lone's show. He told Fred to give Lone a chance. That was the start of Lone's career on the big screen.[3]

Lone's hybrid-like appearance did not give him a big advantage in his early days in the film industry. He was identified as an Asian face. After he gained some reputation, his exotic features were spotted by fellow directors. Lone starred as a local Balinese dancer in the 1987 film Echoes of Paradise and as a Jewish man in 1988’s film The Moderns Later in 1994, he acted in the movie The Shadow as the grandson of Genghis Khan, a Mongolia man. In the following year, he played a Japanese ninja. His roles are diverse in terms of nationality and identity, which is uncommon among actors.

Asian face in Western films

Born in Hong Kong and educated in the United States, John Lone speaks fluent Cantonese and English and has both Chinese and American cultural backgrounds. Having gained experience in stage performances, plus the fame he has built up from Iceman, he played the role of a crime boss of the New York Chinese town in Year of the Dragon(1985). In the movie, he flexibly switches between Cantonese and English. The character's identity is similar to his own, but more artistic: the character is violent, elegant and shows the majesty of a leader. Throughout the movie, he wears a well-fitting suit, displaying an aristocratic manner. This role helped him get nominated for the 43rd Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture and set the tone for his future acting career.

John Lone in The Last Emperor, 1987

In 1985, John Lone received a crucial role for him: Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty of China. This epic biographical film is directed by the famous Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci and won nine Oscars that year. Although Lone had earned some reputation due to his outstanding work in Iceman and Year of the Dragon, the director didn’t choose him for this reason. In an interview with New York Times in 1987, Bertolucci said:

“I chose him at first sight. I felt something very intense when I first saw him, together with a kind of weirdness. I felt that he had a natural makeup on his face, and the tough discipline of the Peking Opera had been sublimated in a kind of great inner tension. I think it’s a very good alternative to the New York Actors Studio.”[8]

John Lone in the Forbidden City, 1996

This role has brought him great fame and fortune. He earned a place in the world of cinema.He gained a huge fan base and audience thanks to this movie. He also shot numerous commercials and was asked to be the Japanese spokesperson for whiskey in 1988,[9] setting the highest payment for a spokesperson in the history of Japanese advertising.

Crime Boss or Emperor?

However, when he appeared in films as a Chinese, most of his roles were very similar. He was cast in a total of fifteen films with named characters, five of which he played crime bosses. The young, elegant crime boss in Year of the Dragon made him famous in Hollywood and led to him being offered similar roles in action movies for the rest of his career. Besides the gang leader, he played the emperors of the Qing Dynasty three times, namely Pu Yi, Qian Long and Kang Xi. The director of Records of Kang Xi's Travel Incognito(2007), Deng Jianguo, said that “Lone’s acting in ‘The Last Emperor’ left a very deep impression on me, so I hope to work together with him to make a brand-new TV series.”[10] Lone's representative work at his peak seems to become a stereotype for directors in his subsequent career.

In 1993, John Lone starred in the movie M. Butterfly as a special role Song Liling, a Peking Opera actress in male disguise, who was also a spy. Lone contributed an amazing performance in the film. The film satirizes the orientalist stereotypes of the West, and is still commonly examined and analyzed by scholars. However, the film was not very profitable back then,[11] so it did not attract a lot of attention, nor did it give a big lift to Lone's professional career.

Substantive analysis of the celebrity's profession

Song Liling's female figure in M. Butterfly, 1993

Analysis on John Lone's performance in M. Butterfly


M. Butterfly is a 1988 play written by Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang and brought to the screen in 1993. It reverses the gender relations and East-West correlation implied in the Italian opera Madame Butterfly. M. Butterfly not only deconstructs the stereotypical image of Eastern women in the minds of Western audiences, but also reverses the original power and subordination relationships between East and West. John Lone plays the complicated role of Song Liling in the movie.

Song Liling - A Symbol of Rebellion

Song Liling's male figure in M. Butterfly, 1993

Song Liling is a well-educated and independent Beijing opera singer who can speak English, write in French, and sing in Italian. The film does not explain how Song, as a Peking Opera actor, acquired these skills. She appears at the beginning of the film as a fascinating woman with oriental beauty in the eyes of Westerners, and at the same time she has a profound and subversive reflection on the stereotypes of East and West. Her image and thoughts are the symbols that the writers set up to challenge the Western narrative of oriental beauty. This purpose was achieved by his sudden appearance as a male figure at the end of the film.

John Lone - Unspoken and Unconscious Subversion

Also standing in the crossroads of Eastern and Western cultures, Lone's life experience shows how a different Eastern figure has been gradually established compared to Song's sudden apparance. Lone was renowned worldwide, so he was often interpreted in various ways by media around the world for his Western and Eastern features. His own identity has been changing over time. However, because of his authenticity and complexity, and his tough history of growth and struggle, most importantly, his success in Hollywood and world cinema, his presence did modify the Western image of Oriental beauty in the 1990s more or less.

Opera Scene in M. Butterfly, 1993

Song's Mask, Lone's Keystone

Their identity as Peking Opera artists is the beginning of their lives. John Lone was once a Peking Opera actor. The only difference is that his role was a martial artist (wu sheng, 武生) and Song was a woman artist (dan, 旦). Song's identity as a Peking Opera actor is more like a mask that is present only at the start of the film, giving her charm and giving the male lead the implicit pleasure of unmasking. But as a more authentic individual, Lone's childhood experiences of learning and performing continued to influence his subsequent professional career. We have already discussed this part in his life roles.

Against "Oriental beauty" but Identify with Art China

Although not explicitly stated in the film, we assume that Song was born and raised in Beijing, judging by her conversations with an old lady in Mandarin with a Beijing accent. The story is set in the period of the Cultural Revolution. Lone himself, on the other hand, was born in Hong Kong in 1952 and was raised by an old Shanghai lady until he joined the Peking Opera school. They were born in a nearby era, but they lived in completely different social environments. However, they were all raised in the essence and pure arts of cultural China, rather than in a traditional, "normal" civilian family. Correspondingly, even though they have a sense of rebellion against "Oriental beauty", they all show a sense of identification with traditional Chinese culture. Lone’s understanding of China inevitably had an abstract artistic aesthetic bias.

Contribution to the Professional Field

"A Trailblazer"

The impact of John Lone on the film industry is also worth noticing, despite his influence on mass audiences. Asian Americans, especially those working in the film industry, can definitely consider him as a trailblazer. Back then, there were plenty of Asian American actors and actresses in Hollywood, but they either did not participate much in the mainstream market, or they played only Orientalist Asian roles without much depth. Meanwhile, Hollywood favoured casting white actors and actresses when the film topic revolved around Chinese, or in general, Asian culture. An example of this type of "whitewashing" can be found in the movie The Good Earth (1937).[12][13] Although starting from the same field, John Lone was able to play an important role in a mainstream film, not to mention that character came from his own cultural heritage. Through those achievements, he proved to his fellow Americans that they could play all kinds of roles. Not just that, he was also nominated twice for the Best Actor Gloden Globe for his two different roles, both presenting Asian heritage.[14]

Embracing the Opportunities Back Home

There is no evidence that John Lone led the wave of joining the film industry in the motherland among the Asian American film community. In fact, no American or Canadian actor or actress had claimed that John Lone inspired them to head back to China to enhance their film career. What we can claim here is that John Lone definitely played a key factor in influencing the trend of Chinese Americans/Canadians going back to China to succeed in their acting career. After his The Last Emperor (1987), we could definitely witness a steady wave of population pouring back into the Chinese film pool from the United States, Canada, and other countries. Notable celebrities that count in this wave include famous actors like Daniel Wu.[15]Others chose to embrace the culture without moving their whole careers back, and some great examples would be Simu Liu,[16] Lucy Liu,[17] and Gemma Chan.[18]

Social Context and Career Development

Societal factors are inseparable from a celebrity's career development. Even Lone himself mentions that his success is an opportunity that comes from the right time and right place. Within the perspective of cultural values, national policies and historical resources, John's career development has occurred within such a complex dynamic. In this section, we are going to examine what are some of the communal social factors that interplay within John's career development.

Orientalism through the Hollywood lens

John Lone as M.butterfly(1993)

First of all, movies as traditional media conveys people's culture and ideologies. Asian roles were still limited and biased in Hollywood at the time when John started his acting career. We are curious whether that societal milieu could influence John's film characters. In order to examine the distribution of Asian characters in Hollywood movies between 1980 and 1990, we are retroactively going back to a collection of movie archives.[19] It is not surprising that Asian characters portrayed in the 1980s and 1990s Hollywood films are mostly filled with the playing of yellow faces, prejudice, and arrogance. However, that does not mean Hollywood has not been fascinated by Asia. In the contractorary, their fantasies on Asian themes are often extoic and mysterious.[20] Such film representations are rather orientalized. The literature on Orientalism is agnostic. The euro-centric value lays meager assumptions towards the east.[20] It creates a schema that we are cognitively engaged to look for information that fits our biases. You may find similar portrayals using this schema to stereotype, such derisive stereotypes known as “the yellow peril”, it depicts Asians as dangerous criminals. As this stereotype is reflected in John's film roles. For instance, in one of his most well-known films The Year of Dragon (1985), [21]he acts as an Asian mafia in which the roles are merely of a simplified character. The purpose of his character was to illuminate the development of white male ​​protagonists​​.​​ In terms of sexuality, the orientalist portrayal of Asian characters then extends to many other subtypes, such as the seductive female and the asexual Asian males. Sex and Asian men? In a western lens, these two categories could only coexist as if the eastern males were gay men, or they have bodies that are alleged to be ​​effeminate. This gazing of Asian male also underlined in John Lone's Madame Butterfly (1993)[22]. In this Hollywood film, John was a character who successfully dragged himself as a woman, opposite to the western masculinity, he was elegant 4and delicate at the same time. From analysing such societal pheromones and movie characters in John Lone film, we could gain better understanding on how film characters reflect the social and historical issues, conflicts, problems and contradictions that provide or influence actors' careers in a limited situation.

Chinese-American's role in Us-Sino relationship in the 1980s and 1990s

The impact of changing Sino-US relations is definitely one of the most symbolic historical events occurring in the time period in which John is developing his career. The diplomatic change also sets the Chinese citizens and Chinese Americans indirect contact for new social experiences. Although John was already in his 20s when he first moved to the United States, his other identity as a successful Chinese-American was also generated after he made himself a ground in America. After going through John's past magazine reports, we have found a unique narrative pattern in his Chinese domestic reports. In this session we are going to talk about how John's immigration experience and his personal agency stands on the broader political practice.    

The normalization of the U.S.-Sino relations in 1979 almost coincided with China's economic reform.[23] The opening of the country's doors provides ​​unprecedented​​ opportunities for the Chinese diaspora and the expansion of foreign exchanges become more prominent. ​​Part of the early immigrants are also seeking to return to China looking for their Chinese identity.[23] The Chinese-American and the Chinese community all over the world have been portrayed in the role of "civil ambassadors" for national relations, prominent figures among them have been repeatedly and widely reported. Most of the immigrants are also expected and recognized by the governments of their countries of residence.[23] The Chinese media also enthusiastically publicized them in various media coverages. In all of the above report articles we found, we think John Lone also falls under the category of successful Chinese-American, who has a role as bridge bonding friendly under the benevolent US-Sino discourse. His involvement in the Chinese film industry was initially a sign to support the Chinese-film development. Although his experience with a series of scandals and unpleasantness are later words that mark how situations could change on individual levels, we believe this political policy as a microsystem that overlaps with John's searching for his own identity confirmation.

Reception of the celebrity

Due to the information collection lacking in that era, there weren’t many resources depicting the reception of the population towards John Lone. As part of this section, we will discuss different perceptions based on the perspectives of different countries. For one of the countries, China, specifically, we would talk about how media platforms and time have an important impact on people’s opinions.  Most of the comments remained positive, while some kept a discouraging taste.



John Lone featured in Japan Santory Whisky commerical, 1988

John Lone gained much of his popularity in Japan due to his fusion of blending the East and the West together. Not only his appearance, his charisma and the character he held also showed the same way. He was described as a rational man under his deep immersion in Western culture, but a refined figure with his Eastern Chinese cultural heritage. Such integration was depicted in his Rolex commercial in Japan.[24] He was also recognized as one of the spiritual leaders of all Asian Americans. Japanese magazine described John as a barefooted foreigner, and his words, "The more I wanted to be American, the more I felt my mission and responsibility as an Asian," were associated with the Japanese American spirit.[25] Apart from his Asian heritage, he is a popular celebrity in Japan because of his handsome face. John Lone won a lot of attention from the public, mainly female audiences; for many Japanese female fans, he was the ideal and perfect example of an oriental male figure. Japanese people's love and admiration for him is reflected in the media and business. The headlines of magazine reports at the time included: "Will you still be a fan of John Lone even if he shaved his head? " and "Lone's Encyclopedic Dictionary". In these reports, the Japanese media focused on various aspects of john's personal life, from his BWH measurements to his relationship situation.[26] His popularity paved the way for his career achievement in Japan, as he held twenty concerts nationwide. His devotion and dedication towards the stage and his constant interaction with the Japanese audiences, those factors explained the reason behind his humongous success.


Though gained much attention worldwide due to his appearances in The Last Emperor, much of his career path was overshadowed by this single movie. This led to him not being widely recognized by Western audiences. Besides, due to much of a career overlapping with Leslie Cheung, as Madame Butterfly versus Farewell My Concubine, Western audiences frequently regarded Lone to be the villain in such a power dynamic.[27] This pattern could be observed in Chinese audience settings as well.


Besides the aforementioned career overlapping with the famous Hong Kong actor and singer Leslie Cheung, for those Chinese audiences using traditional media platform as a source medium, majority of them held a relatively complicated sentiment towards John Lone. As Lone became quiet from the media, the new fans emerged from online platforms held generally admiring attitude towards him. Majority of them became interested in Lone due to his exotic, hybrid appearance.


Throughout Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, John was regarded as a symbol of Chinese pride in international film. Media attention has always focused on him since 1985. Taiwan awarded him its Golden Horse award in 1989.[28] As part of the same year, China Radio and Film, a comprehensive magazine under the supervision of the State Administration of Radio and Television, published an interview with John Lone, telling the story of the growth of this Chinese international star.[29] He also won the public vote in ''Topic Ten World Movie Stars", surpassing Jackie Chan and Tom Cruise in a Chinese magazine.

However, as he later turned his career focus to Chinese mainland in 2006, his collab with the notorious "king of sensationalization", Deng Jianguo, caused significant backlash. Deng Jianguo was a controversial character who aritificially produce scenes to capture the attention from the media, in order to boost one's popuarity. After collabing with Deng, Lone's reputation plunged. He frequently attend many interviews and became vocal, which sharply contradicted to his mysterious image formed in the past. His works back in China were often regarded "live off his past gains", that he could not put out anything promising anymore.[30] Media called it out by saying "Overnight, Deng Jianguo changed John Lone from an immortal into a man."[31]Media called him "big-headed", that he was publically known for his bad temper.[32] We can definitely see the trace of public perception of Lone through the title of reporting articles: "At the Age 55, the flopped World Star John Lone playing Kung Fu on Street, Acting Like a Psycho".[30]


Into the 2010s, with the creation of Weibo(微博) and other Chinese online platforms, the fans regathered in Supertopic(超话) and reproduced information about John Lone on the internet. Lone's reputation was then clarified and even enhanced by those fans. Other we-medias began to tell stories about Lone's orphan past. People started to fantasize about his appearance, associating him with the 80s movie aesthetic. Fans on Weibo started a hashtag, calling him "20th Century Handsome Man John Lone". Lone was, once again, deified, due to his legendary life story and the gigantic shift in his identity. His private personal life also drew much imaginary thinking around this topic.

Critical literature review


John Lone cameos in Jiang Qing's stage show "雪梅“ 1982, the character in white is John Lone.

The last time people heard about John Lone was almost 20 years ago. Does this mean that John has vanished from the mainstream celebrity culture? Or is it just his choice of living in seclusion? A short memoir by Jiangqing briefly summarizes her memory with John Lone.[33] Just as many news reports found John as one of the most committed actors, Jiang was also admired by his devotion to arts performance. However, she also mentioned aspects that many do not expect to hear— He was sensitive, lonely and avoidant.[33] Despite all the great virtues John has, he was perceptive and struggling with overwhelmed emotions. Jiang remembers they spent a few months working hard on scripts for a new stage show. However, they had a hard time arguing over the venue determination.[33] It was initially John's promise of contacting the theater since he was an acquaintance to the theatre manager, but he ended up letting Jiang to be the contact, which Jiang was afraid for being rejected, since she thought the theatre manager only selling fvor to John. After this incident, John left the town and Jiang never got a chance to hear from John, until lately she saw the latest reporting on John, who was found attending a friend's birthday party. [33] We choose this memory as it is transgressive in having a unique story to tell – a story that is prone to personal and revealing about John.

Portraits of The Art Circles

John Lone was once a popular celebrity in Japan. In the Rolex (Japan) commercial[24], John Lone was described as a rational man through his Western culture immersion and a refined man with his Eastern culture experiences. [34]This cultural integrity was perhaps the perception for John Lone  at the time: he was a fusion of East and West; in the eyes of many Japanese female fans, John Lone was the ideal and perfect standard of an oriental male figure.[34] In this short report of John Lone's solo concert, the author showed us John's popularity at the time in Japan. John Lone did in total 20 concerts[34]; nearly millions of tickets were sold out within a short period of time. While John's fame did not come from nowhere, he was hard working and devoted. As the author indicates he did rehearsals several times prior to the concert. Not only his dedication, John was also spectacular with his self-sufficiency.[34] Although the concert was held in Japan, John refused to act superficially by singing Japanese lyrics to obtain audiences' likes.[34] However, that does not mean John's lack of interaction with his fans. Instead, he designed the whole stage himself by using really romantic displays that directly fulfilled what the audience were looking for — a really touchable feeling.[34] Overall, the article indicates John's professional conservation is not only limited in the U.S and China, but other countries like Japan as well.


The article focuses on John Lone's inextricable ties with China. Unlike other reports, this one specifically talks about John from a Chinese nationalistic perspective.[35] The intention was to iindicates the passion and the sense of identification from overseas successful Chinese like John Lone.[35] By explicitly writing on Lone's 's endearment with Chinese cinema and his passion for the homeland. As we mentioned earlier, such newspaper coverage is extremely helpful in shaping the image of the Chinese in the broader context. First of all, the report specifies John Lone's identity as an outstanding expatriate, whose early hardships made him excellent and extremely well known locally in the United States. The article also depicts John's dissatisfaction with the American film industry by quoting "Hollywood movies are just good at its technology, but the majority of the films lack emotional expression and do not have an attractive story, Chinese films are really effective, they also have many touching stories. I think the hope for the 21st century cinema is in China."[35] The film also focuses on John's dissatisfaction with the Chinese characters in Hollywood scripts. Through selecting from Lone's discourse, the article aims to promote the advantages for the Chinese films. At the same time, it grants the Chinese domestic cinema a ​​credibility​​ by using Lone's reference. (Approved by one of the international superstars!) Contrasting with Western discourse, one of the news reports from the U.S. titled “Don't call John Lone a Chinese actor"[36], the one from China, emphasizes Lone's unforgettable​​ identity to China. Although they do not perceive John as a Chinese citizen, the recognition from a successful overseas Chinese seems to have brought more integrity to the Chinese film industry.

Ross Wetzsteon: Lone Star

The play “F.O.B." (1980) directed by David Henry Hwang’s, offers John Lone wins Obies for Best Play and Star.

The author Ross Wetzsteon was one of the initiatives of "Obie Award”,which John Lone also won the award in two of his stage productions.

John Lone is a very complex actor. Sometimes he can be mysterious, lonely and cold, but at the same time he is just so kind, gentle and approachable. On the one hand, most reports see John as generally cheering and polite, but in this article, the audience could hear the complexity of John being impatient​​ and irascible​​.[37] The author remembers once John became grumpy when talking about how he was intrigued by the cast crew as they put him into unnecessary waitings. Although he seems mad, he was able to quickly calm down, and later you don't even get the sense that the person in front of you is the same person who's just irritated.[37] In this report, we could see John Lone as a "flesh" person rather than just a modeled actor wearing only one persona. It is worth mentioning that Lone was 35 years old when Wertzseton wrote this report. We can sense Lone was still in his psychological moratorium at the time, it makes sense that it has taken him a little longer for his path to identity achievement ​​than others due to his childhood experiences​​. The complexity of his early years, the two dimensional characters for being both gentle and impatient, reveals even more on John Lone's struggles and vigilance​​ when confronting negative emotions in his early years.

Critical debates

The constant "bragging" about his orphan years

One thing worth noticing is that from the aforementioned article, you can definitely see differences in content. Whereas Chinese media portrayed Lone's orphan background in detail, Japanese and most of the English interviews had zero to no coverage of such issues. There are many interpretations of such behaviour. In the following section, I would mainly talk about the possible reason for this differentiation.

The language barrier acts also as an emotional barrier

Studies have shown that in a psychotherapy setting, clients speaking their native language turned out to be more effective as their language is embedded with their inherited ideology, whereas emotionally detached and much rational when speaking their second language. The study also shows that people's narratives are expressed incompletely when speaking their second language.[38][39] Since Lone's orphan life experience was relatively emotional, associating that information with what was discussed above, one could draw the conclusion that the language barrier may inhibit Lone from disclosing his history to the media.

The cultural impact on audiences' attention on issues

After speaking from his individual level of disclosure preferences, this section of explanation switches the spotlight to the audiences. Chinese media tend to tell stories about celebrities as if they were unhuman, that is, fictional or even beyond mortal level. This could also associated with the cultural beliefs that Chinese generally hold. Furthermore, the sentiment of "counterattack one's fate"(nixi, 逆袭) has been extremely popularized among younger generation in China, and Lone's story matches this sentiment perfectly. The story of him started from being an orphan and then became a well-known actor across the globe suits the core idea of counterattack one's original destiny. However, this statement would still remain a hypothesis since Japan technically is the origin of "逆袭". Due to the fact that in Japanese media, there was no emphasis on Lone's upbringing, such contradiction left a counterargument to this statement.


To conclude, John Lone is a magnificent actor who is able to master multiple movies roles successfully. However, besides his acting persona, we think John Lone as an ordinary person who also went through identity developments, who also affected by the societal values that interacted in the broader macro-systems. Many feels it's “a lost of fortune" that Lone was only "famous" for merely two decades, maybe his later hermit life could be the best—because no one have experienced his life in any stages, therefore Lone should be free from this accusation. Even when we are finding John Lone's resources, each his interview content presents a different Lone, the audience can feel his internal and external change within his growth and development.


  1. Li, Shi. "John Lone - The dragon that once made the Chinese proud is back".
  2. "Introduction to Ju-Hua Fen".
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Gente de expressão: Interview with John Lone".
  4. Chen. "My Memory of John Lone".
  5. 5.0 5.1 "John Lone - My Life Story".
  6. ""1981 - Winners"".
  7. "Academy Trailblazers: John Lone".
  8. "Film: Bertolucci, Brings Back imperial China".
  9. "John Lone Whiskey Commercial".
  10. "John Lone & Deng Jianguo's guest chat with Sina".
  11. "M. Butterfly at Box Office".
  12. Hayford, Charles H. (Winter 1998). "What's So Bad About THE GOOD EARTH?". Education of ASIA. 03: 3.
  13. Soares, Andre (Mar 26th, 2022). "'Whitewashing' in Hollywood: Luise Rainer & Ramon Novarro + Nancy Kwan & Paul Muni". Check date values in: |date= (help)
  14. "Academy Trailblazers: John Lone".
  15. Veltman, Chloe (July 21, 2018). "A Superstar In China, Daniel Wu Emerges In His Native California". Retrieved Mar 26, 2022.
  16. "Simu Liu-IMDb". IMDb.
  17. "Lucy Liu-IMDb". IMDb.
  18. "Gemma Chan-IMDb". IMDb.
  19. Richards, Jenny. "Portrayals of Asians in Film and Television".
  20. 20.0 20.1 Park, Jane Chi Hyun (2010). Yellow Future. University of Minnesota Press. pp. 83–123.
  21. Year of the Dragon, Michael Cimino, Dino De Laurentiis Company, 1985
  22. M. Butterfly, David Cronenberg, Geffen Pictures, 1993
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 陈云云, 刘诚. "论华侨华人在中国改革开放进程中的重要作用." 中国特色社会主义研究, no. 2, 2009, pp. 34-36.
  24. 24.0 24.1 1997 Rolex Japan commercial, uploaded by Asian American Actors - John Lone, Harry Shum J, 2020
  25. Kawaguchi, Atsuko (August 1988). "SONG OF IMMIGRANTS". SWITCH.
  26. Kaneko, Hiroko (1988). "Lone's Encyclopedic Dictionary". Japanese Magazine: 64~67.
  27. Anonymous. "Is there anyone still remember John Lone?". Quora. Retrieved Mar 24, 2022.
  28. "台北金马奖展Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival:第26届,1989年". Retrieved Mar 20th, 2022. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  29. "尊龙:我的成长故事". 中国广播影视. 12: 44~45. 1989.
  30. 30.0 30.1 "55岁过气巨星尊龙当街耍功夫 犹如神经病(图)". 搜狐娱乐. Mar 14, 2008. Retrieved Mar 21,2022. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  31. "当末代皇帝遇上炒作大王 尊龙:邓建国教我吆喝". 新浪新闻晨报. Jun 02, 2006. Retrieved Mar 25, 2022. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  32. "尊龙:浪漫的日子通常狼狈 我对自己更不客气". 新浪娱乐. Retrieved Mar 21, 2022.
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 江青, “尊为龙,龙为尊”, 2022.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 34.5 艺苑写真, 期刊节选. 来源, 微博用户: 藝術JL.
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 荧屏广角, 海外“游龙”回中国, 原野。实体杂志封页来源:微博用户.
  36. Paul Byrnes talks to the Hong Kong-born John Lone, who has made an unusual trip from Chinese opera to Hollywood. 来源微博用户: 7302376387
  37. 37.0 37.1 Lone Star, Ross Wetzsteon, New York Magazine, 7 Dec 1987.
  38. Kokaliari, Efrosini et al., (Jan 16, 2013). "It Is Called a Mother Tongue for a Reason: A Qualitative Study of Therapists' Perspectives on Bilingual Psychotherapy—Treatment Implications". Smith College Studies in Social Work. 83 – via Taylor & Francis Online.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  39. "Bilinguals in Psychotherapy: Language as an Emotional Barrier". The American Journal of Psychotherapy.


UBC Asian Centre, Bell Shrine, Winter 2013.JPG
This resource was created by Course:ASIA321.