Joan Chen is one of the most widely recognized and respected Asian stars in the international film industry. She began her movie career at age of 14 in Shanghai. Her performance in the films Youth and Little Flower catapulted her to fame in China. For her breakthrough performance in the title role of Little Flower, Chen garnered the Best Actress Award in China in 1980 when she was 19.
In 1981, Chen left China for the United States to study film at California State University, Northridge, where she graduated with honors. In the US, Joan has appeared in over forty film and television roles. The most notable were Bernardo Bertolucci's Oscar-winning The Last Emperor (1987), David Lynch's Twin Peaks series(1990), and Oliver Stone's Heaven and Earth (1993). At the same time, Joan continued to make films for Asian audiences. Her memorable performance in the Chinese language film Red Rose and White Rose won her Best Actress in the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Critics Awards in 1994.
In 1997 Joan made her directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Xiu Xiu, The Sent-down Girl, a story of the loss of innocence of a young girl during the cultural revolution in China. The film was released in May 1999 and has received numerous awards internationally. In 2000, Joan was honored by the National Board of Review with the International Freedom of Expression Award for Xiu Xiu. In the same year, Joan was voted as one of the “Ten Directors to Watch” by Variety. Joan’s second effort behind the camera was MGM’s Autumn In New York starring Richard Gere and Winona Ryder in 2000.
Between 2003 and 2006, Joan returned to China to star in three Chinese films, Jasmine, a story of three generations of women in Shanghai from the 1930s to the 1980s, Sunflower, a family drama that spans from the 1970s to the present and The Sun Also Rises, a story about human desire and pleasure in the darkest time of the Cultural Revolution. In the same period, Joan came back to the US and played the character of Ma in a Sony Classic production, Saving Face, a film about a poignant relationship between a Chinese mother and her lesbian Chinese American daughter. Chen also played a crucial supporting role in Ang Lee’s Lust Caution, which won the Venice Film Festival Golden Lion Award for best picture.
In 2007, Joan starred in an Australian film The Home Song Stories. For her portrayal of the leading character, Rose, in this tragic and triumphant story of a mother’s struggle to support her children, Chen won Best Actress in the Australian Film Institute Awards, the Inside Film Awards and Film Critics Awards in 2007. She also won Best Actress for the same role in the Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards and in the Torino Film Festival. In the Asian Film Awards in March 2008, she was honored with a dual nomination, Best Actress for The Home Song Stories and Best Supporting Actress for The Sun Also Rises. Joan won Best Supporting Actress for The Sun Also Rises.
In 2011, Joan co-starred in a Chinese American family drama, White Frog, which is the opening film for the Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco on March 8th, 2012. In the same year, Joan wrote and directed a film, Song to the Moon, which is currently in post-production and is scheduled for release in China in May 2012.
Joan Chen lives in San Francisco with her husband, Dr. Peter Hui and their daughters, Angela and Audrey.