Ge You, born to actor parents who both worked in film, began to follow in their footsteps when he was chosen to work with China's National Drama Troupe after that country's Cultural Revolution. He first performed in propaganda operas and stage plays but ventured into film work in the late 1980s. Ge You first made an impression in a supporting role as one of the travelers in director Teng Wenji's seriocomic adventure "The Ballad of Yellow River" (1989), winning China's Golden Rooster Award for Best Supporting Actor. His subsequent work in film has been sporadic but impressive, a flair for irony and a deadpan style lending a low-key credence to drama and a mature sense of satire to comedy.
Ge You first received international attention as the androgynous aesthete Master Yuan in Chen Kaige's lavish, controversial period drama of homoeroticism in the Peking Opera, "Farewell, My Concubine" (1993). He followed up with his first leading role in features as one of two middle-class city dwellers, left behind by ambitious spouses, who begin a tentative romance in the gentle "Da Sa Ba/After Separation" (1993). He won his second Golden Rooster for this film, this time as Best Actor. Ge You then teamed with director Zhang Yimou for "To Live" (1994). Zhang's regular muse, Gong Li, took a back seat to Ge You for this transhistorical study of a well-to-do young man who gambles away his family fortunes but is sobered up by civil war, Chairman Mao's "Great Leap Forward", and the Cultural Revolution. Ge You's intelligent, subtle acting conveyed Zhang's implicit political critique as well as convincing drama, and the film's international acclaim, combined with Ge You's success on Chinese TV, have made him a leading light among newer Asian stars. He successfully followed up with a venture further back into history, playing a crafty musician who matches wits in the 3rd century BC with a newly united China's harsh dynast in director Zhou Xiaowen's striking "The Emperor's Shadow" (1996).