After years on television, Kelly Hu’s amazing beauty is now gracing big screens around the world. Isn’t it great? If she continues to be part of other action/fantasy projects, how can any one of us complain? The success of The Scorpion King was a good step in the right direction and we could all get down on our knees and pray for the first Kelly starring role in an action movie. So, what’s the story behind this gorgeous Siren?
She was born on February 13, 1968 in Honolulu, to a family with Chinese, English and Hawaiian ancestry. As a barely-walking toddler, Kelly was already performing songs for family members and lucky neighbors, improvising lyrics from everyday life. She made her first public performance on a pre-school Christmas show, portraying an angel. This increased her passion to be in the spotlight and soon after, at the tender age of five, she became an enthusiastic dance student.
Around this time, Kelly learned her first kung fu lessons from her older brother, and she began to get into fights with neighborhood boys. The two siblings were soon sent to their grandmother, as their parents were having a divorce. Now living in Kahului, Kelly began to learn baton twirling. Their stay lasted two years, as they came back in Honolulu to now live with their mom, who was now working many odd jobs to support her little family. At the age of 13, Kelly herself began working as a salesperson on weekends and weeknights.
Kelly enrolled in a Drama Program, where she stayed for the next four years. She eventually traveled with the class to Indiana, New York and Los Angeles, destinations that enforced her decision to soon make it as an actress. A chance encounter with the modeling agent of her cousin living in Japan gave her a big help, as he suggested that she try her luck in beauty pageants. So, Kelly enrolled in a photo posing class and was soon contestant in the Miss Hawaii Teen USA Pageant. Of course, she won. This resulted in a free ticket to the 1985 Miss Teen USA Pageant, representing her home state. Kelly won again, the first time a person of Asian origins was being such crowned. With a nice $150,000 price in cash and the privilege of being seen by 50 million people, this was an amazing show business beginning.
As planned, Kelly went to Japan, soon finding work modeling and shooting many television commercials. In 1987, Kelly got her big break on American TV for the season premiere of Growing Pains. Now moving to Los Angeles, she placed an ad in Variety to announce her arrival and availability. In 1989, Kelly made her movie debut with a small part in Friday the 13th VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. She would play Ray Manzarek’s wife in Oliver Stone’s The Doors in 1991 and continued to regularly appear on television. After auditioning for The Joy Luck Club (co-starring France Nuyen), she didn’t get the part.
After No Way Back in 1995 with Russell Crowe, Kelly began to seriously train in martial arts at the Alborzi Karate Academy in Beverly Hills. She took part in some TV dramas, like Sunset Beach, Melrose Place and Pacific Blue. In 1997, she was cast in a movie alongside eternal goddess Pam Grier, untitled Fakin’ Da Funk. She was offered a role in The Corruptor, co-starring Chow Yun-fat and Mark Wahlberg, but turned it down, as she was not prepared to do nude scenes.
But the next big thing coming her way was a semi-regular role on Nash Bridges, starring Don Johnson. And again soon after, another great opportunity came along, this time to co-star on another cop show, with a pilot directed by Hong Kong action specialist Stanley Tong and starring movie legend Sammo Hung. First titled Supercop after Jackie Chan’s success with a movie similarly titled, it was changed to Martial Law, and the show was an overnight hit. Kelly’s character of Michelle Chan on Nash Bridges was killed off and she began work as Grace Pei-pei Chen for Martial Law. A true fighting spirit, Kelly was left bruised many time during the shooting of the complex action scenes.
Fans were soon intrigued by Kelly’s role, as it was not clear at first if she was a good or bad girl. All this positive reaction resulted in rewriting of scripts to allow Grace to be more involved and become more of a protege of the Sammo character. First season female co-star Tammy Lauren was soon abandoned to add more focus on Kelly. Martial Law was named Best New Drama Series by TV Guide. After changing producers for the second season and having cast Arsenio Hall in a major new role, however, the series shifted its focus from a simple but enjoyable cop-in-alien-country plot to a more gritty super police squad kind of drama. Only Kelly’s charm wearing multiple disguises and getting involved in many fights kept my personal interest. Against all odds, the show was canceled. But nobody forgot Kelly Hu.
After the success of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns starring Brendan Fraser, a minor character from the latter production was giving the chance to star in his own movie. The Scorpion King was also a box-office hit, with WWE superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson reprising his role of Mathayus, battling it out with a villainous warlord. Kelly played the sorceress Cassandra, delighting many fans around the world for her colorful wardrobe and willing spirit. This picture remains a faithful reminder of all those enjoyable sword-and-sandal adventures of the sixties, many starring Steve Reeves and Chelo Alonso.
Recently, Kelly was seen alongside another martial arts movie legend, this time Jet Li for Cradle 2 the Grave, also co-starring Mark Dacascos, another fellow with great physical ability. In fact, the stunts were choreographed by the famous Cory Yuen. Also in 2003 was X2, alongside fellow Sirens Famke Janssen and Halle Berry. Kelly played bad girl Lady Deathstrike, who gave Wolverine a tough time on the battlefield. Could Kelly Hu become a new action heroine, a sort of American Michelle Yeoh? Anything is possible and we can only hope that this goal is one that she wouldn’t mind attain. Nevertheless, we have found the perfect cast for an all-Asian Charlie’s Angels (or an English remake of the Hong Kong female action thriller So Close): let’s keep Lucy Liu, but this time with co-stars Tia Carrere and Kelly Hu…!