John Lone

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John Lone
Lone in 1984
Ng Kwok-leung (吳國良)

(1952-10-13) October 13, 1952 (age 71)
Nina Savino
(m. 1972; div. 1979)
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese尊龍
Simplified Chinese尊龙
Birth name
Traditional Chinese吳國良
Simplified Chinese吴国良
Literal meaningNg Kwok-leung

John Lone (Chinese: 尊龍; pinyin: Zūn Lóng; jyutping: zyun1 lung4; born October 13, 1952) is a Chinese-American actor. He starred as Puyi in the Academy Award-winning film The Last Emperor (1987), for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

A veteran of the East West Players, he appeared in numerous high-profile screen and stage roles throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, in films like Iceman, Year of the Dragon, M. Butterfly, The Shadow, and Rush Hour 2. He was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Male for his performance in The Moderns.


Lone was born in 1952 as Ng Kwok-leung (Chinese: 吳國良; pinyin: Wú Guóliáng) in British Hong Kong.[1]

He was raised in an orphanage and later adopted by a woman from Shanghai. At age 7, he was sent to train in the style of the Peking opera at Hong Kong's Chin Chiu Academy, where he was trained in singing, dance, and classical Chinese theater techniques.[2] It was here that he was given the name Johnny; he chose the surname Lone to reflect the fact that he was an orphan and for its similarity to Leung, part of his given name.

Lone declined an offer to join a Belgian dance company and a contract to make Kung fu films, and he accepted a sponsorship by an American family.[2] He moved to Los Angeles and spent three years taking night classes at Santa Ana College to improve his English. In 1972, he married fellow student Nina Savino and gained American citizenship. They divorced in 1979. In 1978, he graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Pasadena, California.[1]


Due to the lack of roles in Hollywood for people of East Asian descent at the time, Lone was often left to play minor parts on television.[1] Lone was with the East West Players, an Asian-American theatre organization, for 10 years[3] before Mako offered him a role as an Asian emigrant trying to assimilate in David Henry Hwang's first play FOB.[1] Lone starred alongside Tzi Ma[4] and his performance garnered him an Obie Award in 1981.[5]

One of his early film roles was as the cook in King Kong. His first major role in films was as the title character in Iceman. In 1985, John Lone played the gang leader Joey Tai in Michael Cimino's Year of the Dragon, for which he was nominated the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.[6]

Impressed by Lone's performance, Cimino recommended Lone to his longtime friend Bernardo Bertolucci, who was casting for The Last Emperor.[7] Bertolucci met Lone while casting in Los Angeles and chose him as Puyi at first sight. Lone portrayed Puyi at different stages of his life, from an 18-year-old to a man in his sixties. In preparation for his role, he visited China to study the body language of the elderly.[8] He was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama at the 45th Golden Globe Awards in 1988 for his performance.[6] He and Joan Chen presented the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Film at the 1988 Academy Awards.[9]

In 1987, David Henry Hwang and John Dexter were casting for Hwang's play M. Butterfly. Hwang knew of Lone's Peking opera training and thought of him for the part of Song Liling, an opera singer.[10] He sent him a copy of the script, but Lone was too busy to respond.[11] In 1991, David Cronenberg prepared to direct the film adaptation of M. Butterfly, and invited Lone to play Song Liling. After a three-hour meeting with Cronenberg, Lone agreed to play Song.[12] Lone did his own singing for the film.[13]

In the 1995 film The Hunted, Lone played assassin Kinjo alongside Christopher Lambert. Other international film appearances included the role of corrupt Hong Kong cop Ricky Tan in Rush Hour 2 (2001) and the antagonist Shiwan Khan in The Shadow (1994).

Lone's focus then shifted to the Chinese market.[1] He played the Qianlong Emperor in the 30-episode television drama series Qianlong and the Fragrant Concubine (乾隆与香妃) in 2004. He also appeared in the title role of Kangxi Emperor, in Records of Kangxi's Travel Incognito (1998–2007), a Chinese television series about the Manchu-ruling Qing Empire monarch.

His last film role was 2007's War, co-starring Jet Li and Jason Statham.



Year Title Role Notes
1976 King Kong Chinese Cook
1979 Americathon Chinese Man
1984 Iceman Charlie
1985 Year of the Dragon Joey Tai Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor
1987 Echoes of Paradise Raka
1987 The Last Emperor Emperor Puyi (adult) Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor
1988 The Moderns Bertram Stone Nominated—Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Performance
1989 Shadow of China Henry Wong
1991 Shanghai 1920 Billy Fong [14][15]
1993 M. Butterfly Song Liling
1994 The Shadow Shiwan Khan
1995 The Hunted Kinjo
1997 Task Force Thug Cameo appearance
2001 Rush Hour 2 Ricky Tan
2004 Master of Everything aka Bamboo Shoot Mi Jihong [16]
2007 War Li Chang


Year Title Role Notes
1976 The Blue Knight Terry Chow TV series
1978 Kate Bliss and the Ticker Tape Kid Houseman TV movie
1978 Sword of Justice The Destructors TV series
1979 Eight Is Enough Member of the Chinese Trade Mission [1]
1979 A Man Called Sloane Lion Dance TV series
1981 Hill Street Blues Neighbor [1]
1982 Joseph Papp Presents: The Dance and the Railroad Lone TV movie
1986 Treffpunkt Kino Self TV documentary
2004 Qianlong and the Fragrant Imperial Concubine Qianlong Emperor
2005 Paper Moon Affair Keiko's Husband TV movie
2006 Records of Kangxi's Travel Incognito Kangxi Emperor

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Film Role Result
1986 Golden Globe Awards Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Year of the Dragon Joey Tai Nominated
1988 Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama The Last Emperor Puyi Nominated
1989 Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Male The Moderns Bertram Stone Nominated


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Academy Trailblazers: John Lone". The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. December 9, 2020. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Academy Trailblazers, John Lone". American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  3. ^ Breslauer, Jan (March 8, 1998). "Honoring the Past, Looking to the Future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 20, 2021.
  4. ^ Yamato, Jen (April 12, 2020). "Tzi Ma is already everyone's go-to Asian dad. Netflix's 'Tigertail' makes him the star". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  5. ^ "1981 – Winners". Obie Award. Retrieved October 19, 2018.
  6. ^ a b Briggs, Tracey Wong (January 7, 1988). "John Lone, earnest 'Emperor'". USA Today. Retrieved April 29, 2010.
  7. ^ 【John Lone/尊龙】Michael Cimino comments on John Lone 《龙年》导演麦克·西米诺盛赞尊龙演技 [中英], retrieved April 15, 2022
  8. ^ Bowker, Gordon (February 1, 1987). "FILM; BERTOLUCCI BRINGS BACK IMPERIAL CHINA". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 16, 2022.
  9. ^ Academy Awards (1988). Young at Heart Wins Documentary Short: 1988 Oscars (YouTube video).
  10. ^ LLC, New York Media (January 11, 1993). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC.
  11. ^ LLC, New York Media (December 7, 1987). New York Magazine. New York Media, LLC.
  12. ^ Lauretis, Teresa de (October 1, 2010). Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-09096-7.
  13. ^ Lauretis, Teresa de (October 1, 2010). Figures of Resistance: Essays in Feminist Theory. University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-09096-7.
  14. ^ Broeske, Pat H. (December 2, 1990). "Shanghai Surprise". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  15. ^ Barnes, Mike (May 5, 2016). "Gino Grimaldi, Producer on TV's 'Emergency!' and 'Knight Rider,' Dies at 74". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  16. ^ Wu, Flora (July 7, 2004). "Last emperor wants to be first". South China Morning Post. Retrieved August 19, 2021.

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