Nancy Kwan was catapulted from her native Hong Kong at 18 to become an international star in such famed American Films as The World of Suzie Wong and Flower Drum Song.
Kwan, the daughter of a prominent architect, was born in Hong Kong and educated in England, where she also studied dancing at the Royal Ballet School. By chance, while on vacation from school in Hong Kong, she was spotted by famed American producer Ray Stark, then on a hunt to find an Oriental beauty to star in the film version of The World of Suzie Wong. After a number of screen tests in-Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and London-Kwan finally got the part, starring opposite William Holden. For this role, she was nominated for Best Actress and International Star of Tomorrow by the Hollywood Foreign Press.
Kwan’s second starring role, which allowed her to display her dancing talents, was in Flower Drum Song, based on the acclaimed Rogers and Hammerstein Broadway Musical. Following completion of that film, Kwan married. After her son, Bernie, was born, Kwan divided her time between Europe and the United States, starring in such films as The Main Attraction; Honeymoon Hotel, opposite Robert Goulet and Robert Morse; Tamahine; Fate is the Hunter, opposite Glenn Ford; Lt. Robinson Crusoe USA, with Dick Van Dyke; The Wrecking Crew, opposite Dean Martin; Arrivederci Baby, opposite Tony Curtis; Nobody’s Perfect, with Doug McClure; and The McMasters, with David Carradine, Brock Peters, and Jack Palance.
During the 1970s, Kwan moved back to Hong Kong, along with her son. There, she entered film production, as Managing Director of Nancy Kwan Films. Her company specialized in television commercials for the Southeast Asia market. In addition to running the business, which included a recording studio and motion picture equipment rental division, Kwan took time out to direct a number of commercials.
Also, during those years, Kwan continued her acting career, starring in numerous films made in Southeast Asia, among them, Wonder Woman, The Pacific Connection, Fortress in the Sun, Project Kill, and Fear. She also starred in Spring Comes Not Again- a film made in Hong Kong, for which Kwan received rave reviews. During this time, she appeared on television in the pilot for Hawaii 5-0, with Jack Lord: and the two-part Cenotaph episode of Kung Fu, with David Carradine.
Since returning to the United States in 1980, Kwan has appeared in such series as Fantasy Island, Trapper John, Knots Landing, Partners In Crime, and in such movies as Chicago Story, The Last Ninja, Blade in Hong Kong, James Clavell’s Noble House, Miracle Landing for CBS and Babies for NBC.
Her films include Walking the Edge, with Robert Forster; Night Children, with David Carradine; Cold Dog Soup, with Randy Quaid; Keys to Freedom, with Jane Seymour and Omar Sharif; Dragon, The Life of Bruce Lee, with Jason Scott Lee. Kwan starred in For Life or Death and Mr. P’s Dancing Sushi Bar, a project that was developed at Sundance.
Stage plays are The Quartered Man at LATC; Love Letters, at the English Theatre in Vienna, Austria; originated the role of Leila in the award winning Arthur and Leila at the Bayfront Theatre in San Francisco and the East-West Players in Los Angeles, and as Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and reprising the role of Melissa in Love Letters at the Singapore Repertory Theatre in Singapore.
Dove Books on Tapes-Nancy Kwan Reads When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, Farewell to My Concubine, Katherine, and The Red Azalea.
As a writer, Kwan has collaborated on a number of screenplays. Murder Within, Journey to the West Gate of Heaven, Jade: Investigator. She developed the concept for T’ai Chi Ch’uan-Touching the Clouds, her instructional videotape on this ancient Chinese exercise.
Ms. Kwan produced the feature film, The Biker Poet, and played the role of Kwan Yin in the television pilot The Zee Team. She recently guest starred in the television series “ER”.
In 2002 Ms. Kwan was appointed Hong Kong’s Film Ambassador.
Ms. Kwan recently appeared in, and narrated My Hong Kong, a Television Special. The show won two Telly Awards.
In 2005, Ms. Kwan appeared in Murder on the Yellow Brick Road a feature film. And Love Letters with James Shigeta at the East West Players.
Ms. Kwan recently completed the narration for the Anna May Wong- Frosted Yellow Willows: Her life, Times and Legend documentary film.
2006, Love Letters with James Shigeta- Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.
2006, Ms Kwan starred in the feature film, Ray of Sunshine.
2007, Hollywood Chinese Arthur Dong’s documentary selected for the Toronto International Film Festival.
2007, McKnight’s Memory, an Audio Novel by Paul Kyriazi. Written and directed by Paul Kyriazi. Produced by Larry Metzger.
2009, To whom it may concern ( Ka Shen’s Journey ) A documentary film produced and directed by Brian Jamieson.
East West Visionary Award – April 28, 2003
Excellence in the Performing Arts - Chinese American Museum, 2003
County of Los Angeles - Performing Arts for Asian Americans – October 17, 2004
City of San Francisco – Recognition for her acting career, and political activism with the Asian American Voters’ Coalition. July 7, 2006
UCLA Asian American Studies Center, for her work in Theater and Cinema – January 19, 2008
Chinese Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii – April 2, 2008
The House of Representatives of Hawaii for her many contributions to the Film World 2008
OCA National Convention Washington, DC. Asian Pacific American Pioneer Award August 2, 2008
In 2006 Ms Kwan served on the International jury for the Bangkok International Film Festival.
In 2008, she served as jury on The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
December 2008, Ms Kwan served as Jury Chairperson for The Women’s International Film and Television Showcase Film Festival in Los Angeles.
June 27 2009, Chinatown 71st Anniversary. Ms. Kwan was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by City of Los Angeles.