Popular Hong Kong character actor Ng Man-Tat, best known as Stephen Chow's sidekick in his hit comedies, passed away on Saturday from liver cancer. He was 70 years old, surrounded by his wife and children.
Ng Mat-Tat was born in Xiamen, Fujian province, in China before his family moved to Hong Kong when he was 5 years old. In the 1970s, he took part in acting classes organized by Television Broadcasts, which was a training ground for many actors who would enter the industry. Many actors from impoverished families got their start at these workshops, including Chow Yun Fat and Stephen Chow. They would graduate and begin acting in TV series on TVB move on to movies. By 1975, Ng's career began with frequent roles in movies and TV. He was prolific in comedies, period dramas, and crime dramas.
By the 1980s, his drinking, gambling, and womanizing landed him with debts that led to bankruptcy. He had to double down on work to pull himself out of that hole. In 1989, he began co-starring with Stephen Chow and became Chow's sidekick and foil through many of the latter's hit comedies. Ng's comic timing and ability to keep up with Chow's brand of improvisational verbal and slapstick comedy made him an essential part of Chow's comedies. He appeared with Chow in the latter's biggest hits, including A Chinese Odyssey Parts 1 and 2, The Sixty Million Dollar Man, The God of Cookery, Tricky Brains, King of Comedy, Royal Tramp, Justice My Foot! and, of course, Kung Fu Soccer. The latter is probably Chow's most famous movie in the West, and Ng was an essential part of it. Throughout the 1990s, it was impossible to imagine a Stephen Chow comedy without Ng in it.
Ng Man-Tat has appeared in over 19 TV series and 140 movies between 1975 and 2020. He may not have been a matinee idol like Chow Yun-Fat, but he was another face of Hong Kong Cinema during its peak period. He was that dependable actor who would show up as a supporting character, a gangster, a cop, a family friend, an uncle. His passing also makes the end of an era in Hong Kong Cinema. In the West, he was last seen as the grandfather of the hero in the hit Chinese Science Fiction blockbuster, The Wandering Earth.
The Wandering Earth and many of Stephen Chow's classic comedies that feature Ng Man-Tat can be streamed on Netflix.