top of page

Firelight of a Different Colour

When Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing threw himself to his death from the terrace of Hong Kong’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in 2003, he was the greatest star of his generation in the city. A performer loved for his character as much as for his magic as an entertainer, his death sent shock waves across Asia and amongst Asian populations around the world. Despite the fact that he was openly gay, he was adored, and remains adored, by multitudes in societies where his sexual orientation remains a little-discussed taboo. Firelight of a Different Colour traces Leslie’s story from birth in 1950s Hong Kong to his death during the city’s crippling SARS epidemic. Through initial struggles to gain a foothold in TV and the nascent world of Cantopop, he achieved final success as a megastar of music and the big screen and held that position for nearly two decades. At the forefront of almost all the cultural changes Hong Kong saw during his lifetime, Leslie came to embody the unique spirit of the city. No Western performer can boast so widespread an influence across so many arts. Firelight of a Different Colour commemorates a life that continues to amaze and inspire.


Published in 2014 by Typhoon Media (Signal 8) of Hong Kong

Reviews of Firelight of a Different Colour



Douglas Kerr, South China Morning Post, 31 March 2014


Nigel Collett is an admirer of the late singer-actor Leslie Cheung, and has written a sympathetic and well-researched biography without being overwhelmed by the glamour of his subject. His book is especially interesting for its take on Hong Kong's once-covert gay scene, and on the sometimes creepy symbiosis between the recording and TV and film companies that control the entertainment business... Collett describes it modestly as a provisional biography, a first step in bringing Cheung to the notice of English-language readers. He has done these readers a service. 


Peter Gordon, Asian Review of Books, May 2014


But to see Firelight of a Different Colour as just a recounting of the life and career of Leslie Cheung is, I think, to miss the fact that in this exhaustive account Collett has retold—from a unique and illuminating perspective—the story of one of Hong Kong’s most transformative periods. Hong Kong has always been more than a place of business and politics. Chinese-speakers of course need no reminding of this; the rest of us perhaps do from time to time.


Kergan Edwards-Stout, LGBTQ Nation, 12 April 2014, and Huffington Post, 17 May 2014


Nigel Collett’s extraordinarily detailed new biography provides a glimpse into Cheung’s path to stardom, his relationships and struggles, and the pitfalls of fame.


Malcolm Campbell, Malcolm's Roundtable, 27 January 2014

Michael Tsang, Cha Asian Literary Journal, December 2015

Nigel Collett's Firelight of a Different Colour is an amazing biography that brings Leslie's legendary life and achievements to the awareness of an English-speaking readership. Using a chronological narrative, the book is organised into six sections, the first of which details the first twenty-two years of Leslie's life. The second section covers the next seven years in which he struggled towards stardom and the third describes his first golden period in the late 1980s. The next two parts of the book deal with the 90s, focusing on the low points of Leslie's career during his retreat to Canada and then his later return to superstar status. The final section describes his decline and eventual suicide.

bottom of page