Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk, best known to Western audiences for her role as Jackie Chan's ever-suffering girlfriend May in the popular Police Story series, was born in Hong Kong in 1964. Her family emigrated to England, but she returned back to HK in 1981 to pursue a career in modeling. In 1983, she placed second in the Miss Hong Kong contest and also appeared in the Miss World pageant, which led to a contract with TVB (the television arm of the Shaw Bros. studio). It was during one of her TVB appearances that she caught the eye of Jackie Chan, who thought "she wouldn't mind me kicking her down a flight down the stairs." Chan cast Cheung as May in Police Story (1985) which turned out to be a huge hit and made Maggie a star almost overnight.
However, as with most young actors, Cheung became stereotyped in the role of the weak, clumsy May, reprising the role in the next Police Story film as well as several other Chan movies, including Project A Part 2 (1987). Noting this, Cheung sought to break out of her stereotype by taking more dramatic roles. Her work with noted director Wong Kar-wai garnered her critical praise, first in 1988 with As Tears Go By and then in 1990 with Days of Being Wild (1990). She also won a Best Actress award the same year at Taipei's Golden Horse Festival for her work in Full Moon in New York. In 1991, she became the first Chinese performer to win a Best Actress Award at the prestigious Berlin Film Festival for her work in Center Stage.
Cheung did not forget where she got her start though, and in 1992 she returned to working with Jackie Chan in Police Story 3: Supercop, where she once again reprised the role of May, this time being upstaged not by Chan, but by Michelle Yeoh. Cheung got a little "revenge" in the sci-fi martial arts smash hit Heroic Trio (1992) and its sequel Excecutioners (1993), where she proved she could be more than just a punching bag in an action movie, impressing both critics and audiences with her martial arts skills as she stood toe-to-toe with Yeoh.
Cheung's busy schedule eventually began taking its toll. Not only was she shooting several films a year, the HK tabloid press began hounding her incessantly. In 1994, she took a break from making films, during which time the HK press spread all sorts of wild rumors about her. Cheung had reached the age where most HK actresses retired or moved to singing or television, and most people thought Cheung would never work in films again. However, she came back to movies in 1996, completing several movies such as Irma Vep and The Chinese Box (both 1997). Cheung recently won critical acclaim and a Tawianese Golden Horse award for her role in art house darling Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2000).