Vietnamese actor passes away in America

Vietnamese actor Don Duong, who is known for many famous movie roles in Vietnamese movies from the 1990s and early 2000s, passed away at the age of 55 at a hospital in San Francisco, California Wednesday morning after a post – stroke surgery.

Vietnamese actor Pham Don Duong in “Doi cat”, which won Best Film and Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival in 2000Photo: Tuoitre

Duong reportedly suffered a slight stroke on Tuesday, leaving him with headaches and numbness in his hands.

He was hospitalized on the same day, and underwent an operation to clear his cerebral veins, which his doctor said would treat his post-stroke symptoms.

Duong fell into a deep coma after the surgery, and by that afternoon he was relying on a ventilator to breathe. He died the next day in the hospital.

Renowned filmmaker Le Cung Bac, who is married to Duong’s sister, said his brother and son will fly from Ho Chi Minh to San Francisco to arrange the actor’s funeral.

Bac said Duong had planned to reunite with his family members and close friends in Vietnam this coming Lunar New Year, which will occur in January, after living in the States for nearly 9 years.

“He was very excited when he obtained a 5-year visa for Vietnam last year. He really wanted to see his friends who he hasn’t been able to catch up with for so long,” Bac shared.

Another family member said that after the cremation, Duong’s family will bring his remains back to Vietnam, as he wished to spend the last days of his life in his homeland, which he had not seen since immigrating to America in 2003.

Duong had been offered film roles in the US, Bac continued, however he turned them all down since they would have forced him to play bad guys, which could have been misleading. To earn a living, the actor and a number of friends invested in a real-estate company that they established together.

“My wife [Duong's sister] cried a lot when she heard the news. This is a tremendous loss to our family.”

Born in Da Lat in 1957, Don Duong started his acting career with a small role in Le Dan’s “Pho tuong” (The statue), in 1982.

He then became known for taking up major roles in many award-winning films, such as “Three seasons” by Tony Bui, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1999; and “Doi cat”, which won Best Film and Best Actress at the Asian Film Festival in 2000.

In 2001, he played a Vietnamese officer opposite Mel Gibson in the Hollywood movie “We Were Soldiers,” and also acted in “Green Dragon”. Vietnamese audiences thought the two films distorted the country’s history, and Duong was even labeled a ‘traitor’ by the army. He struggled to obtain a visa to return to Vietnam for this reason.

In 2009, he was charged guilty by a court in Fairfax (Virginia) for taking pictures of and videotaping Tran Thi Phuong Lien in the nude, with the inent of blackmailing her. The court demanded a US$ 200,000 compensation for Lien. However, Duong sued Lien back for slander, and she later withdrew her case.

Bac said Lien apologized to Duong after that and admitted that her accusations were groundless.

Don Duong (right) in “Me Thao – thoi vang bong” by director Viet Linh