Unlike most young actors working in Hong Kong today, Sam Lee Chan Sum did not get his start as a singer or dancer. In a bit straight out of a Hollywood movie, director Fruit Chan saw Lee (who was an electrican by trade and had no aspirations about acting) skateboarding around his neighborhood and cast him in the 1997 film Made in Hong Kong. The film was a big hit in Hong Kong, and took home several Hong Kong Film Awards, including one for Lee as "Best Newcomer."
Since his debut, Lee's unusual looks and manic energy made him a favorite with local audiences (and an unlikely sex symbol), and he has been working steadily in movies ever since. In 1999 alone, Lee made thirteen films. At times, he would work on one movie during the day, then another at night due to Hong Kong's hectic film production schedule, in which films are sometimes totally completed and shown in less than a month.
Though he may not be considered a master thespian -- he comes off as just playing a form of himself in most of his roles -- his natural talent and willingness to poke fun at himself stands out against many other young Hong Kong actors, who seem to take themselves too seriously. Lee has become a staple of horror (the 1998 cult classic Bio-Zombie and its' 2000 sequel Bio-Cops, 1999's Untold Story 3), triad (Young and Dangerous: The Prequel and A True Mob Story, both 1998) and big-budget action movies like 1998's Gen-X Cops and its' sequel Gen-Y Cops (2000), where he is mostly used as comic relief. However, he has proven himself capable in more serious roles as well, such as when he played a rookie cop in Gordan Chan's gangster drama Beast Cops (1998).
Offscreen, Lee is an on-and-off again member of the metal/hip-hop band LMF (Lazy Mutha Fuckaz), where he raps. The band has not attained much success in Hong Kong, where local audiences prefer syrupy pop ballads sung by Lee's contemporaries like Nic Tse or Stephen Fung, rather than LMF's profanity-laden lyrics. Still, the band has generated a cult following, and Lee has managed to integrate both his musical and acting talents, as LMF have contributed songs to a few of his movies, including Gen-X and Gen-Y Cops.
Though he may be an odd-looking fellow, Sam Lee's hard work and determination seem poised to keep him in the Hong Kong film spotlight for years to come. Hell, any guy who gets an action figure made of him (see picture at left) just on his "cool" factor alone can't be all bad.