BEIJING - Wu Ma, the China-born actor who was a familiar face in Hong Kong's Cantonese films of the 1980s and who also directed movies ranging from comedies to gongfu and horror flicks, has died, reported China's Xinhua news agency.
He was 71 and died at dawn on Tuesday, it added.
The actor was suffering from lung cancer and, 10 months ago, the cancer cells spread, Xinhua quoted his wife as saying. He had been resting at home the last few months, she added.
Among Wu Ma's numerous roles on both the small and big screen, he was perhaps best remembered for his role as the eccentric but compassionate ghostbuster Swordsman Yin in the 1987 horror hit, A Chinese Ghost Story, for which he won Best Supporting Actor at the Golden Horse Awards.
He also earned Hong Kong Film Awards nominations for supporting roles in Last Eunuch In China (1988), A Chinese Ghost Story and Above The Law (1986), and a Best Director nod for the ghost comedy The Dead And The Deadly (1982), his notable collaboration with Sammo Hung, the film's writer.
But the star, who was a disciple of renowned directors Chang Cheh and King Hu, was also adept at directing, writing and producing movies.
On Tuesday, veteran Hong Kong stars including Law Kar Ying and Kara Hui, and China's younger stars Yao Chen and Wen Zhang posted tributes on Weibo.
Law wrote: "He led a colourful life and was praised by all in the film-making industry for his dedication to his art, his artistic virtues and how he treated others."
Born Feng Hongyuan in Tianjin, China, he graduated from the first acting class set up by Shaw Brothers studio and the Southern Theatre Group and made his name acting in the Shaw classic The Lady General Hua Mu Lan (1964), starring opposite Ivy Ling Po.
While acting in renowned director Chang Cheh's films including the classic, The Golden Swallow (1968) and The Wandering Swordsman (1970), he gained experience behind the camera, serving as assistant director.
Breaking away from Shaw Brothers, he made his directorial debut with Wrath Of The Sword (1970), later also making the acclaimed gongfu flick The Deaf And Mute Heroine (1971), starring actress Helen Ma as a disabled pugilist.
In the 1980s, he was well known for his work with Hung. Website Hong Kong Cinemagic wrote The Dead And The Deadly is "one of the most ingenious variations of the supernatural gongfu comedy theme" and called the movie "a masterpiece of the genre".
In his decades-long career, he also collaborated both as actor and as director with gongfu performer Yuen Biao on films.
In later years, he launched into character roles, acting opposite younger stars such as Sally Yeh in movies such as Peking Opera Blues (1986), My American Grandson (1991) and House Of Fury (2005).