It has been 25 years since Singapore-born actor Chin Han made his film debut in the 1998 thriller, Blindness. Over the ensuing decades, "Your focus changes," he reflects. "It's still a passion, but you now understand that your craft needs to be fed and nourished by your life. So, you go live a little, travel, fall in love, develop new skills, instead of having your time be all about one thing."
All the while, Chin Han made appearances in such movies as Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight (2008), Steven Soderbergh's Contagion (2011), and the 2021 reboot of Mortal Kombat, in which he played the soul-stealing sorcerer, Shang Tsung. His latest project is American Born Chinese, the Disney+ action comedy series from director and executive producer Destin Daniel Cretton.
"It's a curious thing, what excites you and when, you know? We had just gone through a global pandemic over the last few years, so the idea of mortality and immortality was very much on my mind," the actor says. "For many, I think having children is one form of immortality, so that got me thinking about fathers and sons, and that ultimately was what intrigued me enough about American Born Chinese to say yes."
The series sees Han reuniting with his Final Recipe co-star, newly-minted Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh, as well as her Everything Everywhere All at Once co-stars, Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan and Oscar nominee Stephanie Hsu. "We have definitely reached an inflection point in terms of our presence in the industry," Chin Han says. "It's not just a question of having a seat at the table now — it's also what we do with this seat."
Below, Chin Han shares with A.frame his five favorite films from the '80s.
Directed by: Peter Weir | Written by: Earl W. Wallace and William Kelley
This Peter Weir classic is a meditation on the nature of good and evil and is compelling to me on so many levels — as a crime thriller, love story, and even a western, complete with a high noon showdown. Harrison Ford brilliantly plays John Book as a tough and taciturn city cop hidden by an Amish community, where he recovers from the murderous intentions of his corrupt colleagues. From helping raise a barn (underscored by transcendent music from Maurice Jarre) to defending his interim Amish 'family' from abusive city bullies — albeit in decidedly un-Amish ways — his transformation from indifferent outsider to friend really sneaks up on you.
By the time he and the luminous Kelly McGillis dance to Sam Cooke's 'Wonderful World' in a barn while fixing his car to return to his world, you realize you're watching a romance for the ages.
Directed by: Jim Henson | Written by: Terry Jones
This Jim Henson favorite appears to be made for children and young adults — with its fantastic puppetry, use of models, inventive sets and special effects from ILM — except that it really isn't. With a screenplay by Terry Jones from Monty Python, it explores adult themes about choices that are not choices, fairness that is not fair, shortcuts that lead you further from your destination, and needing to grow up but also running out of time. Simply put, it frames life as a great big riddle.
I came to this movie in my teens because of a crush on Jennifer Connelly (who didn't have one?), but left with profound existential questions and an incredible soundtrack from Trevor Jones and David Bowie. Bowie's haunting ballad, 'As the World Falls Down,' is still my go-to when I'm looking for music on a cold wintry evening.
Directed by: Walter Hill | Written by: Walter Hill and Larry Gross
At the top of the movie, a title card reads: 'A Rock and Roll Fable,' and that is exactly what Walter Hill delivers for the next 93 minutes in this propulsive, heart-pounding, music-filled action extravaganza. Diane Lane's Ellen Aim is a big rockstar headed back to her small hometown to play a concert that her tour manager, a perfect Rick Moranis, is totally against. And like in such fables, the concert is crashed by the Big Bad Wolf — a group of bikers led by a scary Willem Dafoe, even more terrifying than his character Bobby Peru in David Lynch's Wild At Heart.
And so, she is kidnapped and her ex-soldier/ex-boyfriend (a lot of ex here) is called home to save her. It sounds generic but watching all that wild hair, grease, leather, bikes, neon, rain, trains and automobiles is such an immersive experience that you surrender to it all. Plus, the music is amazing. Definitely a not-so-guilty pleasure.
Written and Directed by: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker
Yes, this is in my top 5, and don't call me Shirley! This anarchic and irreverent movie from the Zucker Brothers and Jim Abrahams never fails to make me chuckle or laugh out loud. Most notably, the singing flight attendant, the trouble with fish on a plane, James Hong's Japanese General — yes, that legendary James Hong who's also in American Born Chinese — and Robert Hays' drinking problem. It was actually a toss-up for me between this and the other Zuckers-Abrahams' offering, Top Secret, about an American singer joining the French Resistance in World War II. That had Val Kilmer singing 'Tutti Frutti' and fighting Nazis in an underwater bar fight. But this has Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Directed by: Rob Reiner | Written by: Nora Ephron
More than even the great and seminal romantic comedy that it truly is, this movie was a wonderful introduction to the city of New York for me back in the '80s. So beautifully lensed by Barry Sonnenfeld, it captures all the arresting colors of New York in its four seasons, and the stunning shapes of the city from Central Park to Katz's Deli mirroring all the colors of changing emotions and the various stages of a relationship for our titular protagonists. Sometimes warm, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, but ultimately inevitable. One can talk about Meg Ryan's 'diner scene' or Billy Crystal's speech at the end, but it really is a love letter to the city, and I still go back to the movie ever so often to fall again.