Joan Chen began her film career at the age of 14 in Shanghai. Her performance in Little Flower (小花) catapulted her to fame in China. For her performance in the title role, Chen became the youngest recipient of the Best Actress Award at the One Hundred Flowers Awards. In 1981 Chen left China to study filmmaking in the United States.
She has since appeared in over forty film and television roles, with some of the most notable ones being in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, and Oliver Stone’s Heaven and Earth. Her memorable performance in Red Rose, White Rose (紅玫瑰與白玫瑰) won her best actress in the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards and the Hong Kong Critics Awards. Her leading role in the Australian film The Home Song Stories also brought her many best actress awards, including the Australian Film Institute and the Taiwan Golden Horse. Chen has starred in a number of distinguished movies and TV series, including Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, Bruce Beresford’s film Mao’s Last Dancer, Jiang Wen’s The Sun Also Rises (太陽照常升起), for which Chen won Best Supporting Actress at Asian Film Award, Netflix’s epic series Marco Polo. Disney series The Retreat, which is in post production.
Joan Chen made her directorial debut in 1997 with Xiu Xiu: The Sent-down Girl (天浴). The film has won numerous awards internationally. In 2000 Chen was honored by the National Board of Review with the International Freedom of Expression Award. Her second effort behind the camera was MGM’s Autumn in New York in 2000, starring Richard Gere and Wynona Ryder. Chen is the first female Chinese director to direct a studio film in the US. In 2017, Chen wrote and directed her third feature film, based on the critically acclaimed Chinese novel English (英格力士) by Wang Gang. Most recently she has written and directed a 30-minute short about the pandemic in China, titled Psalm Of Life, which is one of the three sections in feature film Hero (世間有她).