Leung is known for his collaborations with director Wong Kar-wai, with whom he has worked in seven films including Chungking Express (1994), Happy Together (1997), In the Mood for Love (2000), and The Grandmaster (2013). He also appeared in three Venice Film Festival Golden Lion-winning films, including A City of Sadness (1989), Cyclo (1995) and Lust, Caution (2007), directed by Ang Lee. Leung also stars in the Academy Award-nominated film Hero, and the box office hits Hard Boiled (1992) and Infernal Affairs (2002).
For In the Mood for Love, Leung earned the Best Actor award at the Cannes Film Festival. He is also a seven-time winner at the Hong Kong Film Awards and three-time winner at the Golden Horse Film Awards, holding the record for most awards in the Best Actor category. The 2002 book East Asian Film Stars describes Leung as "undoubtedly one of the most successful and widely-acclaimed Hong Kong actors of his generation, with a broad and diverse filmography."
Leung was born in Hong Kong. Leung's early childhood was punctuated with parents' quarrels and arguments about money. A mischievous boy in his early years, Leung's personality changed when his father, a chronic gambler, left the family when he was eight; he and his younger sister were brought up by their mother.
"You don't know what happened, just one day your pop disappears. And from that day on I try not to communicate with anyone. I'm so afraid to talk to my classmates, afraid that if someone says something about family I won't know what to do. So I became very isolated. So that's why I love acting, because I can express all my feelings the way I couldn't for so long." "I'm a quiet person. And then when I went to TV it all came out; I cried and I wasn't ashamed. The audience thinks it's the character's feelings, but really it's my feelings, all coming out in a rush."