Xiong Xin Xin/Hung Yan Yan
Born in Guangxi
“The Human Whirlwind” would be a fitting nickname
for stuntman, fight performer and actor Xiong Xin Xin due to his incredibly
fast and electrifying wu-shu acrobatics and fighting moves. His physical
prowess and bravery as a stuntman and stunt-double had already brought
him some level of repute when he was finally given opportunities to shine
playing characters in movies. This revealed an actor with a raw and distinct
presence even if he was called upon to play only villainous or supporting
roles. He might have become a new Yuen Wah if it hadn’t been for an unfortunate
change in H-K action cinema. At the end of the 1990s we saw not only a
sharp decline in action filmmaking but also a shift away from performers
with genuine skills to being supplanted in action roles by screen-savvy
special effects enhanced actors.
Xiong Xin Xin was born in Mainland China in the
province of Guangxi and started wu-shu training as a youth. He was taken
from school at the age of 12 and placed in a martial arts training facility.
In an interview Xiong had the following to say of this: ''It was never
my choice. I didn't know anything about martial arts so it never crossed
my mind. Maybe it was because I was always very active and liked sports,
the coaches decided to give me a try.'' He trained from 6 a.m. for 8 straight
hours every day. This went on for 12 years but led to him becoming a multiple
award winning champion around the early to mid eighties.
He was discovered by H-K master martial filmmaker
Lau Kar-leung who hired Xiong as stunt-double for Jet Li the star of his
upcoming made in Mainland China MARTIAL ART OF SHAOLIN (86). He says of
this experience - ''I was Jet's double; in fact, I was everybody's double.
I doubled for so many people I felt dizzy. My one thought then was, being
an actor is such an easy job - all the work is done by the stunt double.
Being famous is a wonderful thing.'' He moved to Hong Kong in 1988 and
was soon working in films as a stunt-man and fight-extra in Lau’s TIGER
BEAT II (90) as well as the action comedy by Lau’s younger brother Lau
Kar-wing SKINNY TIGER FATTY DRAGON (90) in which he also was one of the
film’s action directors. Xiong quickly earned a great reputation
as a stuntman. While HKMDB credits Xiong only with a handful of movies
done in the turn of the nineties, his actual body of work was probably
far more extensive.
Xiong became Jet Li’s stunt double again for the
martial art revival movie ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA. Lau Kar-wing served
as one of the movie’s action directors so it’s perhaps through him that
Xiong got to work in this seminal production as well as introducing him
to H-K cinema’s great maverick visionary filmmaker Tsui Hark. Tsui would
be the most influential H-K personality in Xiong’s subsequent movie career.
Jet Li was of course a wu-shu champion in his own right but in his late
twenties at this time he had passed his physical prime. A lot of the action
was either deemed too dangerous or physically demanding for him to do at
the required level of speed and acrobatic virtuosity; thus the use of a
stunt-double. Xiong’s hidden involvement became especially invaluable after
Jet Li badly hurt his ankle and some of the film’s action scenes actually
featured far more Xiong than Jet, although the substitution was totally
seamless. In particular, much of the famous warehouse action scene was
performed by Xiong with Tsui than cutting to a stationary but dramatically
poised Jet Li.
Xiong returned as Jet Li’s stunt-double for OUATIC’s
follow-up, (92). He was also given a part as the White Lotus Sect’s
fierce, fanatical and deceitful grand-priest Kun who for one of the movie’s
two showdowns, challenged Jet Li’s Wong Fei Hung to a near aerial duel
held on a balancing pyramid of tables. Xiong’s work as stunt-double though
probably meant that he had to perform as both hero and villain back to
For the third OUATIC (93) entry, Tsui handed Xiong
the marvellous part of Club Foot, the fierce high-kicking fighter who,
as an enforcer, starts fighting Jet Li’s Wong Fei Hung but then after having
been badly injured and tended to by his adversary, becomes his devoted
disciple. Xiong was this film’s big revelation. Showcasing intense physical
skills, a shaved, snarling mug as well as an implied brutality in his very
body language, Xiong would have been a memorable villain but the redemption
of his character added a deeper and more heartfelt aspect to him. Still
a sidekick yes, but an unusual combination of part clown, hero and thug
at the same time. Interestingly, while Tsui indeed occasionally put Xiong
on wires, he minimized the use of slow-motion so as to not interfere with
Xiong’s innate physical intensity and dynamism.
After this excellent showcase, Xiong started receiving
larger parts. In Yuen Woo-ping ’s HEROES AMONG HEROES (94) he was
the traitorous Ching Dynasty prince, a part which naturally fitted his
skills and appearance but the in Ching Siu-tong’s WONDER SEVEN (94) he
was a good guy again. Still it was Tsui Hark who continued to offer him
the best opportunities. He continued to play Club Foot (now called “Seven”
in the subtitles) for OUATIC Part IV (94) and V (95). When Jet was replaced
by the much younger wu-shu trained Zhao Wen-zhou it probably
meant that Xiong served less as a stunt-double. Tsui Hark also utilized
him as a cooking-blade spinning Chinese chef for his culinary entry CHINESE
FEAST (95) the rival of one of the film’s lead stars Zhao Wen-zhou again.
The film actually started the trend of having Zhao and Xiong as each other’s
opponents as Xiong’s shaved mug and smaller stature made him the perfect
foil for the taller, well chiselled Zhao.
Both were antagonists again in THE BLADE where
Xiong played the fierce tattooed bandit “Lung”. Their breathtaking whirlwind
duel at the film’s end has been their best physical showcase ever done
to this day. Besides playing an especially formidable villain, Xiong also
served as one of the film’s action directors although his contribution
In 1996 Xiong again portrayed Club-foot/Seven
in the OUATIC TV series and the following year he played him one last time
in the final series entry with ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA AND AMERICA (98).
The movie saw Jet Li return to play Wong Fei Hung again yet Xiong somewhat
out-shined him with a more petulant acting performance and some frantic
fighting, especially in the scene where Club-Foot/Seven tries to revive
his Master’s memory by playing out some old-enemies. Sadly, this was to
be the last substantial acting bit by Xiong to this day.
When Tsui Hark went to work in Hollywood, Xiong
followed him briefly and in DOUBLE TEAM (98) he was used as a kicking assassin
holding a blade between his toes and easily overshadowed Belgian born action
star Jean Claude Van Damme in their fight. In fact, his few minutes of
screen time were the highlight of the film for many.
Xiong returned to H-K shortly afterwards. He
served as action director on the Ching Siu-tong’s BLACKSHEEP AFFAIR (98)
and served one last time as the villainous foil to the film’s hero Zhao
Wen zhou in the film’s introductory scene. Both Tsui and Xiong then
worked again together on TIME AND TIDE (2000) with Xiong serving double
duty as both action- director and star’s stunt-double.
Xiong tried to start a Hollywood career by serving
as action director in THE MUSKETEER (2001) in which he recreated the OUATIC
famous acrobatic ladder scene. His ambition was to bring outlandish H-K
action style to America but with much less of the artificiality brought
by wire-work and editing tricks. Unfortunately, it seems his intention
was marred by the clumsy, pedestrian American way to shoot action.
At this writing Xiong is married to former
actress Carrie Choi and they have one child. He claims he has learned English
on his own by reading books. His bravery and genial disposition have made
him one of the best liked and most respected players in the H-K film industry.
Others films with Xiong Xin Xin: THE MUSICAL
VAMPIRE, (1990), FORCED NIGHTMARE (1992) MILLIONAIRE COP (1993), TO LIVE
AND DIE IN TSIMSHATSUI (1994) THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEA (1994), THE LITTLE
DRUNKEN MASTERS (1995), TRI-STAR (1996), BLACK MASK (1996), TILL DEATH
DO US PART (1998)
(Written by Yves Gendron with special thanks
to Zac Cambell for his suggestions)