Actor Tien Hoi and His Roles as President Ho Chi Minh

Among Vietnamese stage and movie actors, Tien Hoi is famous for successfully playing the role of President Ho Chi Minh (known to Vietnamese people as Uncle Ho). The actor left a great impression on audiences when he took the role of the country’s leader in many plays and movies including “A Sleepless Night”, “See You Again, Saigon” and “Hanoi in the Autumn of 1946”. In the play “A Sleepless Night”, the actor said, he had lots of unforgettable memories because it was the first time he took on the role of the country’s beloved leader.


We visited actor Tien Hoi on an autumn day in August 2015 during which we heard lots of stories from him about how he took on for the first time the role of President Ho Chi Minh, or Uncle Ho as he is known by the Vietnamese people.

With an imperturbable manner, yet very friendly, actor Tien Hoi shared with us a story that happened in 1987. The Truong Son Artistic Troupe of Military Zone 2, was working on a play titled “A Sleepless Night” by scriptwriter Luu Quang Ha and director Vo Ha Giang. In the play, the character of Uncle Ho appeared on the stage many times, and for this reason the troupe’s leaders spent lots of time to find a suitable actor for the role. Tien Hoi was selected because his look was similar to the president’s in his youth so the actor was sent for a make-up test.

Emeritus Artist Nhu Dinh Nguyen, who is a famous make-up expert of the Vietnam Feature Film Studio and an expert in making up actors who played the role of Uncle Ho, said that never before had he finished the make-up for “Uncle Ho” actors so quickly and easily as he did with actor Tien Hoi.

Tien Hoi recalled: “That day, after I completed make-up, someone took a photo of me, and everybody said that I looked almost the same as Uncle Ho, from the eye glance, the forehead, and also the manner!”

Artist Tien Hoi is famous for many successful roles of President Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Tat Son

Artist Tien Hoi prepares for a role of President Ho Chi Minh on the occasion of the 125th birthday of
President Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Make-up woman helps Artist Tien Hoi disguise to act as President Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

Artist Tien Hoi impersonates President Ho Chi Minh. Photo: Tat Son/VNP

In 1987 and 1988, the play “A Sleepless Night” was performed more than 300 times on the stage. Tien Hoi was listed in the Vietnam Records Book as an actor who played various roles of Uncle Ho in spoken dramas and movies, both celluloid films and television series.

With his successful make-up, Tien Hoi began to practice for two and a half months the role of the president. In the morning he played the role on the stage; in the afternoon he watched documentary films on the president; and in the evening he listened to tapes of the president’s speeches to mimic his voice. He also recorded those speeches and brought them home for more practices.

In his free time, the actor visited the president’s stilt house located in President Ho Chi Minh Relic Site and talked with the leader’s secretary, Vu Ky, to hear about the president’s daily routine of working, eating and meeting people.

At the premier of the play “A Sleepless Night” at the Hanoi Opera House, when Tien Hoi went on stage, the audience said, “Wow, he looks almost the same as Uncle Ho!”
The audience’s praise encouraged Tien Hoi and helped him successfully play the role of Uncle Ho on that first night.

The scene he remembered most was the part where Uncle Ho is sitting by a fire place at night and eating baked cassava roots with the soldiers. The leader wore a scarf on his head, and nobody recognised him as the president. The soldiers told him many stories about how they lived in the jungle, how they suffered from malaria that cost many lives, and also about how a colonel stole public funds for his own benefit. The leader was so moved that he took off his scarf. The soldiers recognised him and they rushed to hold him in their arms. The president encouraged the soldiers to continue to fight well, saying he would punish the guilty persons.

“Many spectators cried when watching that scene,” said Tien Hoi, adding that such moments would be in his mind forever.

“When the play was over, General Vo Nguyen Giap and his daughter got on the stage and presented us with flowers. The General was so moved and his eyes were red with tears, so he just said ‘thank you, thank you’ before leaving the stage,” recalled Tien Hoi with emotion in his voice.

Some photos of Artist Tien Hoi in the role of President Ho Chi Minh.

Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Tat Son & Files