Haing S Ngor
Cambodian-born doctor who, after escaping from war-torn Southeast Asia to the US, came to be cast in a co-starring role in "The Killing Fields" (1984). This fact-based feature depicted events which paralleled many of Ngor's own experiences. A practicing doctor, Ngor was captured, and tortured for years, by the Khmer Rouge following their takeover of Cambodia. He eventually escaped to Thailand and then to the US where he worked at various jobs until director Roland Joffe cast the non-professional as Dith Pran, translator and assistant to The New York Times reporter Sidney Schanberg (played by Sam Waterston), upon whose memoirs the drama is based. It was Ngor's acting debut and garnered him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Apart from a couple of action adventure features like the Hong Kong produced "Eastern Corridors" (1987) directed by and starring Jackie Chan-collaborator Samo Hung, Ngor has frequently found himself cast in roles that could not help but revive troubling national memories. He was featured in "The Iron Triangle" (1989) about the relationship between a US Army captain and his 17-year-old Vietcong captor, and set in 1969 Vietnam, "Vietnam, Texas" (1990), a true story about Vietnam vets who live by their own rules in a small Texas town, and Oliver Stone's box-office disappointment "Heaven & Earth" (1993) as the father of a Vietnamese woman whose life evolves from peasant to American housewife.
Ngor made his TV-movie debut in "In Love and War" (1987), another fact-based story about American POWs held by the North Vietnamese. He has had roles in several other fact-based TV dramas and guest shots drawing on the Vietnam experience. Ngor was featured as a Vietnamese general turned organized crime kingpin in a recurring role on the syndicated action series "Vanishing Son" (1994). He was shot to death outside of his home in Los Angeles on February 24, 1996.