With more experience and exposure, Athena Chu finally found herself in a niche, comedies under the direction of some of her first collaborators in the business. This orientation fit her image built through her biggest films, TV series and magazines, being a youthful, beautiful and modern Hong Kong girl. Director Herman Yau, who worked with her on Taxi Hunter and the recent Whispers and Moans, says: “Athena was typecast as the good looking girl because of her beauty. Even if she had abilities, producers could not pass her appearance and cast her accordingly.” Indeed, even if her area of expertise is comedies, directors usually won't let her do the show, using her more as a good-looking sidekick to the comedy star of the moment.
If you can't stand Cantonese Comedy, leave now!
Such was the case in the second movie she did with superstar Stephen Chow. In 1995, the actor asked her to participate in one of his most ambitious project of the time, a new version of the famous Monkey King story. A project long time cherished by Tsui Hark but, at that time, and only the ultra popular Stephen Chow could get such a big production off the ground. Considered too long for theatrical exploitation, Chinese Odyssey was cut in 2 films: Pandora's Box and Cinderella. Even if she didn't have opportunities to outshine her famous partner, Athena's part was a demanding one. As both Zixia and Qinxia, two sisters living in the same body, she got to act as an antagonist, a lover, a companion of misfortune (the part she is inhabited by Ng Man Tat's character) and as a dramatic phantasm. In his career, Chow has worked with actresses who were funnier than Athena (Sandra Ng or Teresa Mo), more serious (Sharla Cheung Man) or more beautiful (Christy Chung) but none of them had to deploy such a range of different emotions, to show such versatility in their acting. The fact that she managed to make real every single emotions was another proof of the great potential the young actress had.
Stephen Chow willing to do anything to seduce Athena
Athena was also one of the first women to portray such a complex woman characters in a Chow's movie. Interestingly, in the consecutive works of the star, his best films would always feature exceptional female characters (Karen Mok in God of Cookery, Cecilia Cheung in King of Comedy, Vicky Zhao in Shaolin Soccer). The experience of Chinese Odyssey was certainly a very profitable one for the King of Cantonese comedy. Of course, it was also for Athena. Chinese Odyssey represents the apex of her early career, both in term of box office (20 million HK$... thanks to Stephen Chow's incredible star power) and acting. Jeff Lau's feature was also one of the few occasions for her to appear on the big screen in period costumes. Strangely, while she was making a considerable amount of period series on TV and despite her great appeal in this kind of universe, filmmakers would almost never require her talent. Another reason which maked Chinese Odyssey a special work in Chu's career.
Athena's breaking up with Stephen Chow, gossips said he was too hairy for her…
Unfortunately, this was the last time Chow and Athena worked together. The reason is not professional but personal. Romantically involved for a time, Athena and Chow broke up (probably due to the over flirtatious temper of Chow) leading to a clear separation.