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  • Writer's pictureAugust Sorenson

John Lone captured what it means to be an actor

Updated: May 27, 2021

John Lone (Class of 1978) is one of those rare “chameleon” actors who can fully blend—in one way or another—into their role. Lone’s craft fuses classical technique with the contemporary western method. Lone has, with great empathy, played the role of Pu Yi in Bernardo Bertolucci’s historical epic “The Last Emperor” for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and Song Liling in “M. Butterfly,” the assumed female lover of the French diplomat, René Gallimard. Of his artistry, it’s been said that he “blends the best of two cultures.” Indeed, Mr. Lone wears many hats.


It wasn’t by happenstance that Lone ended up an artist. At least from an outside eye, it was obvious from the beginning. Born as Ng Kwok-leung on October 13, 1952 in Hong Kong, John Lone spent the first few years of his life as an orphan before being sent off to train in the style of Peking Opera at Hong Kong’s Chin Ciu Academy. The training was rigorous; students were isolated from the influences of the outside world while they learned the ins and outs of classical Peking theater. (He remembers feeling “alone in the crowd.”) Here Ng Kwok-leung was given the name “Johnny,” later adding “Lone” as an homage to his roots.


Turning down an opportunity to join Maurice Bejart’s dance company in Brussels and a decade-spanning contract to make Kung Fu movies, Lone ventured to Los Angeles to work on his English speaking (and acting) skills. It was here that he would attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, graduating in 1978. This blend of techniques would give Lone a certain poise and grace that few actors have, and he brought it right onto Hollywood’s silver screen.

For the next several decades, Lone would find himself in many high-profile roles across the industry. His career brought him to work with David Henry Hwang, the American-born playwright of Chinese descent, whose work highlights the role of Chinese and Asian Americans throughout history and to the present. A true cultural and artistic trailblazer, John Lone forged a legacy for himself that encompasses classically-trained proficiency paired with a contemporary sharpness and wit.

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